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The Politicization of Gender Relations in Indonesia


The course of our history has been stood on its head by `historians' who serve the military power ... We who have been tortured and defeated should not allow ourselves to become desperate. We must fight to live. The young generation has to study and know what really happened in this period long gone by. History must be written in a sincere way, so that the coming generations will not understand it wrongly. (Doc IX 1992: 22)

The `history' referred to in the above quote covers the half-century since Sukarno and Hatta proclaimed Indonesian independence, and in particular the period around 1965 when Sukarno's Old Order was replaced by Suharto's New Order. The ones `tortured and defeated' once belonged to the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI, or to one of the other organizations of the `Communist family', <a name="noot1" href="#1">(1)</a> such as its women's organization, Gerwani <a name="noot2" href="#2">(2)</a> (Gerakan Wanita Indonesia, Indonesian Women's Organization). Suharto rose to power by creating a campaign of unprecedented violence, legitimized by accusations of sexual debauchery allegedly committed by members of Gerwani. The New Order is not only built on the deaths of an estimated million <a name="noot3" href="#3"> (3)</a> innocent people who were massacred in the last months of 1965 and the first months of 1966, but also on the suppression of the power women had acquired in the preceding decades, a power which their adversaries conceived of through sexual metaphors.

Little attention has been given to this crucial period in Indonesian modern history, both abroad and internally as John Legge wrote, `perhaps because it was Communists who were being killed the conscience of the outside world seemed comparatively undisturbed by what must rank, in any assessment, as one of the bloodiest massacres in modern history' (Legge 1972: 399). There is little doubt as to the relief the US must have felt when in the midst of the Vietnam war Sukarno, whom they considered an international troublemaker who had become dangerously close to delivering Indonesia into Communist hands, was replaced by a right-wing general who put the country firmly on a capitalist road. <a name="noot4" href="#4">(4)</a> As a recent analyst of the Suharto government, Vatikiotis (1993: 34), put it this way: `Indonesia, the nightmare of US foreign policy analysts in the 1960s suddenly became burning proof that not all regimes born out of a barrel of a gun are bad'.

In this study I will argue that another reason why the West kept silent is its inability to comprehend the machinations behind and the ramifications of the campaign of mass unrest and murder waged after the `first' coup of 1 October 1965. This campaign and its aftermath I consider the `second', sneaking coup which brought Suharto to power. Most commentators ignore the existence of a second coup or declare this crucial period in Indonesian history `incomprehensible' (Törnquist 1984: 54). A few authors recognize that Suharto's ascent to power came about in two steps (Southwood and Flanagan 1983; Pohan 1988; Vatikiotis 1993). However, the mechanisms behind the ramifications of the second coup are ignored:

Suharto came to power in the confused and hitherto not fully explained aftermath of an abortive coup ... Suharto and a small group of supporters seized opportunities as they presented themselves without planning too far in advance. (Vatikiotis 1993: 2 & 22)

In these accounts the October 1 1965 coup was the major event to be explained, and this somehow resulted in Suharto's eventual coming to power. As a consequence, Suharto's clever manipulation of public opinion - the subterfuges and lies he constructed to create a condition of societal chaos, resembling a gara-gara scene in the wayang <a name="noot5" href="#5">(5)</a> - are ignored. Vatikiotis maintains for instance that people around Suharto, notably younger officers and radical students (backed by units of the special forces under the command of Colonel Sarwo Edhie Wibowo) `probably pushed Suharto into seizing power' (Vatikiotis 1993: 240). The ideological campaign and the mass murders on which the New Order are built are seen as deplorable, but isolated occurrences: the prelude to re-establishing order and the reconstruction of Indonesia's economy was a brief but bloody period of further turmoil. The New Order exploited the highly polarized state of society left by Sukarno to dispose of its opponents and provide an outlet for some cathartic bloodletting. (Vatikiotis 1993: 33)
While the West kept aloof for its own reasons, opposition in Indonesia was battered or skilfully manoeuvred into silence by the ruthless repression of the regime. Not only were hundreds of thousands of innocent people massacred, tens of thousands were detained, some of them for over twenty years. Only a handful of those detained were ever brought to trial.

