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Santri, Sexuality and Information Technology (IT)


Focus, Edition 50 

Santri, Sexuality and Information Technology (IT)
by: AD. Kusumaningtyas

“Sanitary napkins contain chemicals should be withdrawn from market,” an exclamation spread out in social media several times ago. Such kind of information are easily found on the online petition, shared through network of friends on facebook, whatsapp and forwarded through mailing list and other various media. The exclamation uploaded by young people who have concern on reproductive health issues, growing as fast as the development of information technology.

The stories of youth, invention and social change are not merely heroic narration. At the moment public are sceptical, negatively label them ‘juvenile delinquency’, ‘free sex’, ‘quarrels’, ‘drugs’,  etc. But don’t we ever think? Our country Republic of Indonesia exists because of the young people who “recklessly” abducted Soekarno (before he become the first President) to Rengasdengklok and enforced him to proclaim the Declaration of  Independence.

There are so many inspiring stories about teenagers and young people, and their forces to social changes. Such inspiring stories are there, continues until today. For example; Wrights brothers (Orville Wrights and Wilbur Wrights) who dropped out of school, were successful in inventing airplane. They were diligently studying a propeller technology of helicopter made by bamboo and rubber given by their father. Louis Braille, a blind young boy invented a touch writing system we know as Braille letters, when he was 15 years old. Alexander Graham Bell started his intellectual journey when he and friends went to wheat field. He was a telephone inventor and introduced us the word “Hello”, affectionate greeting to his deaf darling, Margriet Hello who became his faithful wife. In this era, a student of Harvard University named Mark Elliot Zuckerberg created a friendship network named Facebook. He becomes young millionaire, a title from Forbes magazine. Who knows how many people whose relationship get interconnected and established by his FB service. 

Recently in Indonesia especially in Jabodetabek, people are really facilitated in facing traffic by Gojek,  a transportation service based on application in Android system interconnected with smart phone designed by Nadiem Makariem, a young founder of PT. Gojek Indonesia. The narrations show how technology development, IT has strong influence to our daily life, including youth and santri (pesantren students) who learn and live in pesantren (Islamic boarding schools).

Pesantren and Information Technology (IT)
According to Zamakhsyari Dhofier (1982) pesantren comes from the word santri. The prefix ‘pe’ and the suffix ‘an’ means the living place of santri. According to Professor Johns  and  C.C.Berg, the term santri comes from Tamil language means a teacher of holy Qur’an, and from Indian language the word shastri refers to people who understand holy books in Hindu religion. Shastri comes from shastra, the holy books, the books of religion, knowledge and science.

As the oldest education institution in Indonesia, pesantren have been existing since hundred years ago. Generally pesantren were founded by modernist Muslim responded to Dutch expansion of schools models. It continued to reformation era of Islamic educational curriculum in 1920s. The significant revolutionary change happened in 1970s when  Mr. Mukti Ali as Ministry of Religious Affair inserted around 70% general subjects in the madrasah (school) curriculum. [1]

Now  at least there are 3.759.198 teenagers who study in religious based schools and live in pesantren, they are usually called santri.  Pesantren students spread out in 27.230 pesantren in various parts of regions in Nusantara (archipelago). There are various pesantren types; salafiyah (traditional), khalafiyah (modern) and combination of the two. So there are 14.459 (53,10 %) salafiyah or traditional pesantren and 7.727 (28,38%) khalafiyah/ ashriyah or modern pesantren and 5.044 (18,52%) as combination of both types.[2]   Although nowadays some pesantren in big cities have almost similar facilities to education institutions with international standard, in fact most pesantren are in rural and remote areas.[3]


[1] See Ririn Handayani’s article, Saatnya Teknologi Melejitkan Potensi Pesantren (It’s time to Uplift the Potentiality of the Pesantren), as quoted from http://www.kompasiana.com/ririnhandayani/saatnya-teknologi-melejitkan-potensi-pesantren_550b51d1a33311ea0f2e3c64, Tuesday ,   22 September 2015 ,  16.28 WIB. 

