Indonesia Country Profile
Indonesia, a nation of 17,000 islands scattered across more than 5,000 km, is the world’s most populous Muslim country. While its economy is among the 15 largest globally, 18% of its 234 million citizens live in poverty.
The 2002 Bali Bombing, in which 202 people were killed, brought Jemaah Islamiah (JI) to the world’s attention. The organization’s goals include the establishment of a pan-Islamic state across the South Asian region. Fortunately, since the attacks on Bali and Jakarta and the resulting fall in tourist visitor numbers, public support for the use of violence in Indonesia has fallen, and a national consensus against violent extremism has emerged.
The Indonesian government’s counterterrorism strategy is often held up as a model to other countries. In 2003, the specialist Detachment 88 police counter terrorism unit was set up with the support of the U.S. and Australian governments. As well as engaging in investigation and intelligence work, which has resulted in the detention of the perpetrators of major attacks, including the Bali bombing, the unit runs an extremely successful de-radicalization program.
When suspects cooperate with Detachment 88 and renounce violent extremism they are rewarded with having their children's tuition, their wives' employment, and even their weddings, paid for. These incentives, as well as the respectful, conciliatory attitude of unit officials towards their prisoners, have led some 50% of detainees to turn their backs on terrorism and work with the authorities.
However, 2011 has seen a spate of letter bombs, followed by the suicide bombing of a mosque in April. This has been taken by many as a sign that radicals are switching their focus from Western targets to State symbols in response to the government clamp-down against them.
Indonesian women played a vital role in the struggle against Dutch colonial rule, allowing the Communist Party, the PKI, to declare independence under Sukarno in 1945. The party’s women’s movement, Gerwani (Gerakan Wanita Indonesia) became one of the largest and most active women’s organizations in the world, counting on 1.5 million members by 1963.
However, the coming to power of Suharto in 1967 saw Gerwani replaced with a new organization, Pembinaan Kesejahteraan Keluarga (Family Welfare Movement). In the late 60s and early 70s, women were pushed back into the domestic sphere, and the emphasis placed on their roles in community health, family planning and education. This ideology was then challenged with the growth in foreign investment and industrialization in the 1980s. Women’s increasing employment outside the home brought them back into the public sphere, and stimulated their growing political activism across a range of social and economic issues.
The fall of Suharto in 1998 and the subsequent democratization of Indonesia opened up new opportunities for women to form independent organizations and participate in the political process. Perempuan Mahardhika (Free Women) was established in 2003 to engage and advocate for women across the country, and the Women’s Policy Network and Women’s Peace Network are also doing important political and strategic work.
However, Indonesia is still ranked low in terms of women’s participation in national politics, education, work force participation and health in the United Nations Gender Inequality Index. Prostitution and human trafficking remain particularly serious problems.