08 December 2010

Muslim Women Travelling Without Male Kin...

The fact that Indonesian migrant workers, especially women, are abused overseas is a tragedy. However, the fact that some would use this to push an agenda that says Muslim women should not travel far from home without male relatives by their side almost reads like, "well, you travel alone and against the wishes of Allah, then you get what you deserve!"

To then say that you are more interested in protecting the rights of women and calling for a moratorium on the sending of female Indonesian migrant workers abroad rings hollow and is hypocritical. Women do not deserve to be protected just because they are women. Women deserve to be protected because they are human beings. Women need to be protected, like men, because they have a right to earn a living and provide for their families. Women have a right to travel to find those opportunities if those opportunities exist outside of the village that they live in or the country they call home.

The reality here is that the laws exist in the migrant working sphere that should already be sufficient in most cases to protect migrant workers while they are overseas. The problem is one of enforcement on the Indonesian side of the equation. The other reality that most people fail to understand is that in most cases the prevailing laws and regulations of the country where the migrant working is employed are the ones that will operate when crimes are committed. So, an Indonesian migrant worker abused in Saudi Arabia will find that the perpetrators of violence against her are subject to Saudi laws and regulations. This is the nature of sovereignty.

I am certain that Indonesians would not want other nations riding roughshod over their sovereignty and seeking to impose their laws and regulations on them. So, why is it that in this instance Indonesians want their government to impose Indonesian laws extra-territorially on offenses being committed in Saudi Arabia?

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is not certainty of "fixing" the problems of abuse. Once again, the laws and regulations already exist, both in Indonesia and in Saudi Arabia, this is a case of enforcement.

But, alas, I digress. Back to the topic at hand.

My personal view is that where basic human rights and religion clash at the coal-face, then it is the basic human rights that must prevail. The idea that women do not have the intelligence to make decisions for themselves about what is in their best interests bothers me. The vast majority of women and men that I known are more than capable of making decisions for themselves about what is in their respective best interests. So, to suggest that for Indonesian Muslim women the best decision makers are crotchety old men in white robes is something I find offensive.

According to The Jakarta Globe, twelve Muslim organisations have come together and have decided to lobby the government for a moratorium. No news there with respect to the moratorium. The idea that the only way to solve the abuse problem is to ban Indonesian women from going to places like Saudi Arabia is akin to burying one's head in the sand. And, it is self-defeating as Saudi Arabia will just get its domestic servants from other places. It also fails to recognise that a lot of the funding that these Muslim organisations receive actually wends it way to them through processes that include remittances made by Indonesian migrant workers.

The Nahdlatul Ulama position is "let's lobby for a memorandum of understanding" and ban all Indonesians from going to Saudi Arabia until we get one. Although, I am guessing this would exclude Indonesians doing a pilgrimage to a holy place.

The more interesting of The Jakarta Globe quotes comes from Muhammadiyah which said "... under Islam, Muslim women were not allowed to travel far from home without being accompanied by male kin ...". This was then supported by Said Aqil Siradj, Chairman of NU, who said that Islam expressly forbade women from going abroad to seek money unless it was absolutely necessary, “If they just want to gain more wealth overseas, that is not allowed.

This begs the question, "when is working for money not about generating wealth?" But, probably, more important is who should provide for these Muslim women who are prohibited from earning wealth for wealth's sake when they cannot find employment within Indonesia to support themselves or their families. The government is not able to provide or guarantee this. It is also pretty certain that the twelve Muslim organisations in this pact are not able to provide the same levels of financial security that these migrant workers, particularly women, can find from going overseas. This is definitely a more pressing issue than an MOU, isn't it?

Thus endeth another rant and rail at The RAB Experience.


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It can't work as a matter of fact, that's exactly what I consider.