[2]  As quoted from Laporan Penelitian Kesehatan Reproduksi, Kebersihan Diri dan Lingkungan (Research Report on Reproductive Health, Personal and Environtmental Hygine)  done by Rahima in the context of Sexuality and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) Education for Youth in Jombang, Lamongan, Kediri, and Banyuwangi, a cooperation with HIVOS, 2015.

[3]  See once more, Ririn Handayani’s article Saatnya Teknologi Melejitkan Potensi Pesantren (It’s time to Uplift the Potentiality of the Pesantren), as quoted from http://www.kompasiana.com/ririnhandayani/saatnya-teknologi-melejitkan-potensi-pesantren_550b51d1a33311ea0f2e3c64, Tuesday ,  22 September 2015 ,  16.28 WIB.


Actually there is no really static pesantren in science and technology, including in fast moving IT. Many religious teaching uphold an obligation of seeking and practicing knowledge. The knowledgeable persons will be raised on the high rank, promised by Allah Almighty. There are several rhetorical questions in the Qur’anic texts such as afalaa ta’qiluun (don’t you use your reason), afalaa ta’lamuun (don’t you know about something), afalaa tatadzakkaruun (don’t you want to reflect), afalaa tatafakkaruun (don’t you think), etc. not only motivate every Muslim to learn, to contemplate qauliyah (Qur’anic text) and kauniyah (contextual environment and social reality) verses. Several inventions and innovations at first were responded by worry, curiosity and perceived as bid’ah (heresy) but later, because they benefit people (ummah) finally can be accepted by Muslim communities especially in pesantren. For example the use of loud speaker, it was challenged. But the echoes of azan (call for prayer) by loud speaker reach a wider range and location, finally this kind of technology is accepted. 

There are many pesantren activities to introduce and develop science and technology. One of them is Binokuler, dialogue on popular technology organized by Pondok Pesantren (PP) Khas Kempek Cirebon during the interactive scientific and water rocket demonstration. It was explained how to make the water rocket and its launcher. Actually the substance of this activity is to introduce the engineering of science and technology, especially how to create and innovate in learning aerospace science.[4]

In Garut, West Java,  Ath-Thariq pesantren persistently develops farming technology based on the local wisdom to promote self sufficiency by providing non rice food (corn, taro,  gadung, cassava, and sukun), so it can help people fulfilling local needs of food. They also do several environmental friendly activities like planting trees, waste, plastic processing, composting by utilizing their own natural resources, planting organic vegetables, etc. [5] In Solo, Central Java, Assalam pesantren develops binocular devices to learn Ilmu Falak (Astronomy), is usually used  in finding hilal (moon) during ru’yat  (watching the moon) practices in defining the beginning of  first month of Qamariyah (lunar) Islamic calendar, especially in defining the beginning of Ramadhan.


[4] See article Science for All di Pondok Pesantren KHAS Kempek Cirebon  as quoted from http: //ppiptek.ristek.go.id/newsdetail/berita-7/21/science-for-all-di-pondok-pesantren-khas-kempek-cirebon # sthash. 8zn  MFHRx.dpuf. sites

[5] See the Focus Rubric on Swara Rahima Edisi No.44 tahun XIV, Maret  2014,  Perempuan dan Penyelamatan Lingkungan (Women and the  Saving of Environtment).


Pesantren has openness toward development of science and technology and IT.  Still there are pesantren closing themselves, “banning” the IT especially the use of smartphone and internet, although it is more affordable. This kind of phenomena still colours most pesantren until now. The main reason is to protect santri, majority young people from bad influence and dependency to IT. On one hand, this step gives positive impact. They are more protected from negative impact of pornography for example, and generally live more peaceful, they are free from the impact of cyber imperialism, which some come from social media network. [6] The fact is the IT dynamic character sometimes produce instant behavior that make people lazy to cross check information they received.