The suffering of the survivors continues, and even now these tapol and napol <a name="noot6" href="#6">(6)</a> must carry identity papers stamped with `ET' (ex-political prisoner) on them. This effectively bars them from most kinds of employment. <a name="noot7" href="#7">(7)</a> Their children, grandchildren and other close relatives are also still affected by related restrictions on their employment or study. They must produce documentation that they live in a `clean environment' (i.e. that they have no ET relatives) to be accepted. Many ex-tapol still have to report regularly to the military authorities.

But the effect of government repression does not stop with the victims themselves or their families. Suharto's campaign after the 1 October coup was not only intended to wipe out any trace of Communism in Indonesia and to stir up such mass resentment against Sukarno's policy that the President had to step down. It was also constructed to create a mental climate, the ideological justification for Suharto's New Order. Therefore I disagree strongly with such statements as `residual feelings about this period have not coloured popular perceptions of Suharto's rule' (Vatikiotis 1993: 34). Indeed, such `residual feelings' form the very foundation of his regime, which is supported not only by the physical terror exercised by the army, but especially by the effectiveness of the belief that anything related to social criticism is subversive, Communist and ultimately linked to the sexual perversion of `our' women. I suggest that the political passivity of Indonesia's population should not so much be seen only as a consequence of the `political stability and economic prosperity' (Vatikiotis 1993) that the New Order has brought, but also as arising from the memories of the social disorder with its sexual overtones, the ensuing mass murder and the continuing repression thereafter. To ensure that the official picture is not disturbed, the regime still keeps a close check on the press. As recently as June 1994 three periodicals were banned: Tempo, Detik and Editor. <a name="noot8" href="#8">(8)</a>

Thus the traumatic 1965-66 period in Indonesian history marks the change from the Old Order of President Sukarno to the New Order of President Suharto. The New Order state is built on a male, military model of discipline and repression in which any reference to social inequality is denounced as being inspired by or related to `Communist subversion'. <a name="noot9" href="#9">(9)</a> The myth of the birth of the New Order was consciously created by General Suharto and is continually recreated, in campaigns of indoctrination (in which amongst others a film version of the so-called `betrayal' by the PKI is shown). This campaign is built on sexual metaphors, especially the male fear of castration, which (in particularly gruesome colours) depict the role the women's organization Gerwani (linked with the PKI) supposedly played in that coup. To date, analyses of the New Order state have ignored the elements of sexual imagery underlying Indonesia's presentday political configuration. <a name="noot10" href="#10">(10)</a>

The implications are wide and involve a constant process of indoctrination which amounts to the brainwashing of a whole nation into believing the power-holders' view of their collective past and to refrain from questioning the policy of the New Order state. Talking about women's emancipation, having a vision of greater social justice, has become suspect, for it is associated not only with `Communism' but with `Old Order thinking' in general. As a leader of Perwari, <a name="noot11" href="#11">(11)</a> said: `If I speak about the vision I have about the Indonesian women's movement, if I refer to any goals I might want to achieve, or discuss women's emancipation, I am immediately accused of being a `person of the Old Order'. This government really educates people to ignorance. People can only be free if they can think, isn't it? Here there is no freedom, there is no way we can say or think what we want' (interview 73, 31 January 1984).

This study therefore is not only of historical interest. The gender analysis presented here of the events in 1965-66 is directly relevant to an understanding of the machinations of the New Order state in general and particularly of the way women's subordination is being used as a justification of the continued patriarchal, military basis of the totalitarian state President Suharto has built.

