Tue, 14 Mar 1995

From: Jawawa

Women's contribution

I think it unlikely that, by his letter (The Jakarta Post, March 11, 1995), Mr. Hario Subayu is actually enhancing public relations for the Department of Immigration. Many Indonesian career women like myself (including those who have attained high government positions), must surely feel offended and aggrieved by the implications inherent in the present immigration law.

Currently, a foreign man married to an Indonesian woman wishing to live in Indonesia is granted no special rights by virtue of his spouse's nationality. As Mr. Hario Subayu indicates, such a person must apply for a KIM/S or a KIM in the same way as all other male foreigners, and will one day, when he can no longer demonstrate that his presence alone is "beneficial to the country," be required to return to his own country (presumably accompanied by his Indonesian wife and half- Indonesian offspring).

In this way, Indonesian immigration law takes only the role of the male progenitor into account, completely failing to treat families as cohesive units. What of the Indonesian wife? What of her contribution to this country? Can she be seen as nothing other than the bearer of a foreign man's offspring, obliged to simply follow her foreign husband and children when they are required to leave? Or is it just possible that she, like many prominent women in Indonesian history, has a significant contribution of her own to make to Indonesia's development? Is this not even more likely to be the case if she met her foreign husband while gaining knowledge and experience overseas? If so, why deprive Indonesian women married to foreigners of their de facto, not de jure, right of residence in their own country?

Sadly, the present outdated immigration law appears to symbolize either or both of two things: the lack of recognition of women's roles in our society and the Indonesian inferiority complex which is built on the assumption that what is foreign is necessarily superior. The latter Indonesian misconception applies, it seems, not only to our products but also to our people, for Mr. Hario Subayu clearly demonstrates that the contribution to Indonesia of the Indonesian wife of a foreigner is ignored, or assumed to be of minor comparative significance and, thus, easily foregone. Indonesia urgently needs to reform its immigration laws to reflect the advancing role of its women and its own advancing global role, both of which increasingly bring its citizens into contact with foreigners.

At a time when the role of women has been given prominence at the World Conference on Social Development, it would be appropriate for Indonesia to demonstrate that not only its economy, but also the perceived role of its women and the nation's confidence and perception of itself, vis-a-vis the rest of the world, are advancing similarly.