Of course not all pesantren reject IT. On 7-9 April, the International Center for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP) together with Ford Foundation launched Open Distance E-Learning (ODEL) for Pesantren. ICIP implement e-learning application program in 8 pesantren in Java: Al-Kenaniyah (Jakarta), An-Nizhomiyah (Pandeglang), Miftahul Huda Al-Musri (Cianjur), Hasyim Asyari (Jepara), Raudhatul Falah (Rembang), Nurul Islam (Jember), dan Nurul Jadid (Probolinggo). At first Kyai (leaders of pesantren) associated technology with American style. After several months the program running, the Kyai and santri can feel the benefit of using internet, some prominent libraries in the Middle East can be accessed freely. So do the Islamic classical text-books which cost up to hundred thousand until million rupiah. “All can be easily accessed only by clicking or pressing the button,” said Kyai Saiful Uyun, the Chair of Kyai Council from all pesantren who participate in the ODEL program.[7]   


[6] See once more, Ririn Handayani’s article Saatnya Teknologi Melejitkan Potensi Pesantren (It’s time to Uplift the Potentiality of the Pesantren), as quoted from http://www.kompasiana.com/ririnhandayani/saatnya-teknologi-melejitkan-potensi-pesantren_550b51d1a33311ea0f2e3c64, Tuesday ,  22 September 2015 ,  16.28 WIB.

[7] See Sudrajat and Dianing Sari’s article, Ketika Internet Masuk Pesantren (When Internet Come Into Pesantren), Koran Tempo, Monday, 28 April 2008.


Pesantren Students and the Need for IT 

Maulida Raviola the Coordinator of PAMFLET, an organization which has concern in developing youth civil engagement movement, referred to data from Association of Internet Users of Indonesia and from Research and Development of Kompas 2015, that penetration of the internet in Indonesia is still dominated by youth under 35 years old. From the total number of Indonesian population only 30% who utilize internet. Total number of internet users in Indonesia is the lowest in ASEAN, Indonesia was under Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, which almost 80% of population utilize the internet. Probably because of Indonesian prosperity rate is still below those countries. [8]

Based on the description delivered by Rutgers WPF Indonesia in interactive discussion “Youth,  Sexuality, and Technology”, Tuesday 4 August, in recent 10 years the internet in Indonesia has been increasingly developed.  Until last 2014 active internet users in Indonesia reached 88,1 million population, almost half of them are youth, approximately 49% 18-25 years old. Rutgers WPF Indonesia and several partners in 2014 conducted a research on sexuality and reproductive health in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and East Java. The result, although internet has been very much spread out, the youth still find difficulties in finding credible and teen-friendly information about the danger of drugs using, sexual transmitted disease (STD), violence, intimidation (or bullying), and reproductive health. [9]


[8] See interview with Maulida Raviola Tanamkan Nilai-nilai  dan Buka Ruang Dialog pada Remaja, Bukan    Sekedar   (Internalize the Values and Open the Dialog Space for the Young People, Don’t Only Prohibit Them), in the Opini Rubric of Swara Rahima  magazine of the 50 th edition.

[9] See in Koran SINDO , Wednesday  12 August 2015 −  08:06 WIB,   Remaja Perlu Tahu Kesehatan Reproduksi (Youth Should Know the Reproductive Health), as quoted from http://www.koran-sindo.com/read/1031984/152/remaja-perlu-tahu-kesehatan-reproduksi-1439341205, on Wednesday 12 August 2015 .


Although there are so many good information answering the youth needs to always interact, communicate and interconnect, do not forget that overprotective government’s attitude which regulates positive internet, can delete the good and proper information in cyber sites. The Positive Internet policy was enforced by Tifatul Sembiring, the previous Minister of Communication and Information which block and filter internet sites, all information with certain keywords such as sex and sexuality. The tight Law on Electronic Information and Technology limit critical attitude and freedom of expression, so the posts of youth tend to be physical, personal, with lack of inspiring people for social change. [10]


[10] See once more interview with Maulida Raviola Tanamkan Nilai-nilai  dan Buka Ruang Dialog pada Remaja, Bukan    Sekedar   (Internalize the Values and Open the Dialog Space for the Young People, Don’t Only Prohibit Them), in the Opini Rubric of Swara Rahima  magazine of the 50 th edition.