This is in fact the reason why I became interested in the topic of

the present study. In the late 1970s I was struck by the docility and the level of male dominance of the major presentday women's organizations in Indonesia, especially the organizations of government wives (Dharma Wanita) and of wives of military men (Dharma Pertiwi), as well as the state-sponsored, nationwide organization of Family Welfare Guidance (PKK).<a name="noot12" href="#12">(12)</a> I subsequently learnt that they were built on the ruins of a history of active and independent women's organizations. As I pointed out in 1985, these new organizations were constructed by the military to resubordinate Indonesian women:

Any concern which is now voiced about their difficult social and economic situation is branded as political. Such concerns are thus by implication left-wing, and `leftist', linked with `women' opens up the whole Pandora's box of associations with ritual killings, and sexual orgies. (Wieringa 1985: 38) <a name= "noot13" href="#13">(13)</a>

Initially spurred on by Sukarno himself Indonesian women had participated actively in the national independence war. After independence a process of restoration of male power took place. During the first years of Sukarno's rule, women remained vocal subjects in the Indonesian political arena, attacking the bastion of male domination from two sides. In the first place they assaulted the male prerogative of polygyny, a struggle they lost, not least because President Sukarno himself demanded the right to have more than one wife. In the second place, a part of the movement, Gerwani, claimed a place for women in the centre of politics.
This move had a number of consequences. To start with, they incurred the wrath of the other women's organizations, which maintained that women's public place was not in politics but in the social sphere. Further, Gerwani, by linking itself more and more firmly to the PKI (which had little interest in the `woman question') lost many of its original feminist points of view. In the third place, as I will argue, Gerwani's move into terrain hitherto considered male territory triggered fears among traditional groups in Indonesia, especially devout Muslims, which in turn provided a fertile ground for Suharto's campaign of sexual slander in late 1965.

To understand how the present-day women's organizations functioned both as a pillar of the New Order regime and as an instrument to resubordinate women, I felt I needed to study the period of the Old Order and the birth of the New Order state. While I was probing into this history I realized the extent to which sexual imagery and the subordination of women surrounded the genesis of Suharto's regime. This is not to suggest that sexual metaphors were the only factor contributing to the mass murders and the ascent of Suharto. Other factors - apart from the economic chaos, which led to the great anxiety both the army and the Communists felt - included the assassination attempts on Sukarno (May 1978), Sukarno's illness, and his call to set up a Fifth Force. Although this Fifth Force meant little more than rhetoric in the mid-1960s, <a name="noot14" href="#14">(14)</a> the army was deeply disturbed at the prospect of having some 21 million peasants and workers armed, independent of any army control. <a name="noot15" href="#15">(15)</a> But suggestions of sexual perversion did set the powder keg off. I felt that to understand the depth of the crisis into which Indonesia was plunged in 1965 not only a class but also a gender analysis had to be provided. The gender analysis presented here will enlighten certain aspects of Indonesian modern political history which so far remained mysterious to many analysts, posing questions on issues which have been largely ignored.

The following pages unravel a history which was hidden on three levels. The first level deals with the history of Indonesian feminism as such, which has known many more radical and courageous moments than presentday writers give it credit for. Secondly a prohibited history will be presented, that is the history of Gerwani. Its ex-members were killed, imprisoned and otherwise silenced, its documents destroyed in Indonesia. Fortunately libraries in The Netherlands and the US contain the sources on the basis of which the past of Gerwani could be reconstructed. Thirdly, a reading of the events of 1965 and 1966 based on a gender analysis of that period will reveal certain aspects of the birth of the New Order which so far have been either suppressed (by the Indonesian military) or ignored (by analysts of Indonesian modern history).

The focus of this book is on Java, in part because it is the most populated island of Indonesia, but mainly because it is the political centre of the country. Sukarno actively promoted the Javanization of the Indonesian political culture, a policy in which the PKI followed him. Under Suharto this policy continues.

The main point of my argument centres around the period between 1950 and 1965, the Old Order, with an extension until 1967, when Sukarno granted Suharto de facto power over Indonesia. As the developments during the Old Order have been introduced by the national awakening of Indonesian society during the last decades of colonial rule and the Japanese occupation I have also paid attention to this period.

