The world has witnessed how women have been victimized by various atrocities. One form of the atrocities is violence against women. It can be found in all aspects of life, whether private or public. The violence may be physical, psychological, sexual or economic and largely even a mixture of two or more of these various forms of violence. The suffering experienced by women, both during and after violence, is in fact traumatic.

Any kind of violence must be eliminated. There must be a significant change in this matter, especially in the case of reinterpretation of religious texts favoring the interests of all, men and women. In this special edition of Swara Rahima, the readers will be invited to know more about the phenomenon of violence against women. For that, Swara Rahima presents two resource persons having expertise in their respective field, namely Dra. Hj Enung Nursaidah Rahayu, MPd, Chairwoman of PUAN Amal Hayati in Cipasung Tasikmalaya and Dr. Kristi Poerwandari, General Coordinator of Yayasan PULIH. 

An Interview with Dra. Hj. Enung Nursaidah Rahayu, MPd

 “PUAN Amal Hayati”

Nurturing Pesantren as a Media for the Empowerment of Women Victims of Violence 

Bu Nung, as we call her, is the daughter of K.H. Moh. Ilyas Ruhiat and Nyai Hj. Dedeh Fuadah who was born in Tasikmalaya, March 11, 1968. After graduating from IKIP Bandung, the wife of Dr. H. Jajang Rudi Haman continued her study to the Master’s Program at UPI Bandung Department of Biology Education. In addition to serving as Chairwoman of PUAN Amal Hayati in Cipasung, she is also mandated to be the Chairwoman of MGMP Biologi (Biology Teachers’ Forum) for State and Private Islamic Senior High Schools of Tasikmalaya Regency. The mother of three children is also active in several organizations such as a member of Task Force for the Elimination of Violence against Women and member of the Reproductive Health Commission Tasikmalaya Regency in Tasikmalaya. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with Mrs. Nung:

As an activist working for the elimination of violence against women, why do you think women always become the object of violence?

There are several factors that I think can be the cause of the occurrence of violence against women (VAW). First, the cultural factors of society who are already familiar with the tradition of gender bias. This tradition will become more severe when the distinction between the roles and functions of men and women is reinforced by patriarchal ideology that places the function of male as more prominent than women. This patriarchal dominance has a very significant effect on society when applying norms and ways of relating to each other in various social structures, from the domestic domain, the workplace, and even the public sphere.

Can you mention some examples of the issue?

A clear example can be found in the family. In the family there are still many practices that give boys more opportunities in education, in terms of food, a father usually has the privilege, whereas a mother who is pregnant or breastfeeding, in fact, needs much more nutritious food, also a child who is in the time of growth both his/her muscle and brain needs more sources of nutritious food. But, since a man is the head of the family, the portion of his food both quantity and quality should be prioritized, and many other examples that show men’s superiority in the society. This culture further breeds violence against women because it has resulted in the emergence of male-dominated power. Hence, what happens then is the emergence of unequal relations between men and women. Women who have no authority or power become subordinate and discriminated. It is precisely in this cultural situation that women are vulnerable to various forms of violence. 

In addition to the first factor, what other factors cause women vulnerable to violence?

Secondly, the factor of relation in the family. Our social system generally places the role of wives in the domestic affair that is confined to kitchen, well and mattress, with the perception that the husband is the leader or the ruler. This encourages the wife to depend on her husband, especially economically under her husband’s total control. Thus, the relationship between husband and wife becomes unequal or uneven. And one of the consequences of this inequality, the wife is often mistreated by her husband. Thirdly, an individual factor. It may be that individual temperament or character causes a person to commit acts of violence. This cannot be separated from the influence of the family environment. Certainly, children who grow up in a violent environment will grow into cruel humans; human perpetrators of violence. The fourth factor is the existence of a gender-biased religious view. This cannot be separated from the roots of patriarchal culture, which affects society in interpreting religious teachings. For example, the verse about nusyuz in the Qur’an makes many who believe that the husband can legitimately beat his wife, but if studied carefully, the message conceived in fact implies the obligation of the husband to treat his wife properly. From that verse we can actually draw the conclusion that there are two steps that must be taken by a husband who wants to warn his wife; first to give advice and second to sleep separately. In reality, these two stages are not taken by the husband who beats his wife.

Then how about violence in the daily life which is not uncommon and as if supported by religious texts?