Such situations tend to put youth in vulnerable position to be blamed. Parents and teachers often worry the development of technology especially IT will open ways to pornographic world, lead them to free sex. Of course it can’t be denied there were some cases such as a missing girl after dating with a boy she met on Facebook, it was reported that the girl experienced sexual violence, perpetrated by her boyfriend. The tumultous event came to surface and provoked strong reaction from parents who want the girl to be expelled out of school. It revictimized the girl who was already the victim of violence.

This is almost similar with research done by the Ministry of Communication and Information affairs supported by UNICEF in multinational projects Digital Citizenship Safety. The study covered the youth 10-19 years old, the big population around 43,5 million is children and youth. Most respondents (80%) used the internet connection to look for data and information, especially for school lessons or to meet online friends (70%) through social media. Other big groups click the internet for music (65%) or for video (39%).

Most children and teenagers in Indonesia have been accessing internet regularly to look for information for their study, to meet friends and to entertain themselves. But not many are aware of risky potentials when they share personal data and meet strangers through online interaction. As happened in other countries, a lot number of Indonesian children were trapped as victims of cyber bullying. [11] 

Pesantren students’ need of IT actually are not merely related to reproductive health and sexuality issues. The pesantren students in their teen age, are hungry of searching for identity. ”How can we remain to be pesantren students, at the same time we can be friendly and funky?” asked one santri when Moli from Pamflet visited a pesantren in Banyuwangi. [12]  Such expectation is very normal, considering santri actually are teenagers in madrasah whose problems of reproductive health are often neglected. They are often perceived as free from problems just because they live in a location which is (assumed) as safety environment. Still they are young people or teenagers who physically and psychologically are growing and developing. Neglecting them to stay in their own problems and limiting information regarding reproductive health, means rejecting them as part of teenagers who grow naturally. 

From result of the needs assessment conducted by Rahima in four districts in East Java provinces (Jombang, Lamongan, Kediri dan Banyuwangi) in 2012, it was found that the santri’s knowledge regarding reproductive health and sexuality issues were still limited.  But their activities and behavior related to sexuality like dating [13] was almost the same as young people study outside religious based schools. For santri, social media is not the main source in gaining information about reproductive health, sexuality, personal hygiene. [14] It can be seen from activities when they open the social media; reading timeline or news, looking for new friends, chatting, writing status and stalking. 


[11]  See n Nuraini Razak’s article, UNICEF Indonesia,  Studi Terakhir: Kebanyakan Anak Indonesia sudah Online, Namun Masih Banyak yang Tidak Menyadari Potensi Resikonya, (The Latest Study : Most of Indonesian Children Had Been Online, Buat Still Many of them  Who Don’t Know Its Risk Potention) as quoted from http://www.unicef.org/indonesia/id/media_22169.html

[12] See once more interview with Maulida Raviola Tanamkan Nilai-nilai  dan Buka Ruang Dialog pada Remaja, Bukan    Sekedar   (Internalize the Values and Open the Dialog Space for the Young People, Don’t Only Prohibit Them), in the Opini Rubric of Swara Rahima  magazine of the 50 th edition.

[13] The result of need assessment held by Rahima entitled ‘Penguatan Pendidikan Kesehatan Reproduksi dan Seksualitas Remaja di Komunitas Muslim’, (The Strengthening Youth Reproductive and Sexuality Health Education)  2015

[14] The resulf of Rahima Research on Reproductive Health, Personal and Environtmental Hygine  (reporting draft )


The pesantren policy on utilizing the internet is very tight, even though Rahima in its research found more than 70% of male and female respondents admit they have an account in social media. Some popular social media are facebook, instragram, path and twitter; only a few have tumblr. They often access social media during holidays due to the tight policy. However there are around 13% respondents who access social media almost everyday. They are santri from pesantren which allow students to use internet in their learning process, or the santri study in vocational school (with IT subjects).