The structure of the book is as follows. The research process is dealt with in the first chapter. The next chapter explains my theoretical framework, which is built on the concept of gender as an analytical tool to understand women's movements and organizations and the political manipulation of women's subordination. The following historical chapters deal respectively with Indonesia's history of women's organizations until independence, the political development of the Old Order state and the women's movement of that period. The first of three chapters on Gerwani deals with its history in general and some organizational issues. The next two focus on Gerwani's politics and its ideology respectively. The underlying question posed in these two chapters is whether any justification for the accusations hurled at Gerwani after October 1965 can be found in the ideology and practice of the organization. My conclusion is that as far as sexuality was concerned Gerwani could be considered a rather conservative organization. In the last chapter, the `first coup', of 1 October, is analysed and a day-to-day account is given of the way in which the first phase of the second, sneaking coup, the campaign against Gerwani and the PKI was built up.

To introduce the themes mentioned above and to illustrate the dedication and aspirations of Gerwani members, this introduction ends with an interview with a Javanese cadre. <a name="noot16" href="#16">(16)</a> Almost twenty years after the `events' of 1965 it was still very dangerous for ex-Gerwani members to be seen with foreigners. But in this case the interviews were easier to arrange, because I had severe back pains at the time and Ibu Marto, as I will call her here, was a well-known masseur and acupuncturist, skills she started to acquaint herself with in prison. We met in the house of a mutual acquaintance. I used to be massaged by her all morning; she related her story in bits and pieces while she tried to fix my back. Every time a painful spot in my body was hit we would stop the conversation. At times we didn't talk at all, the silence filled with the images her story had conjured up in the small room and I just let her strong, experienced fingers touch me all over, from my hair to my toes. If someone would pass by or enter the room there were just the masseur and her patient, discussing back troubles.

My family had no leftist background. I was the only one in our household who joined a progressive organization. A cousin of mine was a member of PKI and he encouraged me to join the Pemuda Rakyat when I was seventeen years old.

I liked it so much there. We would do all sorts of things collectively; there would be dancing and singing, and we would also stage plays with a political content. Also, courses on household issues, such as cooking and sewing were organized and of course all the time we had political discussions.

After a few years I joined Gerwani at the neighbourhood (ranting) level. There the leaders noticed me because I listened well and asked questions and helped in organizing the activities. I joined a cadre course and started working at branch (cabang) level. I was very enthusiastic and worked hard so I was elected to regional (daerah), and in the end to the central (pusat) level.

All in all three times I attended a training course. The longest one was in Jakarta. There we were prepared for one month for the work in the various regions where we would be sent. The curriculum included political education, speeches of Sukarno and of Aidit and discussions about organizational skills and household issues. We would also get leadership training. In the afternoons we studied texts of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Engels and of course some chapters from Sarinah, the book Sukarno had written. The central leadership had all those texts collected in a reader.

We would often discuss the history of our organization. I joined in the mid-1950s, after the name was changed into Gerwani. You know, Gerwis, as it used to be called, was a bit sectarian. Very few women from the lower classes had joined. The organization was considered to be too red, too PKI, too extreme. Actually we felt that was not true. Those who knew Gerwis in the old days liked it much better than when we had grown so big. But the men thought so. So at the 1954 congress we became Gerwani, with a more flexible attitude, especially to women's issues, softer, smoother (luwes). The emphasis on women's issues declined, while economic, social, political and cultural issues gained more prominence.

What I did like very much of the work in those years was the contact we established with the peasant women. If I went to a village I would contact a woman, maybe a friend or a relative of someone I had known elsewhere, and introduce myself. I am from Gerwani do you know what that is? Usually they wouldn't know, and I would tell about the issues we fought for. Most women were drawn to our organization because of our stand on polygamy. The second issue the female peasants were interested in was low wages. In general they liked the idea of women's freedom, for the women resented that their wages were lower than those of the men. Once a woman had become a member, she was asked to look for a friend and so on until there was a small group. These groups were the basis of the organization for in their meetings the women would start to understand their rights and the feudal system. For it is the feudal system which causes the suffering of Indonesian women.

We would read about it in the newspaper, Harian Rakyat, and in Berita Gerwani, and then we would discuss those articles we liked. We hardly ever read Api Kartini; that was non-bloc, independent, it had no colour. That was not interesting for the women in the villages or in the neighbourhoods in the cities.

