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by: Neng Hannah

Mat (a pseudonym), admitted having a conflict with her husband after giving birth to two daughters from their marriage. Her husband wanted her to give birth to a baby boy, so he didn’t allow her to participate in the KB program. Mat however had to agree with him, even though she already felt overwhelmed in raising two children. After giving birth to her fifth child, who is also a baby girl, her husband finally allowed her to do the KB. Mat’s husband wanted to have a son so bad until he expected their last child would be a boy, even dressed her like a boy.

This is one of stories revealed during a research on KB program where the right to decide the child birth is also mentioned.  Women apparently don’t have the right to decide what is important for her body and life. Even if a KB program is agreed by both the husband and the wife, it seems that most of acceptors must be the wife.

In a discussion meeting on KB and Reproductive Health, especially related to the right in determining the child birth, almost all the women in majelis taklim (a forum where people gather to discuss and learn about Islam) which I join in Bandung 2010, said it was them using the contraception tools, while their husband seemed to be ignorant. When I asked, why should you? They answered spontaneously, “Because it’s us who give birth, take care of our children, and manage our household…”.  A woman added, “If someone gives birth to a baby too often, her genital organ will function less effectively because it never stops working hard. Get pregnant all the time, and the mother will get sick. After all, she doesn’t have enough time to take care of their children, which means it will be a burden for the family too. So, finally we decide to do the KB.” When I asked them again, why not their husband in doing the KB? They answered, the KB program is designed for women, because men cannot be convinced to do it.

Starting from those stories above, it can be concluded that women still become the main target, despite there have been positive responses from our society regarding KB program. There is a strong connection between social, political, cultural and industrial background with the fact that women become the target of the KB program. This has been going on since a long time ago, especially during the New Order era.

In 1970, KB became a national program when BKKBN, or National Family Planning Coordination Board was established. During the 1st Pelita (or Five-Year Development Plan), KB program was implemented only in Java and Bali. It was during the 2nd, 3rd and 4th Pelita the government intervention was so strong, especially in terms of female reproduction system. All the program activities were focused to achieve the demographic target only. An award from the United Nations was granted to our government during the Suharto regime. As stated by Sita Aripurnami, the power intervention by the state towards people, especially the women in terms of KB implementation was very heartbreaking. Even though this achievement was significant because our country has succeeded in decreasing birth rate from 5,5 to 3 for every woman. The population growth was reduced from 2,5-2,7 in 1970 to 1,6 in 1991.

The KB carried out with coercive approach is not a policy made under people’s interest. Though it has succeeded in Indonesia, the implementation didn’t please any women. Besides the population growth control, another thing has to be taken into account is the effect produced in regard to the women’s welfare. This is what Indonesia cannot do, which causes the still high maternal mortality rate. In 2010, the number reaches to 228 per 100.000 births according to Statistical Bureau, but WHO has noted 450 per 100.000.

The way our country and people treat women in regard to KB program ended up in strengthening the culture of patriarchy (the rule of the father). How is exactly the connection between KB and women? Is it an obligation or a right? Historically KB wasn’t only implemented by women. Even in the history of Islam, KB wasn’t practiced by women, but men by ‘azl method. Azl is the husband’s action unwanting to have a child through coitus interruptus.

‘Azl in Islam is allowed by Islamic five schools of thoughts (Hanafi, Maliki, Syafi’i, Hambali dan Ja’fari). Even though there is a little difference in practice, but the Syafi’i school allows the use of contraception or ‘azl performed by the husband without asking permission from his wife.

But now it is the contrary, those who practice KB are women. The answer of majelis taklim members to my question on why women are supposed to do the KB rather than men, as reported by Sita Aripurnami, it was their way of thinking of women as the person who give birth to a child, which means every family-related problem is at the hand of women to solve it, including the use of contraception tools. Besides this mindset, our industry culture also supports this paradigm by supplying contraception tools which can be used by women only. 

As a human being, whatever decision opted by every woman is already supported and guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. There is no power in this world can impose any will to any women, including imposition to do KB.

In the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 16, it is stated that men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to raise a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution. Based on this declaration, it is clear that women have full rights to plan a family, include the rights to have or not to have children, to give birth or not to give birth. This statement is enhanced by the result of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994 which upholds and respects the women’s reproductive rights.

Basically, there is no more reason to say that KB is an obligation for women. We must look back at the history of KB concept in Islam, without defining that we should ‘oblige the men’ to do so. KB can be carried out by anyone, men or women, as long as there is no coercive approach, a complete and accurate information must be provided. [] Neng Hannah

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