Indonesian Muslim Women’s Activists Deconstructing Women’s Biological Experiences Through Religious Texts

Eva Nisa

ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, Canberra, Australia

Within Islamic tradition and in diverse Muslim majority countries, the discussion of women’s sexual and reproductive health has become a major religious, social, cultural and political debate. This problem, however, should not be singled out as the problem of Muslims. Policies pertaining to household gender roles, the hierarchy within family households based on biological differences between men and women, and child policies introduced by certain countries, are examples of efforts to governmentalise and police women’s sexuality and reproduction in various localities. This paper will focus on some issues and approaches to women’s sexuality in Indonesia, a Muslim majority country. Based on offline and online ethnographic accounts, this study will investigate the often neglected offline and online struggles of progressive Muslim women’s activists in battling the patriarchal reading of women’s sexuality and reproduction. It will examine players behind the debates and religious sources used to strengthen their positions. The study emphasises that the absence of a consensus on “Islamic views” of women’s sexual and reproductive health mirrors the non-monolithic approaches to sexuality within Islamic traditions. Socio-cultural and political forces play an important role in dealing with issues on women’s sexuality and Islam.


Eva Nisa is a senior lecturer in anthropology at ANU. She was formerly a lecturer in religious studies at Victoria University of Wellington. Her research interests include Islam and Muslim societies, gender relations, political Islam, Islamic economy, religion, popular culture and social media, Islamic law, and refugees and migration.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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