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In the Vernacular: Indonesian Women’s Rights Activists Challenging the Anti-Pornography Bill

Hellman, Isabel

In 2005, the Bill against Pornography and Porno-Action was reintroduced to the Indonesian parliament. Central to the opposition of this bill were women’s human rights groups, including: The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), the Legal Aid Institute of Indonesian Women’s Association (LBH APIK), and the Women’s Journal Foundation (Yayasan Jurnal Perempuan). Through interviews with key members of these organizations and an analysis of their public statements, this study will argue that, in their campaign against the anti-pornography bill, Indonesian women’s human rights activists undertook what Peggy Levitt and Sally Merry term a “vernacularization” of human rights norms. Given the stigmatization of human rights in Indonesia as foreign-influenced and anti-Islam, this vernacularization necessarily involved infusing human rights principles with the rhetoric of the national ideology of Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution. This strategy was successful in its ability to gain substantial public attention that led to revisions of the bill and a display of the women’s movement political power. However, the efforts ultimately failed to block the passing of the bill, and were limited in their ability to harness international political power and to offer a significant challenge to the status quo. Understanding the process of this vernacularization and its consequences is vital to comprehending how human rights can be implemented in distinct contexts.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Thesis Advisors
Rosenthal, Mila H.
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
July 24, 2019
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