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Activists call on women to think like Kartini, fight discrimination

Kompas.com - April 21, 2013

Zico Nurrashid Priharseno, Jakarta Ė Around 30 people from the Women's Action Committee (KAP) held a protest action at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta on Sunday April 21.

In addition to opposing violence against women, they also called on the public to read and understand the letters written by RA Kartini. The fourth wife of Regent Rembang wrote a number of letters about the women's struggle at a time when discrimination against women was still rife.

The writings can be found in a book titled Out of Dark Comes Light. "These days may people only know Kartini as the mother of emancipation, but do not know anything about her thoughts", said KAP member Mutiara Eka Pratiwi on Sunday.

Kartini wrote the letters over a period of six years since she was 12 years old while she was being kept in seclusion before being married. In that era, women were considered weak, were not allowed to attend school, work or even leave the house. It was this that inspired Kartini to write about her thoughts on the differences that existed at that time.

"I was inspired when she wrote that Javanese people had to bow down to the Dutch in the past. These days [we] don't bow down to colonialists, but to [our] superiors. We can see that there are still many women workers who are sexually harassed by their superiors", said Pratiwi.

It is for this reason that Pratiwi believes that modern women must think like Kartini. According to Pratiwi, women who become victims still experience injustice and difficulties when reporting cases to the authorities. Aside from the law, which fails to side with victims, law enforcement officials still tend to blame the victims.

"The same goes for statements by government officials about cases of sexual violence, who still blame women for what they wear, so they believe women deserve to be victims", said Pratiwi.

Notes

Raden Ajeng Kartini was an Indonesian regent's daughter during the Dutch colonial period who, through her letters home, outlined her dreams of a better life for women. She died aged 25 a few days after giving birth to her first child. A variety of myths have made the original Kartini a nationalist hero and feminist symbol. Hari Kartini (Kartini Day, April 21) is a public holiday dedicated to the memory of the turn-of-the-century hero.

[Hayati Pemikiran Kartini! - Kompas.com - Minggu, 21 April 2013. Translated by James Balowski.]

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