Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Indonesia: Reflections on Women's Emancipation Day

Every year, Indonesians celebrate the birthday of Raden Ajeng Kartini on April 21, who is popularly known for championing women's rights.

Kartini was born into an intellectual noble family, her father was a Regency Chief of Jepara, a post available only to the nobility. Her maternal grandfather was an Islamic teacher. Being the daughter of a regent, Kartini was allowed to attend a European lower school in the Dutch East Indies until the time her family decided to marry her off.

At a time when women's education is inaccessible to most Javanese, Kartini taught herself Dutch and wrote letters to her Dutch friends who introduced her to feminist ideas.

Women making batik pieces together in celebration of Kartini Day. Photo by Robertus Pudyanto, copyright @Demotix 4/20/2012

Women making batik pieces together in celebration of Kartini Day. Photo by Robertus Pudyanto, copyright @Demotix 4/20/2012

Kartini fought for the improvement of the rights of Javanese women. However, until this day her visions have yet to be realized completely.

Twitter hashtags #Kartini and #Emansipasi were used to discuss what the day means to many Indonesians:

@e_christmas Emansipasi mnrt saya berarti perempuan punya hak utk tidak ditindas. Tp bukan berarti kesetaraan gender yg keblinger #Kartini

@e_christmas: To me, emancipation means that women have the right not to be oppressed. But it doesn't mean overwhelming gender equality.

@dhana_ard Emansipasi sih udah dipegang,tp solidaritas sesama perempuan kpn dong. Selamat hari kartini perempuan indonesia =]

@dhana_ard: Emancipation is now present. But when will we have women's solidarity? Happy Kartini Day to Indonesian women!

‎‏‪@fajarwidd‬ Emansipasi tdk melulu protes ttg kesetaraan gender. Tapi lebih pd kemandirian perempuan. Happy Kartini's day

‎‏‪@fajarwidd: Emancipation is not always about demanding gender equality. It's more about women's independence.

On Facebook:

Kazhiem Afif Shalihi: Kata Mamah Dedeh di acara ceramahnya di ANTV (liat iklannya) dalam rangka hari Kartini, dia bilang, “Buat perempuan gak perlu ribut soal persamaan gender, kita cukup kembali saja pada al-Qur'an”
Makanya jadi begini deh perempuan-perempuan di Indonesia, pada manggut2 dijualin atas nama agama.
Penjualan Santriwati oleh Guru Pesantren Marak di Garut

Kazhiem Afif Shalihi: According to Mamah Dedeh (a popular female Islamic televangelist) in her sermon in ANTV celebrating the Kartini Day, she said “women shouldn't make a fuss about gender equality, we only need to return to Koran”
That's why many women in Indonesia are submissive even when they are sold in the name of religion.
Female Islamic school students in Garut sold by their teachers

Kaisar Victorio : hari kartini sepertinya sekedar ceremonial dan pameran kebaya aja Mestinya Menteri peranan wanita pada moment ini blusukan kedesa desa sejauh mana kondisi wanita disana sat ini….

Kaisar Victorio: Kartini Day seems ceremonial and exhibition of Kebaya (traditional costume). Minister for Women's Affairs should use this moment to visit villages to see the actual state of women

Meydi Meidyawati Banyak Kartini-Kartini jaman sekarang d perdaya dan nggak berdaya..baik oleh kaum adam ataupun oleh negara/pemerintah sendiri..salah satu bukti ƴƍ aq lihat d sini….sejauh mataku memandang..ada air mata jatuh melihat putri2 bangsa ƴƍ besar d perbudak oleh bangsa ƴƍ kecil..seperti tak ada jln lain untuk mereka dapat d negri sendiri…emansipasi ƴƍ d perjuangkan Ibu kita Kartini nggak ada maknanya lagi..sekedar sejarah belaka..

Meydi Meidyawati: Many modern “Kartinis” are fooled and marginalized .. by men or by the state/government. One of the evidence I see is that tears are shed by daughters of Indonesia slaved by smaller countries such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, Arab, etc, but there's no other way for them to do something in their own country. Emancipation fought by our Dame Kartini no longer has meaning, it's only history.

Abdul Khaliq Ahmad Kartini adalah tokoh emansipasi bangsa, bukan sekedar tokoh emansipasi perempuan..

Abdul Khaliq Ahmad: Kartini is the nation's emancipation figure, not only women's emancipation figure

In general the reactions of Indonesian netizens show how the nations's Emancipation Day is seen differently by the population.

@ayaslarass Jgn krn hari kartini, trus perempuan jd sok emansipasi seenak-enaknya yah, ingat lelaki tetap Imam kita :))

@ayaslarass: (It's) not because it's Kartini Day, (us) women could ostentatiously be emancipating at will, remember, men are our religious leaders

‎‏‪@pergijauh‬ Selamat hari Kartini, mari minimaliskan budaya ‘ladies first’, biar gak dibilang lemah.

‎‏‪@pergijauh‬: Happy Kartini Day, let's minimize the “Ladies First” custom, so you won't be called weak.

@ajuNna_njun Emansipasi tanpa melupakan kodratnya sebagai perempuan ‪#HariKartini‬

@ajuNna_njun: Emancipation without forgetting our qualities as women

‎‏‪@IhsanMDe‬ Slh 1 bntuk emansipasi? “‪@VIVAnews‬: Ketua KPU: Banyak Partai Gagal karena Perempuan ‪ ‬”

‎‏‪@IhsanMDe‬: One of the forms of emancipation? “‪@VIVAnews‬: General Elections Committee Chairman: Many political parties failed because of women ‪‬”

An anonymous blogger known as m3d14ku's wrote a post about the relevance of Kartini today:

“Banyak orang mengeluhkan bahwa perempuan masa kini salah mengartikan emansipasi.”
[…]Tampaknya ada sepenggal perjuangan yang selama ini luput dari kita. Mayoritas dari kita hanya mengenal emansipasi yang diperjuangkan R. A Kartini hanya dalam bidang pendidikan dan pekerjaan, tetapi bagian untuk menjadi pendidik dalam keluarga justru terlupakan.
[…]Tetapi sebagai tonggak generasi bangsa, kebaya saja tak cukup, karena Andalah sang pendidik utama bagi generasi bangsa ini.

Many people complain that modern women misrepresent emancipation.
[…]It seems that there was a fight that we've forgotten. Most of us know emancipation that was fought by R.A. Kartini is only valid in the fields of education and job, but many of us forgot the part where we're supposed to be the educators of the family.
[…]Despite so, as the pillar of this generation, wearing Kebaya is not enough, because you are the main educator of the current generation in this country.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.