Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies: Alam-e-Niswan

Women's Studies and Gender Studies Centres: How They Contribute to Feminism

Academic journal article Pakistan Journal of Women's Studies: Alam-e-Niswan

Women's Studies and Gender Studies Centres: How They Contribute to Feminism

Article excerpt


The history of Pusat Studi Wanita (Centres for Women's Studies/PSWs) or Pusat Studi Gender (Centres for Gender Studies/PSGs) cannot be separated from the history of the women's movement in Indonesia. As Centres at the universities, PSWs/PSGs have important roles to play in bringing women's issues into the academic agenda and are expected to contribute to creating gender equality in Indonesia. In this effort, cooperation between the academics and grassroots activists is required when dealing with gender inequality and women's problems.

This paper, which presents the history of PSWs/PSG in Indonesia, considers the Centres' historical and social backgrounds, why they were established, the nature of their relationships with national and international women's organisations, their goals and programmes, and the challenges they face. The paper also provides a general overview of the universities with which these Centres are affiliated to enable a better understanding of their roles in a broader context. For the purpose of this study, five PSWs and one PSG have been selected. Three are affiliates of Islamic universities, i. e., PSW UIN (State Islamic University), Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta, PSG UII (University of Islam Indonesia), and PSW UMY (University of Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta), and three of public universities: PSW UGM (Gadjah Mada University), PSW UNY (State University of Yogyakarta), and PSW UPN "Veteran" (University of National Development "Veteran"). Finally, this paper also presents examples of the understanding of some gender issues in Islam by Muslim gender activists in Yogyakarta. Before discussing the above Centres, I would first explicate the historical backgrounds of PSWs/PSGs across Indonesia.

Historical Background of PSWs/PSGs across Indonesia

In 1978, in response to the United Nations declaration of the Decade for Women as well as due to the activism of Indonesian feminists, the Indonesian Government established the office of the State Minister for the Role of Women (Kementrian Negara Peranan Wanita). In 2001, the name was changed to Ministry of State for Women's Empowerment (Kementerian Negara Pemberdayaan Perempuan), and again in 2009 to Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection (Kementerian Negara Pemberdayaan Perempuan dan Perlindingan Anak). The ministry aimed at increasing women's capacity to manage their dual roles in the domestic and public spheres.

Prior to 1978, The New Order (1) had ratified several international conventions/ agreements concerning women, including the UN Convention for the Political Rights of Women. In 1984, the Indonesian Government ratified CEDAW (Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women), later endorsing the resolutions reached at the International Conference on Social Development in Copenhagen (1994), the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (1994), and the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. Although the Indonesian government ratified these laws, women remained subordinate to men, with few having any role in decision making regarding their families.

While the term "women" appeared in the 1978 Broad Guidelines on State Policy (GBHN), the term "gender" was not introduced until 1999 (Robinson & Bessell, 2002, p. 71). However, the summary report of the Ministry for the Role of Women, 1988-1993, informed that though Gender Analysis Training was included among its programmes, the previous government had left two major issue unresolved, namely, increasing women's socio-political roles, and supporting a mechanism for the implementation of policies (Sulaskin, 1993). During the period 1989 to 1993, there was a gap in women's access to and participation in education at the higher levels. In addition, gender stereotyping in the workforce and limiting women's power to make decisions at all levels persisted. During this period, the government cooperated with universities across Indonesia, in particular with the Centres for Women's Studies, to strengthen and support gender equality policies. …

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