It is true that some people seem to tolerate violence against women, especially the violent behavior of husbands against wives on the “basis” of religious texts interpreted biasedly from the perspective of gender. Surely this should be corrected because the consequences will only further strengthen the chain of patriarchal cultures while simultaneously allowing violence against women especially domestic violence (KDRT). It seems to be something “common” and “should” happen in domestic life. In the daily life, the violence against wife is sometimes judged as a rewarded pious deed like the act of forbidding the wife to go out of the house, seeking knowledge, get-togethers (silaturahmi), teaching, social activities, based on the interpretation of religious texts that command Moslem women to stay at home. (Al Ahzab: 33). Likewise in the sexual relationship of husband and wife, forced sexual intercourse by a husband to wife is not considered violence, but it is considered to be the obligation of the wife. The wife is a slave to her husband’s sexual needs who always standby anytime, anywhere, and with any style according to the wishes of the husband.

Can you name examples of religious teachings that legitimize the abuse of sexual rights of husbands against wives?

For example, the Hadith which mentions “when a husband calls to his wife to satisfy his desire, she must go to him even if she is occupied at the kitchen or on the camel’s back”. In addition, there is also Hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslims who say that “when a husband calls his wife to bed, and she refuses and [as a result] the husband spends the night in anger, then angels curse the wife all night till dawn”. Yet in Islam, this physical or sexual relationship is always described as one of the “enjoyment and pleasure” from Allah which is not only directed to men but also to women. Sexual intercourse in Islam, in addition to meeting biological needs and complementing the social relationships between husbands and wives, is also a form of worship. Other forms of violence that seem to be legitimized by religious texts are the practices of forced marriage, mujbir guardians (wali mujbir), violence in divorce, unfair polygamy and unilateral nusyuz allegations. I am of the opinion that the cause of violence against women is by no means religious. The most basic Islamic teaching is to uphold justice and the benefit of the Ummah. So it is very unlikely that religions that basically teach the values of goodness, legitimize the abuse against women. If that happens, I think it should be questioned, as this is very contrary to the principle of justice and the benefit of the Ummah. So the problem is again how we all attempt to eliminate misunderstandings of the religious texts.

As a person who has long been active in the pesantren, can you tell how pesantren culturally treats women?

As far as I am concerned and observe, the “pesantren women” are not as bad as imagined by some people who consider pesantren as an institution that tends to shackle women’s rights. Not a few women who have been educated in pesantren can play an active role in the public sphere either as scholars, educators, bureaucrats, activists, and so on. That means women are given equal opportunities in education. The same happens in family relationships among Kyai-Nyai. In Tasikmalaya, less and less Kyai practices polygamy. In fact, now I observe there are more bureaucrats who compete to be able to have more than one wife. 

Many people suspect that violence is also practiced in the pesantren environment, is it true? If that is true, what form of violence is practiced in religious institutions such as pesantren?

I’m not so sure. But indeed I’ve also heard that the pesantren often commits “acts of violence” against women. As for the practice of violence, it can be in the form of restrictions on access and role in the public sphere, the demands of absolute obedience to wives in all spheres of domestic life, forced marriage to daughters and unfair polygamy.

Are there any particular efforts made by Puan Amal Hayati to overcome the violence around the pesantren environment?

As an institution established by pesantren people and social activists, we have always tried to optimize the role of pesantren to be more actively involved in handling women victims of violence. Puan Amal Hayati also consistently conducts a series of activities that serve as an effort to uphold justice and empower women. The activities can be in the form of accompaniment, reviewing gender-sensitive religious scriptures, a workshop on “Pesantren as a Center for Women Accompaniment”, gender-oriented accompaniment training, training on pesantren-based management of center for women accompaniment, reinterpretation of patriarchal understanding of Islam, and socialization of Islamic understanding which is sensitive to women. Anyway, we maximally try to make pesantren as the center of women empowerment. 

Is there a special division in PUAN Cipasung that handles and provides assistance for women victims of violence?

For the activities of accompaniment and treatment for women victims of violence, the PUAN Amal Hayati has a special division, namely PUSPITA (Center for Women’s Protection). PUSPITA provides assistance for women and children affected by violence through counseling, mediation, consultation, victim accompaniment when dealing with related institutions (Hospitals, Police, State Courts, Religious Courts, Lawyers etc.), and providing shelter for victims whose life is threatened and require protection. So in general, PUSPITA is similar to Women’s Crisis Center (WCC) in terms of both management and counseling procedures. However, PUSPITA as a Pesantren-based WCC has distinctive features, such as counseling services equipped with religious spiritual counseling, and advisory services directed at awareness of male-female equality through a religious approach and based on religious views. Similarly, in terms of victim empowerment, it is integrated with the activities of pesantren either spiritual, scientific or social activities. This can be done because of the existence of shelter which is integrated with pesantren facilities. And as the forefront of the handling of cases of violence experienced by women, PUSPITA cooperates with various related parties such as hospitals, Police, Legal Aids, State Courts, Religious Courts, NGOs, Community-Based Organization and Local Government. Alhamdulillah, this network has been running well.

