Indonesia’s child rights commissioner apologises for saying women can get pregnant by sharing pool with men – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

by pregnancy journalist

Indonesia’s child rights commissioner apologises for saying women can get pregnant by sharing pool with men


February 26, 2020 01:01:50

A child rights commissioner in Indonesia who told women and girls they risked becoming pregnant if they swam in the same pool as men has so far resisted calls for her sacking.

Key points:

Sitti Hikmawatty has been the focus of ridicule on social media since declaring women need to be careful around swimming pools because they can become pregnant if they share it with men.

Pool water, she suggested, could act as a medium for sperm — apparently regardless of any chlorine content or the fact most swimmers wore clothes.

“There are certain types of sperm that are very strong. Even without penetration a woman can get pregnant,” Ms Hikmawatty said.

“If a woman is in her fertile phase, it can happen. Nobody knows how men react towards women in swimming pools.”

While she has since revoked her claim, some are worried the damage has already been done and it speaks to a growing push to reject feminist ideals.

“I apologise to the public for giving an incorrect statement,” Ms Hikmawatty said yesterday.

“The statement is my personal statement and not from [Indonesia’s child protection commission] KPAI. I plead with all parties not to disseminate further or even to make it public.”

Colleagues, experts say comments ‘make no scientific sense’

The claims are all the more controversial given Ms Hikmawatty is one of nine others appointed to KPAI, which is tasked with monitoring, promoting and protecting children’s rights.

The organisation’s website states she has extensive qualifications and experience in child health, nutrition and early childhood education. But it makes no reference to qualifications in reproductive health.

Nevertheless, Ms Hikmawatty told Indonesian media on Friday (local time) even young girls could fall pregnant “indirectly”.

“When a woman is capable of producing eggs and men can produce sperm, and they both meet somehow — whether directly or indirectly — then pregnancy can happen,” she said.

“In the pool, there are certain sperm conditions that are so strong even though there’s no penetration. If men are aroused and ejaculate … then pregnancy can occur even without penetration.”

Obstetricians and even her own colleagues have since attacked the claims.

One obstetrician, Kriston Silitonga at Hermina Hospital in Jakarta’s south, denied there was any evidence to support the assertions.

“The possibility [of falling pregnant while swimming] is almost non-existent,” he told Indonesia’s Tribun news outlet.

“It makes no scientific sense … that sperm must travel through the water, while women wear swimsuits.”

Family psychologist Alissa Wahid has questioned the selection process for appointments to KPAI.

The chair, Susanto — who goes by only one name — issued a statement distancing himself and the other commissioners from the claims.

“The KPIA’s stance is not at all the same as those quoted on social media,” he said.

“We confirm they are the views only of the individual concerned.”

Comments spark memes and cartoons on social media

Celebrity singer Melanie Subono likened the claims to the myth that HIV could spread through clothing.

The comments have caused an outcry online, with the #sackSittiHikmawatty hashtag going viral on Twitter.

Many have posted internet memes or cartoons mocking Ms Hikmawatty, who said the claims were backed by evidence in scientific journals overseas. But she has declined to name them.

The controversy comes amid a growing shift towards more conservative attitudes in Indonesia, including among many women.

Just last year, an online campaign “Indonesia Tanpa Feminis” — or Indonesia Without Feminists — went viral after it was embraced by conservative women who have been inspired by hard-line Islamist organisations.

Many of the groups actively oppose feminist ideals, while conservative women reject feminism as a Western import incompatible with Islamic values. Instead, they assert “my body is not mine, but rather Allah’s”.

The rise of the anti-feminist

Conservative Islamic groups and political parties have gained increasing influence in Indonesia since the fall of former president Suharto in 1998, allowing them to assert their political and social views more widely.

Since then, more and more Indonesian women are wearing the hijab to cover themselves up — though in some cases it might be at their husbands’ or families’ insistence.

A sizeable majority of women wear the longer sharia-style hijab, which covers most of their body.

On top of that, women’s rights researcher Dyah Aku Kartika has pointed out that despite an increase in the number of women elected to Indonesia’s Parliament last year, many had declared themselves to be “anti-feminist”.

“The battle between feminists and conservatives over the framing of narratives in Indonesia is not a new phenomenon, but in today’s political climate the conservatives have the advantage,” she wrote last year in the ANU’s New Mandala.

“Conservative groups are now consolidating their organisations to take aim at policies that regulate aspects of ‘morality’ and are also pushing a conservative agenda outside of parliament.

“Conservative organisations are producing analytical reinterpretations of gender and feminism that undermine the original theories proposed by feminists and aiming these messages at women and young girls who have limited understanding of these concepts.”

This content was originally published here.

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