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Morality plays

AsiaViews, Edition: 11/III/March/2006

The Anti-Pornography and Pornographic Acts Bill is undergoing revision. The PDI-P has agreed to allow the discussions to continue, providing four terms are met.

THE procession of hundreds of professional traditional dancers was accompanied by the melodic sounds of traditional musical instruments like the gong and the Kendang drum. Many of the dancers were wearing the Kemben. This Javanese chest cloth exposes part of the upper torso when certain dance movements are performed.

The dancers, ranging in ages from 17 to 60, began their walk at the School for Traditional Arts in Solo and headed for the Surakarta Cultural Park, about 800 meters away. The dancers, crowding the streets of Solo last Wednesday, didn’t intend to follow the carnival. They gathered to mark their protest against the Anti-Pornography and Pornographic Acts Bill (RUU APP), which is currently being discussed in the House of Representatives (DPR). “If traditional dances like tayub are considered pornographic, I won’t be able to dance at the town hall ceremonies,” said Juwariah, a tayub dancer from Jeponan, Blora.

According to Mugiono Kasido, who organized the event “A thousand tayub dancers reject the bill.” If the bill is passed, traditional dances like tayub, ledek and lengger, which are still performed in Central Java, will be condemned because the choreography is categorized as sensual or inciting lust. “In fact the tayub is indeed an intimate dance,” said the Solonese choreographer.

As a result the tayub dancers and the rest of Solo’s artists are insisting that the deliberations on the bill be halted. The law will renew the censorship of art on the basis of morality,” said Murtidjono, director of the Surakarta Cultural Park.

The wave of opposition to the bill from various cultural and intellectual groups, has spread to cities like Jakarta, Bandung and Yogyakarta. Last Wednesday, the Bali Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) held a special session to reject the bill. “We ask that all efforts to outline this law be stopped,” said I.B.Putu Wenawa, head of the Bali DPRD.

In Jakarta, the Special Formulating Committee discussing the bill continued to receive community groups who are for and against this bill. Last Tuesday the committee gave an audience to 20 religious figures from South Sulawesi that wish to see the bill passed.

The following day was the turn of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council which also appeared with the same request. “Even though the committee has been hearing the views of the public since last February we cannot refuse the groups that continue to come before us now,” said Balkan Kapale, head of the Special Committee.

The Anti-Pornography Bill is entering the deliberation phase. The bill has stirred up a real fuss. The actual definition of pornography is ambiguous and haphazard and most of the articles in the bill pose potential restrictions on freedom of expression.

Article 58 for example, threatens a five-year jail sentence to anyone who writes, records, films, composes poetry or paints anything which expresses sensuality. “The definition of sensuality is not clear, if a nude painting is considered pornographic, this is very dangerous,” said Cak Kandar, a well-known artist from Surabaya.

Although it faces opposition from various sides, the deliberation of the bill comprising 11 chapters and 93 articles is still continuing. At the beginning of last March for example, a team from the Special Committee was sent to Batam, Papua and Bali to socialize the demand for the bill.

Demonstrators met the team sent to Bali, headed by Yoyoh Yusroh. Hundreds of citizens at the governor’s office demanded that the team get out of Bali. “I wasn’t even given a chance to explain the bill. They asked us to leave,” said a member of the Justice & Prosperity Party.

According to Balkan, his faction has not turned a deaf ear to the voices of support and opposition to the bill. “Every faction then makes an inventory list of problems which will be examined by the Special Committee,” said the Democrat Party official.

The formulating team comprised of 15 members of the special committee has begun its work. Last Friday the team held meetings over a two-day period at Wisma Indag in Cisarua, Bogor, to talk about the draft of the bill. All the team members were present except for the PDI-P and PDS representatives. “We feel the talks at Cisarua don’t fully take into account the opinion of the public,” said Ni Gusti Ayu Sukmadewi Djakse from PDI-P.

The sessions at Cisarua haven’t yet touched on the revision of the articles even though there are many issues which all parties agree upon. For example will the name of the bill be changed to the Pornography Bill or the Anti-Pornography and Pornographic Acts Bill?

Other matters include the removal of the clause which appoints the Anti-Pornography and Pornographic Acts National Agency, as well as combining several of the chapters.

The team also agreed to drop articles in which the criminal sanctions are already included in the Criminal Code. “But certain criminal sanctions will remain since it would look strange to have a law without citing the consequences of criminal actions,” said Yoyoh Yusroh.

According to Tempo’s source, one of the hotly debated issues concerns the title of the bill and the considerations of the need for this law. “PKS sees the impact of globalization as one of the key considerations for the bill and firmly asks that the name of the bill include the word Pornoaksi,” said the source. This final demand will be met. “We won’t take issue with all the team’s decisions,” said Yoyoh.

The deliberations are not over. PDI-P says it won’t reject the bill as long as it doesn’t violate four points. These are: that the bill does not infringe on religious and cultural diversity, does not interfere in the private affairs of citizens, does not regulate the moral assumptions of a person and does not control general moral or ethical values on the basis of any specific religion. “We see eye to eye with the PDI-P on this matter, if these principles are ignored we reject the bill,” said Tiurlan B.Hutagaol, a member of the Special Committee for the bill.

The clash over the amendment of certain articles will begin in early may after a recess. According to one of the expert staff of the DPR, Ujianto Singgih, even if there is a faction that doesn’t agree the rejection of the bill must occur during the plenary session of the Special Committee and during a committee session of the DPR. “Because of this it’s possible that the bill is decided upon by casting a vote. If indeed more parliament members vote against the bill then the bill will be rejected and talks will start over,” said Tiurlan B.Hutagaol from PDS.

The casting of a vote seems to be the final path; all of the committee members hope the bumpy road will be smoother by finding a middle ground acceptable to all parties. “If we talk about it with a cool head all the different opinions will arrive at common ground, that’s why we ask that tensions calm down first,” said Abdul Hamid Wahid.

By L.R. Baskoro, Abdul Manan, Imron Rosyid (Solo)

Tempo, No. 29/VI/March 21-27, 2006


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