We were proud of our organization, for Gerwani led the struggle for the improvement of women's lives, against price rises, for higher wages. It was nice to be in the forefront and to see that we really could do something.

We were also very active here in the city, especially among the workers. The female labourers usually were members of SOBSI and in their neighbourhood they joined Gerwani. Many women were members of both organizations. That was easy, for there were many issues concerning the fate of women labourers in which we cooperated. For instance SOBSI and Gerwani joined hands in the fight for menstruation leave. If women were fired because they insisted on their legal right to a menstruation leave both Gerwani and SOBSI would fight for them.

Gerwani was also very active in the struggle against illiteracy. We set up so many literacy classes. And we fought for women's political rights, that more women would become members of the national or regional parliaments, or that they could become village head or minister as easily as men. Especially in the villages many disagreed with those rights. There were Islamic groups who felt that was very controversial. They didn't want to give women any rights at all. There were also landlords who were very conservative.

In the one-sided actions in the 1960s women joined actively. They did not just jeer from the sidelines. In Kediri and in Jengkol, the women faced the tractors of the landlords who tried to oust them from their land. And they were shot at by the army.

All these actions aroused much aversion in the villages, that is true. That is probably why so many women were killed: the Gerwani members were much too independent. They hated Gerwani, wanted the women only to be active in the social field. They could hold an arisan occasionally, that was all right, all the other women's organizations did so. But in Gerwani the women would also be politically active. Yes, that was intensely disliked.

I often wondered how it could all go so wrong. One thing is that Sukarno was not consistent in his dealings with the feudal remains in our society. That is the source of the troubles we got. We joined him in the National Front, which was anti-imperialist. But he didn't keep up his promises, for instance in implementing the land reform law. The PKI did and we joined the Party in this issue. The role of Gerwani in the one-sided actions was very strong; it has almost completely been forgotten now. Also the papers at the time didn't write so much about our actions. The men always wanted to be seen as more militant than the women.

We sided with Sukarno in this Malaysia confrontation. But actually that was not very attractive to us; it just drew the attention away from the national problems. So we were a bit reluctant at first, but in the end we joined enthusiastically and sent volunteers. The PNI women did so too, the Wanita Marhaen and the Wanita Demokrat, <a name="noot17" href="#17">(17)</a> and also some other women's organizations.

I myself was not in Java at that period. In 1962 I was sent to another island, on my own. I often felt very lonely, for I didn't understand the language, the people nor the culture. I had to learn to feel at home in such a different surrounding. I lived with other cadres of the PKI and the Pemuda Rakyat in one big house. One boy of the Pemuda Rakyat often helped me. At times I would feel so miserable that I would cry. He would then comfort me, explain things to me and help me out if necessary. Those first few months I often felt so low that I wanted to go back home. It was also difficult for me that I was not used to live as a young girl alone with strange men. People gossiped so much. I had to defend myself all the time.

The region I was sent to was difficult. It had a proud history of resistance against the Dutch and they didn't like Jakarta very much either. Islam was very strong, the men were arrogant. I, as a stranger, a Javanese woman, should not push myself at all. I should never attempt to be seen as the teacher who knew everything. So I waited until they came to me with their problems. The cadres who worked there had had very little training and had very little idea what Gerwani actually stood for, what it wanted. During the meetings I would find out who was most clearheaded. Then I would approach that woman and gradually try to explain a little about the organization, its activities and so on. But I should never be seen as the leader; that should be someone from the region itself.

It was very difficult to adjust myself, for I was not used to living in such a strictly Islamic area where women could not move about freely. In the end I found a way to make it easier for the women to come to our meetings. They had many original dances in the area. The men would forbid their wives to go out of the house but not if they went in a group. So we organized cultural groups, to dance, to sing and those groups the women were allowed to join. But we didn't stop there, we gave these groups a content, we would discuss their daily problems with them. You can very easily educate the women on economic issues via the arisan. If you start discussing what the women could best use their money for you immediately arrive at the problem of the price rises. And then you could discuss who were responsible for that. So then you could start straight away with political education.