Information exchanges among santri mukim (students who stay in pesantren) and santri kalong (students who study in pesantren, but they stay in their own homes) who have more opportunity to access information about sexuality through internet, smartphone and other devices, mostly happen around learning process and social interaction among peer groups. 

IT and Innovation Related with Reproductive Health and Rights

It is  not wise just blaming and perceiving young people do not have anticipation to problems they potentially face. Criminal actions like rape become more dangerous. This kind of situation inspired Hibar Syahrul Gafur (14 years old)  a student of 8th Class of Public Junior High School in  Bogor, to create  anti-rape and sexual violence shoes,  last October 2012. The second son of Corporal of Army (TNI AD) Jamaluddin (46 years old) and  Sri Hendrayanti (42 years old), made the shoes because he has a vulnerable elder sister. He got an idea to create specific shoes for women which is connected with electricity. “Under left heel of the shoes, I put the button. If the user felt threatened, she can press the button on other side of the shoes and kick the perpetrator, 450 voltages electricity would make the perpetrator get stung and even overturned,“ said Hibar to merdeka.com several times ago. [15]

The anti rape shoes created by Hibar were presented with other 5 great innovations of Indonesian children in International Exhibition of Young Inventors (IEYI) 2013 in Kuala Lumpur. Devika Asvi Pandanwangi made breastfeeding bra with size 36-B in black color.  The bra is modified with 2 silicon cups with holes on top and connected to pipe.  The pipe went to aluminium foil pocket on stomach. The pocket was intentionally placed on the stomach, so the mother’s milk had same temperature like the body, so it would remain hygienic. The silicon was chosen by Devika herself for its comfort and anti irritation on skin. Devika won silver medal winner and Special Award in Technology for Special Needs category. [16] Other inventions were spoiled egg detector, trash filter, and automatic batik canting (a traditional Javanese pen in batik making, filled with ink). The two of those five inventions were very closed with reproductive health issues. 


[15] See Ilham Kusmayadi’s article, Ketika Sepatu Jadi Penangkal Pemerkosaan (When Shoes Become the Rape Antidote), in merdeka.com,  Sunday, 30 June 2013, as quoted from http://www.merdeka.com/peristiwa/ketika-sepatu-jadi-penangkal-pemerkosaan.html

[16] See articles entitled  5 Temuan Hebat Anak Indonesia di Ajang  International Exhibition of Young Inventors (IEYI) 2013 (The Five Spectacular Inventions of Indonesian Children in the International Exhibition of Young Inventors (IEYI) 2013 Event) as quoted from https : // indonesiaproud.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/5-temuan-hebat-anak-indonesia-di-ajang-international exhibition-of-young-inventors-ieyi-2013/


The IT and other various social media grow the spirit of young people for social change. Through social media like Indorelawan site, they create interconnectivity among social organizations and young people who have voluntary spirit. Kitabisa.org is also managed by young people to create a collective platform for donation and fund raising for solidarity or social activities. Change.Org for example, they created online petitions to reduce school hours. 

To face challenges in reproductive health and sexuality issues, several efforts to disseminate information have been done by santri in Rahima’s pesantren partners, to build curhat (consultation) forum, and to create simple media such as leaflet. Some infographic creation had won in the infographic competition “Beda Itu Biasa” (Different is Common) which was held by SEPERLIMA [17], they discussed issues like violence in dating, child marriage, stop bullying, etc. They also created a short documentary film on violence in dating and unwanted pregnancy. 


[17] A  Task Force that emphasize the policies of Education on Reproductive Health and Sexuality in the School  curricula.


Urgency of Religious Value Internalization and Use of IT
Islam perceives sexuality as a blessing from Allah the Almighty. It is not a bad thing, as long as it doesn’t bring people to degrade other human being. Therefore in building relation with anyone, men or women, we must respect and see them in equal position, both in reality and cyber world. Humans are created by God, for them to know and to treat each other well. Together we are all servants and representatives of Allah.

