A men's organization advocating gender equality was launched in Jakarta on Thursday, giving women an unlikely ally in the battle against male dominance.
The New Men Alliance (LLB) aims to promote awareness of women's rights among Indonesian men, according to the group's chairman, Nurhasyim.
He said the group had around 50 members from Jakarta, Aceh and East Nusa Tenggara.
“Men should realize that the problem we experience is that there is an unjust system [in terms of the rights of] men and women,” Nurhasyim said during the group's news conference and official launch on Thursday.
He said the LLB would advance its cause by using social media, including Facebook and Twitter and their Web site, lakilakibaru.wordpress.com.
“We also have a gentlemen's hotline on a new radio program run by the Women's Journal Foundation [YJP] where men will be given space to speak and we can engage them in gender talks,” Nurhasyim said.
He said most men did not realize that they had prejudices against women — the product of years of patriarchal societies.
“Patriarchy is addictive. It gives power and privilege to males and it has been going on for centuries,” the chairman said.
He said the group was formed to give the gender-equality movement a much-needed boost, adding that the pace of changing men's prejudicial attitudes toward women was “too slow.”
Nurhasyim cited as an example the male biases in the country's legal system. The group said there were 189 bylaws limiting women's freedom of speech and right to employment.
Nurhasyim said the LLB wanted men to learn about “violence against women, how to care for mothers and children and be full of love.”
The organization's founding was supported by pro-women's groups, including the YJP, Pulih Foundation and the Aceh Men's Forum.
Husein Muhammad, a member of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said at Thursday's press conference that men should open their minds to women's issues.
Mariana Amiruddin, the executive director of YJP, said changing men's biases would be a long and painful process, but that the formation of groups like LLB was a step in the right direction.
“Men can play a great role in voicing gender insensitivity as an issue that citizens should be paying more attention to,” she said.
Similarly, Husein said enlightening men would be difficult because many spheres of society — including the government — were still patriarchal.
“But we have to be optimistic that we can do it if we want to keep the talks going and keep learning,” he said. “By having a new organization like this, we are in the right path and heading there.”