When the women finally understood what Gerwani wanted many women

strongly supported us, however Islamic they all were. They hated the polygamy of their men and they enjoyed meeting and discussing these issues. They also liked it very much to learn how to make cookies and to discuss the political situation. What appealed most to the young people was the right to marry as they liked and to the women, especially the struggle against polygamy. The women workers were also happy to be supported in their struggle and to have a crêche where they could leave their children for a very small sum.

After one year the boy of the Pemuda Rakyat asked me to marry him.

I hesitated, asked him to wait. He came from Jakarta; his parents had moved here. I asked my friends for advice. They all said that I should do it, so in 1963 we married. Those were the happiest years of my life. After one year our son was born. The period around the delivery my husband did everything around the house, he would sweep, cook, wash clothes. And after the child was born he would often change the diapers before he would go to his office. He would always help me as much as he could, until I was strong enough to cope again. But then already it was October 1965.

I am really sick at heart that all our careful organizing, our

efforts to build up the movement from the grassroots, has been so totally destroyed. I used to travel a lot, with trains or buses if these would be available. If we would go to the interior, we would have to walk long distances. In the city I also walked. Sometimes I could ride a bicycle, but more often I had to walk. We used to be so dedicated; we never thought: ah, tomorrow I must have some food in my pot, or I want a nice house. Day and night we were busy with our work. If I had to travel it was sufficient that I had a ticket. Once there there would always be a plate of rice for me.

In the morning we would cook some food, eat it and then we would

be on our way. Often we would not come home before 11, 12 at night. We would have picked up some food along the way. I never devoted a single thought to anything else but the problems we had and how to solve them. We did get paid a little bit of money, I myself as the chair of the crêches, and my vice chair, but that was in no way sufficient. So I had a small job, did the administration of a school.
I went to a course of five months intended for crêche leaders in Jakarta while I was already the chair of the crêche here. I went there with my two-months-old son. Now the certificate is not valid any more.

In general communication with Jakarta was difficult. Once a month

I would send a report but the answer would come only months later. But they did send us all kinds of recommendations. We were for instance advised to organize an anti-price rise demonstration around a certain time, or to send a delegation to the governor, if that was planned in Jakarta. As far as national politics were concerned they generally followed the party line, but for women's affairs they charted their own course. Our major adversaries were fanatical Muslims. It takes very long to convince people, especially when they have certain strict religious principles. Here within the National Front we cooperated a lot with Perwari and Kowani. All this just started to get off the ground when the events happened. It was so unexpected, so in the midst of everything.

When we understood what was happening in Java we fled to a nearby

city. There my husband was burnt alive when they set fire to the PKI office. With my son I then fled to Jakarta. My elder sister is the widow of an officer who had been killed on a mission. She couldn't live off her pension and had secured a job at one of the army canteens. I also set to work there. They admonished me to remarry. You are young, they told me, you have only one child, it will arouse suspicion if you don't accept a husband. So to protect myself against gossip I married my second husband although I didn't love him. When the child I had by him, a daughter, was two years old, all of a sudden my husband disappeared. I asked anyone whom I thought might know anything about him but I never heard anything from him any more.

Then my sister got afraid people would find out and she would lose

her job and everything. She turned me in. When I was arrested my daughter stayed with my sister in Jakarta. My son, who was at the time with me, had no one to take care of him. His grandmother was too old and confused to be able to provide for him and to see him through school. He had to survive by selling newspapers and bakso on the street.

In prison many of us were raped. We were beaten and tortured with

electricity, and with cigarettes. After a few years, after the Red Cross had visited us, it became a little better. I learnt massage and made some handicrafts that I sold for a bit of food.

Everyone in the prison knew that I would have to fend for myself

and my children after I would be released, so they collected whatever they could. Some friends who had already been released gave me some pots and a stove. I had also been able to save a little bit of money by selling my handicrafts so I could buy some rice for the first days.

During the first weeks I was free I lived off the embroidery I

produced, while I tried to get some patients to be massaged. Now I have passed several exams for massage and acupuncture and I have enough patients to be able to live.

