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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Indonesian fears over porn law
People campaigning in favour of Indonesia's porn law
Many porn law protests were orchestrated by mosques
The introduction of a bill which would heavily restrict pornography in Indonesia has been attacked by women's rights campaigners in the country, who fear it is the first step towards the implementation of Islamic Sharia law.

The bill has polarised society in the country, with conservative Islamic groups - who say tighter controls are needed - pressing for its swift passage into law.

But many women's groups and artists fear proposals to crack down on anything regarded as pornography by the bill's sponsors could restrict freedoms.

Gaddis Arrivia, a professor at the University of Indonesia and editor of a feminist journal, told BBC World Service's Analysis programme that she feared the bill would lead to harsh restrictions on women's everyday life, in particular by forcing them to cover up.

"There are strong elements of Sharia law in this bill," she said.

"Lately we have 58 local laws in the provinces in Indonesia regulating what women can and cannot wear. This bill is the same - it has a lot of nuances of Sharia law in it."

Strong influence

There is widespread agreement across many sections of Indonesian society that highly explicit material should be restricted to adults.

Protests against Playboy magazine
Efforts by Playboy to run a local edition raised the issue in February

But groups such as the country's press council - which has made representations asking for the bill to be dropped - fear conservative groups are using the anti-porn bill to push for more Islamic-based laws.

In particular, the wording of the new bill has caused deep concern. It could ban what is described as "porno action", such as displaying the navel or acts such as kissing in public. Both will be punishable by five years in prison or a 250 million rupiah fine.

"The way they define pornography is more of eroticism and sensuality," Dr Arrivia said.

"Porno actually means also banning kissing in public, and also dancing erotically is also considered pornography.

"What they consider sensual is the way women dress - so this is really about covering women up, and this is ridiculous."

John Sidel, a Professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics, said that Islamist parties want to have a strong influence on the passage of the bill - despite their minority status.

"I certainly think that there are people who feel strongly about this issue in a genuine way. On the other hand there are others who are no doubt making use of this as an issue to remind people that they should be good or better Muslims," he said.

"There are people who are using this issue to extract favours, and who would like to make some kind of mileage on this issue - not just for publicity's sake, but also, perhaps, to increase their regulatory power in Indonesian society.

"Islamists have done rather poorly over the last 10 years, and are in a secular decline - so they're making the most of the residual influence they might have on these kinds of issues."

"Pornographic action"

He added that while he believed the bill is not intended as a stepping stone to implementing Sharia law, is was possible it could "open up the door to a broadly Islamist form of regulation of everyday life."

However, advocates of the bill have demonstrated in force, with more than 10,000 activists on the streets of the capital Jakarta last week to show their backing for the tougher laws.

Inul Daratista
Inul's 'drilling' has made her a highly controversial figure
Thousands more turned out for demonstrations - organised by mosques and conservative Islamic groups - in towns across Indonesia.

"As a mother, I fully support the government's efforts to introduce an anti-pornography bill," one demonstrator told Analysis.

"We feel that pornography is dangerous for our children."

One of the key figures invoked in the debate is pop star Inul Daratista, whose performances on prime time TV involve a style of dancing known as "drilling" - swivelling her hips and twisting towards the ground.

Her performances have offended many conservative observers, who argue they are concerned that girls from ordinary backgrounds - like Inul's - may copy her dancing.

Dr Zuo Kiflimanca, an MP from the Islamic Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS), said he wants to see much tighter controls on what he views as "pornographic action."

"In principle, my party will support the bill - with the understanding that a lot of porn magazines and some programmes on television are not right for our children," he said.

"So the message is that to save the future of our children, we should create this kind of bill."


SEE ALSO:
Playboy sparks Indonesia porn row
07 Feb 06 |  Asia-Pacific
Indonesia's controversial star
01 May 03 |  Asia-Pacific


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