Several Islamic teachings emphasize on the urgency of education on reproductive and sexual health, to children and youth according to the context of their growth and development. There are several examples mentioned in Al Qur’anic texts, the Prophet teaches to separate bedrooms for girls and boys. There are 3 aurat times when the children are prohibited to enter their parents’ bedroom; before Shubuh prayer, after Zuhr prayer when the parents change garments, and after Isha’ prayer, to avoid the children to see their sexual activities. 

But of course, giving prohibition and restriction only will not satisfy young people’s curiosity. Therefore a set of values must be introduced, so they will not be trapped in wrong social life (adultery). As mentioned in Al Qur’an : 

Means :

“And go not nigh to fornication: surely it is an obscenity. And evil is the way.”

 (Surah Al-Israa’/ 17:32)

Of course we should not forget to take care of self dignity, one of the signs of believers (al mu’minuun) as mentioned in Al Quran Surah Al Mu’minuun 1-11:

Means : 

“Certainly will the believers have succeeded (1) They who are during their prayer humbly submissive (2) And they who turn away from ill speech (3) And they who are observant of zakah (4) And they who guard their private parts (5) Except from their wives or those their right hands possess, for indeed, they will not be blamed (6) But whoever seeks beyond that, then those are the transgressors (7) And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive (8) And they who carefully maintain their prayers (9) Those are the inheritors (10) Who will inherit al-Firdaus. They will abide therein eternally (11)” (Surah Al Mu’minun : 1-11) 

Islam also teaches every human being to always think and seek knowledge and science, in order not to be trapped into animal instinct.  In a mahfuzhat (Arabic wise words) it is said “laula al-‘ilmu lakaana an-naasu ka al-bahaa’im” (if not because of their knowledge, humans will be undoubtedly like animals). The first verse revealed by Allah in Surah Al Alaq is Iqra’ (Do read!). It is a command for us not only to read the text but also to comprehend the reality. 

The current reality faced by young people, including santri in fast development of technology era is the social condition which should be noticed. It includes the phenomena when young people become victims of sexual violence because of social media. They are dragged into prostitution, fraud and human trafficking. Besides misinformation around sexual issues, there are sexual deviance cases, porn photos or videos, underage pregnancy, so the youth face risks of sexual transmitted diseases (STD) and various damages of reproductive organs, especially the female youth.

Iqra means the youth should not read only, but stutter in solving problems the faced. Many expectations are laid on young people’s shoulders so they will be able to avoid moral decadency which people often address. They are expected to bring solution for social problems. We must believe from young people’s hands there will come new innovations of technology, such as ESEMKA car made by SMK (vocational school) students, surprised the public sometime ago. The power of love led to the invention of the telephone as showed by Alexander Graham Bell for his beloved wife, Margriet Hello. Hibar Syahrul Gafur’s care to his sister and concern toward the increasing sexual violence led him to create anti-rape shoes. Devika Asvi Pandanwangi’s emphaty to mother’s reproductive led her to invent breastfeeding bra. IT is useful in delivering aspirations when they feel bored by overloaded school burdens. They are critical in sharing information too, for example about un-hygienic sanitary napkins which are dangerous for reproductive health to be withdrawn from the market. This kind of situatioun are fruits where they can pick and choose information suitable with their concern.

The fast developed IT should not always be responded negatively. Parents, teachers, schools and government only need to internalize values and norms of the youth, so they can interact well, recognize and respect other people’s rights, so they will not justify violence and disgrace other people. Importantly they know how to build a good and responsible personality, both in the real life and the cyber world. Good sharing of information, warm discussion, knowledge and experiences about reproductive and sexual health issues, are expected by young people, including santri who recently can access internet in pesantren. Providing online reference such as Maktabah Syamilah, will bring close the use of IT with reference sources of Islamic classical texts which may be difficult to find. The efforts to seek, implement and share knowledge, must always be carried on, so we do not become “a tree that does not bear fruit”. Insha Allah [] AD. Kusumaningtyas


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