But my first concern was my son. On Saturday I was outside, on

Sunday I had found out where he was and on Monday he was at school. But he was very much behind and I had to put him to boarding school. He was very embarrassed that with his nineteen years he still had to wear shorts to go to SMP (junior high school). Next year he will have finished his SMP; then he can come home to go to SMA (senior high school) and he can wear trousers. Then he will no longer be shy to be seen like that in his neighbourhood.

My youngest child is also behind. She is already twelve and she

should have been in the fifth form, but she is only in the third form. She will pick up; she is doing well now.

I am fine, I can manage now with my two children and my massage.

But I still have to be very careful. I cannot take private patients at home. A friend of mine learnt that he was being discussed in government office: he received too many guests. But these were his patients! He was warned to stop. So I usually go to my patients myself.

Although we are released we are not full citizens yet. I still

have to legitimate myself constantly. For instance if I have to go to Surabaya I need five stamps on a piece of paper and then I have to show that to the police in Surabaya. If I will not do that I will get house arrest.

Actually that is not the worst thing. I can live with that. What

really makes me so sad is that my children at school learn such ugly things about Gerwani. I realized my son was holding something back for me. Finally he came to me and asked, `Ma, why did you become a member of such a group, so morally depraved, bringing ruin to the country? Were you a whore too? Everybody said that all Gerwani members were whores and bad women.' How can I explain to him what we lived for, what our ideals were? I still see the confusion and shame in his eyes. How will he ever understand my


Her face twisted with pain when she said that. Her hands momentarily stopped moving.

Other women too asked me to return their history to them and their relatives. They did not want to die with the version of their past constructed in the campaign of mass terror following the coup. But the history which follows is not only of interest to the `old' women; the younger generations of Indonesian women and men who have been led to believe the military version of the events on the basis of which the society they live in was constructed also have the right to be exposed to the following account which aims to subvert this military history of Indonesia.


<a name="1" href="#noot1">1</a>   I use the term `Communist Family' for both the PKI and its associated ormas, (organisasi masa, mass organizations), Gerwani (Gerakan Wanita Indonesia, Indonesian Women's Movement),Pemuda Rakyat (People's Youth), SOBSI (Sentral Organisasi Buruh Seluruh Indonesia, All Indonesian Trade Unions Federation), BTI (Barisan Tani Indonesia, Indonesian Farmers' Front), Lekra (Lembaga Kebudayaan Rakyat, League of People's Culture) and HSI (Himpunan Sarjana Indonesia, Indonesian Association of Scholars). It was claimed that in 1964 this family consisted of some 27 million members (HR 20 August 1965). This figure has to be read with caution, as there were many cases of double membership.

<a name="2" href="#noot2">2</a>   Between 1950-54 the organization was called Gerwis. I refer to the organization in general as Gerwani, and use the term Gerwis only when referring specifically to the period until the First Congress 1954.

<a name="3" href="#noot3">3</a>   It is not known exactly how many people were actually murdered at the time. Present day scholars such as Vatikiotis (1993) and Anderson (1994) use the figure of one million. See also Cribb (ed.) 1990.

<a name="4" href="#noot4">4</a>   See the account of Howard Jones (US ambassador to Indonesia for seven years prior to June 1965) gave of US involvement in Indonesian internal politics. For Americans the impact goes far beyond the fact of a friendly government replacing a hostile one. It represents a major defeat for both Moscow and Peking, `[a]nd one of the happiest results of Indonesia's acting on its own is the rapprochement between that country and the United States' (Jones 1971: 403). For the US, Suharto was `the hero who saved Indonesia from becoming a Communist State' (Jones 1971: 412).

<a name="5" href="#noot5">5</a>   See Chapter 11 for an explanation of the meaning of the gara-gara scene.

<a name="6" href="#noot6">6</a>   Tapol is short fortahanan politik, political prisoner, napol for narapidana politik, convicted political prisoner. Thetapol, who had never been tried, were released in 1979, fourteen years after the events of 1965 and still must carry identification papers stamped to this effect. The few convicted napol were released after their sentences expired. Those on death row are still in prison. In 1987 a Government Instruction (No 5 of that year) withheld the reduction of life sentence to twenty years, after five years of `good behaviour'. See Hersri 1993 and Pramoedya Ananta Tur 1988 & 1995 for the experiences of tapol in the concentration camps on the island of Buru, and Havelaar 1988 for an account of the lives of families of ex-tapol.

