For most women there is no more anguishing matter than the possibility of having a polygamous husband. This condition also worsens with the intervention of other aspects of their lives do not improve a woman’s situation, such as religion religiously approved polygamy (Islam). But society denounces women who are willing to live in a polygamous marriage. While their husbands demand polygamy, children and parents blame the women. The political climate also determines a woman’s position in society. Increasingly the power of radical forces on the political stage makes the religious context of a woman’s position in the society worse, as Dr. Nelly van Doorn-Harder, Dr. Sumru Erkut, and Dr. Mafthukin Rasmani have said.  The radical forces also have a big political interest in the interpretation of Qur’anic verses. However, many issues these radical forces put forward and claim to be urgent and important are superficial problems that are not relevant to the real problems of daily life.

Within the radical forces’ framework, religion is only a political tool used to stir up the people’s emotion, stimulate controversy, and finally to gather support for their political agenda. Dr. Erkut realizes that not many people understand this existing political strategy. However, Dr. van Doorn-Harder does not seem to be discouraged by the increasing number of arguments and discussions on polygamy, instead she believes that this discussion on polygamy can be used to test the validity of each opinion.

This edition of newsletter offers many analytical thoughts on polygamy provoked by people’s disappointment when Aa Gym committed polygamy through an unofficial marriage. Dr. Rasmani, Fawaizul Umam and Dr. Nelly van Doorn-Harder agree that polygamy often appears as psychological oppression of women. Furthermore, Koran an-Nisa: 3 explains that justice could never be attained within polygamous marriage. Dr. van Doorn-Harder also sees that polygamy often works as a mechanism to legitimate illegitimate sexual relations. As Dr. Rasmani has said, “This excuse undermines the sacredness of the marriage institution”.

In a Tokoh column, Robin Bush and Siti Nurjanah revisit a few great books written by Professor Daniel Lev. This column also describes Professor Lev’s efforts to nourish the intellectual tradition and to augment reformation within the legal and political life of Indonesia. To keep his dream of reformation alive, Professor Lev had bequeathed most of his precious documents and books to the Centre for Study of Law and Policy (PSHK). Robin Bush and Nurjanah also discuss some of his work. Professor Dan Lev’s dept analytical studies in law and politics are an invaluable treasure for Indonesia, as there are not many people who study the laws that bind together the legal and political.

In the book review column, Fahrul Muzzaqi reviews Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The Second Sex. There are many ideas offered in this book, especially on how their socio-politic and psychological status relates to women’s biological structure. This book looks at how biological structure has influenced or stigmatizes women’s role in society. There is also the existing pressure of all segments of society that are meant to create a feminine identity that eventually make women ignore or leave femininity, such as encourage women to appears more assertive. This pressure not only comes from religion, culture, social, economic, political and industrial structures but also from the science involved in distorting women in order to prove that women’s limits are caused by their biological structure. As response to these pressures, many women tend to refuse femininity and adopt masculinity, which according de Beauvoir is an expression of inferiority.

Lastly, we would like to express our gratitude to all the writers and the readers. We also would like to express out gratitude to Mary and Douglas Candland who have been volunteering their time and expertise not only in editing the English version but also in sharpening the content of the newsletter.


Author details: Siti Nurjanah is the director of the CRCS