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Islamic candidates mum on polygamy JAKARTA - Realizing their demographic power, Islamic political parties are working hard to win women's votes in the April 5 legislative election. A no-less important strategy is avoiding sensitive issues like polygamy, permitted in Islam. Interviewed by The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, Nursanita Nasution of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Aisyah Amini of the United Development Party (PPP) said their parties would support all measures to ensure better protection for women.
Both parties would soon deliberate bills on domestic violence and discrimination in the workplace, they said. However both admitted their parties would not oppose polygamy openly, despite strong opposition against the practice from feminists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). While she was not completely against polygamy, Nursanita, who heads the PKS' women's department, said none of her party's executives had more than one wife.
"My party once sanctioned an party executive who neglected one of his wives," the party's legislative candidate for Jakarta, said. PPP senior legislator Aisyah Amini suggested strict requirements restricting polygamy should be implemented, instead of completely rejecting the practice. "Although polygamy is not banned in Islam, it imposes tough requirements and many men have violated these. We should probably focus on this issue," Aisyah said.
During Soeharto's 32 year-tenure, the government restricted polygamy, imposing a regulation on civil servants that forced them to obtain prior permission from their current wife and their boss if they wanted to marry again. However, since Soeharto's downfall in May 1998, the rule has largely been ignored. Nursanita and Aisyah also disagreed with the inclusion of polygamy as a criteria in a "rotten" politicians list recently issued by a group of NGOs.
"It is a sensitive issue among Muslims here. Making polygamy a criteria for a rotten politicians is not right," Nursanita, a lecturer at the University of Indonesia's School of Economics, said. She suggested another general criterion, such as male candidates who abused their wives. The National Movement Against Rotten Politicians earlier issued a list of corrupt legislative candidates. It mentioned four ways to qualify, including human rights violations, damaging the environment, corruption and violence against women. Polygamy was considered one form of violence against women.
The group listed four legislative candidates considered to have committed violence against women -- two candidates each from the PKS and PPP in relation to polygamy. Some PPP executives, including its leader, Indonesian Vice President Hamzah Haz, are known to have more than one wife. Smita Notosusanto of the Center for Electoral Reforms (Cetro) admitted the polygamy issue was a controversial issue among the public.
"But we wouldn't consider them 'rotten politicians' (because they had more than one wife). Let the people decide (whether they are electable)," she said. Many Muslim women activists are developing new interpretations of Islamic teachings that could be used to ban polygamy.



Posted in Elections @ 25 March 2004 00:02 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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