<a name="7" href="#noot7">7</a>   Functions which are officially closed to the ex-tapol include the civil and armed services, and vital enterprises. They are also not allowed to take jobs which might bring them into contact with the population, such as journalists, teachers and priests. The legal foundation for these regulations is the 1975 Anti-Subversion Law (Decision of the Pangkopkamtib No 06/Kopkam/XI, related to the `Surat Keterangan Tidak Terlibat G30S/PKI', or Letter of Information of Non-involvement in the PKI 30 September Movement') and the Instruction of the Ministry of Home Affairs No 32 of 1981 related to the `Guidance and Supervision of the Ex-Prisoners and Convicted Prisoners of the PKI 30 September Movement'. See also Manai Sophiaan (1994) for an account of the way the Suharto regime manages to stifle any social criticism by pointing to the `latent danger' of Communism.

<a name="8" href="#noot8">8</a>   See also the article by Kees van Dijk in Internationale Spectator of October 1994, No 10, `Een verschijningsverbod in Indonesië'.

<a name="9" href="#noot9">9</a>   A series of strikes in North Sumatra in the first half of 1994 was said to be `inspired by trade union leaders some of whom had relatives who were linked to the PKI'. A trade union leader was killed (IFM jrg XVIII (3) May 1994). The strike was led by the independent trade union SBSI (Serikat Buruh Sejahtera Indonesia) which is still prohibited; the governmentonly recognizes the SPSI (Serikat Pekerja Seluruh Indonesia),a union which accepts the notion that there should be harmony between employers and their employees.

<a name="10" href="#noot10">10</a>   In a paper in 1985, entitled `The Perfumed Nightmare' I demonstrated that the army under General Suharto had constructed this campaign around Gerwani's alleged role in the 1 October 1965 coup. Recently, Leclerc (1991) in an unpublished paper picked up the same theme, focusing on the monument built at Lobang Buaya, the site at which the generals were murdered. I will elaborate this theme in Chapter 11.

<a name="11" href="#noot11">11</a>   Perwari, Persatuan Wanita Republik Indonesia, Union of Women of the Indonesian Republic, was established right after the proclamation of independence. As I will elaborate in Chapter 7, for a long time the organization remained a radical and vocal advocate of women's rights, especially in marriage. At present the organization is `tamed', its activities on behalf of poor women have been made impossible and their membership has been greatly reduced. This last phenomenon is largely due to the fact that all wives of civil servants or military employees are obliged to join the two organizations of army and civil servants' wives, Dharma Wanita and Dharma Pertiwi.

<a name="12" href="#noot12">12</a>   For an account of Dharma Wanita and Dharma Pertiwi see Wieringa 1985. In a later article I discussed Indonesia's `aborted feminism' (1988b), and more recently, I wrote two articles comparing Gerwani and the PKK (1992; 1993a). See also the reports published by the Indonesia team of the DGIS/ISS Women's History Project (Wieringa et al. 1985; Wieringa (ed.) 1990). See also Suryakusuma (1990) for Dharma Wanita.

<a name="13" href="#noot13">13</a>   This paper is translated into Indonesian as `Impian Buruk Berbau Harum'. Since 1985 it has circulated in Indonesia's samizdat literature.

<a name="14" href="#noot14">14</a>   The Gerwani volunteers trained for this Fifth Force amounted to no more than some 70 women; see Chapter 11.

<a name="15" href="#noot15">15</a>   See Southwood & Flanagan (1983) for a discussion of the Fifth Force.

<a name="16" href="#noot16">16</a>   The interview numbers are 96, 97, 100 121 & 122.

<a name="17" href="#noot17">17</a>   This is the same organization. In 1964 the Wanita Demokrat Indonesia changed its name to Gerakan Wanita Marhaenis.