Can you please mention the number of data you find in PUSPITA regarding the issue of violence against women?

So far, the number of cases of violence against women handled by PUSPITA is 62 cases: 47 cases (77%) of domestic violence, 4 of them are incest; 3 cases (4%) of rape; 14 cases (9%) of trafficking. To provide information on the issue of Violence against Women and gender equality as an effort to spread awareness to society, besides through lecture, seminar, discussion or workshop, it is also done through brochure, leaflet, and factsheet. In addition, we are pioneering the economic empowerment program for women victims (survivors) through interest-free capital loan with the installment paid weekly according to the ability of each debtor. The goal is for the survivors to be able to return to live in the community with dignity and independence so that they can rise from adversity due to violence that they experienced. However, we can not help much because it turns out that the implementation has not been so smooth. So when I read the newspaper about Dr. Yunus awarded with the Nobel Prize for his Grameen-Bank program, I am very grateful and hope that we may reflect from his experience. 

What is the effort made by pesantren in overcoming the violence that occurs in its own environment and in the surrounding community?

Pesantren as an institution that has strong influence and support from society and its facilities have great potential to play an active role in dealing with women victims of violence. It is with this strategic role that pesantren actually can make efforts to overcome the rampant acts of violence. In the Hadith Sahih narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, the Prophet said: “Please help brothers who oppressed and the one being oppressed”. The above hadith can illustrate that we can not only focus on helping women who are victims, but also how to raise awareness for the perpetrators to stop repeating their acts of violence. Thus, in general, there are two important efforts that should be done by pesantren to eliminate violence against women, viz. preventive and curative efforts. Preventive measures are taken to anticipate that violence does not escalate, for example, by breaking down cultural roots and reinterpreting gender-biased religious views, thereby becoming the legitimacy of violence against women. Secondly, by raising awareness to the society to care about the acts of violence against women, and in particular the awareness to the perpetrators that violence by and against anyone is contrary to the moral of humanity and religious teachings. Whereas, curative efforts are made when violence against women has occurred, to help women victims through services involving physical treatment, psychological recovery, legal efforts, safe housing, and social and economic empowerment. With this service, it is expected that women victims can return to live in the midst of society with their whole human dignity.

What is the contribution of pesantren to overcome domestic violence?

There are several advantages of pesantren that can be donated to overcome domestic violence. Ideally and normatively pesantren has a mission of amar makruf nahi munkar and the source of social values ​​in the society. In essence, pesantren is an institution of empowerment, liberation, and assistance of the community and the weak (mustadh’afin). Besides having an educative function (tawshifiyah), pesantren also plays a role in community development (tahwiliyah) and ta’yidiyah (the advocacy of victimized community). So far pesantren is still known as a traditional religious institution that becomes the part of society. It integrates with the social community and becomes a social problem solver of humanity. Institutionally, pesantren is supported by various facilities that can be used as a means of forming Woman’s Crisis Center (WCC) or Center for the Protection of Women (PUSPITA). As an institution that organizes education, pesantren becomes a suitable place for victims and children victims of violence. If the victim is a school-age child, he or she does not have to drop out of school, or if a mother is a victim, the children she is carrying and happen to be in school, they can continue to study and continue formal schooling at the pesantren.

Your messages related to the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women?

Violence against women will inevitably affect the physical and emotional health of women in the long term. Even this may affect women’s ability to act and influence the development of personality and sense of security of themselves and their children. So I think it is fair if violence against women is considered as a form of crime against human values. Through this International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, I hope that this can be a momentum for us in preventing the recurrence of various bad actions against women. This problem should get special attention from all elements of society considering the impact it generates can be a big influence on the nation’s survival. But one thing must always be realized that the real effort to eliminate violence against women is an effort to uphold the human self-esteem and dignity that is not only in accordance with the value of humanity but also a religious duty. Thus, whoever we are, whatever our profession is, let’s do something to prevent violence and keep on struggling as long as we can!


Pondok Pesantren Cipasung Tasikmalaya is one of the pesantren that has become a partner of PUAN Amal Hayati. It is a social-humanitarian institution currently headed by Shinta Nuriyah, the wife of Gus Dur. PUAN was established on July 3, 2000, in Jakarta on the initiative of a number of groups such as academics, pesantren community, researchers and social activists who have concern for women’s empowerment and especially the efforts to eliminate violence against them. PUAN is an abbreviation of Pesantren untuk Pemberdayaan Perempuan (Pesantren for Women Empowerment) while Amal Hayati contains the meaning of life expectancy. The duty that was carried out by the PUAN Amal Hayati was to empower the women through pesantren to get a better life in the future.


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