In her fight against the construction of a reservoir on her native land in Ulu Pulu village, Flores, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), 51-year-old Siti Aisyah said she was familiar with oppression at the hands of police officers and the notorious Public Order Agency (Satpol PP).
“After a clash broke out between residents and security personnel in late 2016, I was interrogated for eight hours, longer than anybody else from my party,” she told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Siti said she had become more determined to spearhead the fight against the reservoir, which she claimed was being built on customary land. “Until now the government has yet to explain clearly the total area of our land procured for the construction.”
According to land surveying carried out by the local administration, the reservoir is to be built on around 490 hectares of land. However, measurements by the Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN) found 1,048 hectares of land procured for the project.
Based on AMAN’s findings, Siti allaged the local administration had tricked indigenous people in the area. She said residents of three villages – Ulu Pulu, Labo Lewa and Rendu Gutowe – would fall victim to the reservoir’s construction, as they would be evicted to make way for the project.
“I know the consequence of my fight here for my people, because I oppose the government. I will not be too daunted to face it, for this fight is for the sake of future generations,” she said.
Siti is among many women from indigenous communities who are prone to violence from the authorities, according to AMAN’s women’s wing, PEREMPUAN AMAN, especially in resource-rich regions and plantation areas.
PEREMPUAN AMAN gathered indigenous women from agrarian-conflict regions across the country in Medan, North Sumatra, on the sidelines of the fifth AMAN Congress held in Tanjung Gusta, a 30-minute drive from Medan.
PEREMPUAN AMAN chairwoman Devi Anggraini said the organization was providing advocacy services for indigenous women in five conflict-prone regions, namely Rendu Butowe in Central Flores; Ende in NTT; Mentawai Island in West Sumatra; Tana Naho in Maluku; and Paser in Kalimantan.
Margaretha, 39, said her family had been “excommunicated” because her husband, the head of Semunying village in West Kalimantan, had opposed a palm oil company that was setting up a plantation on customary land.
“One day, our house was attacked by other residents, including family members, because we opposed the palm oil company’s use of customary land,” she said.
“My husband was once jailed for nine days because of his stance against the palm oil firm,” Margaretha claimed, adding that residents of her village “had been brought into conflict [with one another]” by the company.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) found in a report released in 2016 that women who subscribed to indigenous religious were also prone to experiencing various forms of violence.
During the 2011-2015 period, the commission recorded 115 cases, including 55 cases of violence and 65 cases of discrimination, related to violations of the rights of women to follow native faiths in nine provinces of Indonesia.
“They are victims of double discrimination. They often experience forms of gender-based violence, while at the same time they have to endure hardship because they follow indigenous religions that are not widely accepted by the public,” said Khariroh Ali, the chief of Komnas Perempuan’s working team on women in the Constitution and national law.