Cage by Culture
Oleh I Putu Tirta Agung & Tettie Setiyarti
Discourse on the role of women and gender issues seem to be quite intriguing for the Indonesian people. Nowadays the problem regarding women’s status and position in the community, such as issues concerning women’s subordination, marginalization, and violence, has been the main topic that rises frequently on various occasions.Experts argue about the general ideology of gender equality in Indonesia that implicitly endorses discrimination by locking the world of women in their domestic domain, while supporting male domination of public control. Moreover, the Indonesian’s patriarchal culture is also taking part in emphasizing role dichotomy among genders, which eventually will put women in an obscure social fact (Muhadjir, 2005: 166).
Indonesian Women as Entrepreneur
Despite the above controversies, in reality the roles of Indonesian women have truly exceeded their domestic area. They have independently provided a significant contribution, participating in the brisk competitions of public sector. Since, we cannot deny that actually Indonesian women have the potency to become the main actor in sustaining their family economy. Not only working in the formal sector, through positive determination, the performances of Indonesian women in the informal sector, both small and medium enterprises, are now an achievement we should appreciate. According to a study conducted in 2006, from about 40 million micro, small and medium enterprises (Usaha Mikro, Kecil dan Menengah, UMKM) in Indonesia, 60% of it are run by women (Tim Ekpos, March 2008). Unfortunately, again the Indonesian’s patriarchal culture negates this reality by disregarding women’s accomplishment as merely an additional breadwinner.
Just like other areas in Indonesia, Bali, surrounded by patriarchal culture also conceals stories about the role of its women. According to the 2006 statistical data, Bali has an overall population of 3,442,600 inhabitants, which consists of 1,724,300 males and 1,698,300 females (Pemerintah Provinsi Bali, 2006). Those numbers indicate that 49.62% of the total population or almost half of the population of Bali are women. Therefore, they should have possessed a large potency in supporting the development of the region. However, it seems that reality holds another truth, instead of being potential supporters, Bali via its culture tends to marginalize its women.
Balinese Women and The Domination of Culture
From the previous paragraph, we know that approximately 60% of roughly 40 million KUKM entrepreneurs are women, but by seeing the reality we can say maybe the Balinese women’s contribution in supporting those percentages are relatively small. Just for a glimpse, Bali’s overall percentages of the illiterate female population in 2005 were 5.47%, whereas the male had percentages of only 1.62%. The percentage comparison of the population who graduated bachelor degree (S1) in Bali between men and women are also very surprising, 6.7% : 4.9% respectively. Similarly with the labor force participation rate (Tingkat Partisipasi Angkatan Kerja, TPAK), only 66.8% of the Balinese women could be said productive, while the rest of them are vulnerable to poverty (BPS, 2006; 65).
With strong influences of the patriarchal culture, indeed the people of Bali always place the position of women under their sex-counterpart. Generally, the Balinese communities believe that the family glory will be achieved only by having many sons. At least, that is the claim of the Purusa culture, men is trusted to be the guardian of the trah (family order) sustainability, who are morally responsible to hold the ceremony of Pitra Yadnya (holy sacrificial ritual for parents and ancestors). Using other words, Balinese believe that only their sons who can save them from the torment after death. Whereas for the Balinese women, since childhood they are continuously preconditioned to dedicate their life in the concept of Yadnya Sesa, all sort of offering rituals which are conducted without any clear boundary between tradition and religion. As a result, this kind of norms will surely give bad implications on women’s social role in Bali.
The above condition is of course supported by terminologies that help strengthening women’s subordination in Bali. For example, the term pengayah (servant) which is normally given to married women. There is also the term tetekan (newcomer without resources in the family), which is often given to women who live in a house owned by the husband family. Furthermore, the realities of inter-caste marriages aggravate the chaotic situation, since its impact is frequently detrimental for women. Additionally, because of this strong cultural legislation on women’s social role, it may not be excessive if we say that the women’s world in Bali is always caged by varieties of the purusa concepts, which ultimately force them to become powerless.
- Muhadjir, 2005, Negara dan Perempuan, CV. Adipura, Yogyakarta.
- Tim Ekspor, Maret 2008, CSR untuk Pemberdayaan Pempuan UKM, EKSPOR Edisi 39, Tahun VII, 23/11/2008.
- Pemerintah Provinsi Bali, 2006, Profil Daerah Bali.
- BPS, 2006, Pendataan Rumah Tangga Miskin Di Provinsi Bali.
I Putu Tirta Agung adalah salah seorang staff dari Jangkang Research Institute.