Banda Aceh – Acehnese women from the Gender Working Group (GWG) held a peaceful action to commemorate International Women’s Day (IWD) on Thursday March 8.
The action was joined by hundreds of Acehnese women and women activists. Transsexuals who are generally employed as beauty salon workers also joined in enlivening the action. “Transsexuals are also human beings” read one of the placards that they brought.
The action proceeded on foot from the Great Baiturrahman Mosque to Simpang Lima and ended at the Regional House of Representatives Building, Banda Aceh. “We are demanding to be more involved in the process of Aceh’s reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation post the tsunami and conflict”, said action coordinator Asrida Vonna.
According to the protesters, over the more than two years that the process of reconstruction and rehabilitation has proceeded in Aceh, the involvement and participation of women has been far from expectations. In the handling of post conflict issues also, there has been almost no involvement of Acehnese women. Meanwhile the reconstruction and reconciliation process, which has involved many parties, has yet to provide any significant progress in the lives of women in Aceh.
GWG coordinator Lailisma Sofyati cited as an example the many women living in barracks that are discriminated against in decision making in their immediate environment. In addition to this there is inadequate attention paid to women who were victims of violence during the period of the conflict.
The evidence. Acehnese women have not been directly involved in decision making either at the Aceh Reintegration Agency or the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) Aceh Transitional Committee. “Inong Balee (GAM women fighters) are not included as a part of the TNA (GAM soldiers) that has the right to reintegration funds”, she said.
Sofyati related how data from the National Women’s Commission recorded 191 case of violence against women in refugees camps in Aceh between October 2005 to February 2006. The forms of violence were varied such as domestic violence and sexual harassment.
In commemorating IWD, GWG Aceh is demanding that the new Aceh government increase women’s involvement in all forms of policy making in Aceh. They also called on the new government to reevaluate the understanding of and application of Islamic law that is being used for discriminative practices of those in power.
Don’t use violence
On the question of the application of Islamic law, Aden, the Chairperson of the Association of Transsexual Salon Workers (APSW), said that violence should not be used to enforce the law and that they are often treated unjustly by officials. “If there is an operation don’t use violence, leave us to work in peace, because this is how we earn a living”, said Aden.
Aden confessed that officials often use violence when they are raiding beauty salons that are suspected of conducting activities that violate Islamic Law. There have even been a number of beauty salons that been closed down.
Furthermore, they are also demanding that there not be a prohibition on transsexuals working in women’s salons. “We are workers right, we don’t offend the clients”, explained Aden. [Adw]