Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed above are those of the authors.
In addressing the issues of radicalization, which include countering terrorism as well as preventing violent extremism, Indonesia has opted the rule of law approach. This is done through categorizing terrorism acts as criminal acts that is punishable by law. Although such top-down approach may be useful to repress the acts of terrorism and violent extremism, it is unable to address the root cause of such belief, nor stop the political ideology to gain support. This realization come late through the 2018 amendment of Indonesia Anti-Terrorism Law that allow a more wholistic and whole society approach, as the government realised that society plays a bigger role in preventing radicalization. This article will focus more on the involvement of women in such efforts.
Women often perceived as not having the ability to engage meaningfully in peace and security processes. However, the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS) has become the breakthrough in articulating and justifying the need for women presence, not only in quantity, but also in quality of engagement. In nationalizing the global WPS agenda, Indonesia issued Law concerning Handling of Social Conflict No. 7 Year 2012 and related Government Regulation and Ministerial Decree to support its implementation, which include National Action Plan (NAP) on Preventing Social Conflict 2014-2019 and second iteration of NAP 2020-2025. Using the NAP, women are recognized as peacemakers, negotiators, as well as early detection mechanism of local conflict, including on issues of radicalism and terrorism.
In 2021, following the 2018 revision of Anti-Terrorism Law, Indonesia also adopted National Action Plan for the Prevention and Countering of Violent Extremism that Leads to Terrorism (NAP for PVE). This NAP for PVE is progressive in a way that it incorporated the principles of gender mainstreaming and child protection, which reflects into the NAP activities/programs. This NAP is considered inclusive as it is one of the few NAPs with processes that allowed CSOs, and in specific women organizations, to take part in localizing the NAP into provincial level. The NAP for PVE provides a space for women organizations to engage in the process of localization of the NAP, strengthening gender mainstreaming, as well as monitoring of the implementation of the NAP.
Taking the example of the two Indonesia NAPs, one in Preventing Social Conflict and another on Prevention and Countering Violent Extremism, with the policy planning women are included meaningfully in assisting local government to implement the NAP post-conflict and conflict- prone area. However, when it comes to the protection of women and children from conflict and radicalization, there is a need to do harmonization. The harmonization concerns with other existing NAPs within the countries, such as Human Rights NAP.
However, challenges persist on the area of bureaucracy, in specific the National Agency on Countering Terrorism (BNPT) that implement and foresee the implementation on the NAP, in which the institution is relatively devoid of women taking the position of high-ranking decision maker, providing specific of regulation on the gender mainstreaming in preventing and countering violent extremism (PCVE). The lack of women in BNPT hampers the organization to look at the roles of women in diverse manners when encouraging them to meaningfully engage in PCVE. Within the limited mindset, women are relegated to the traditional role of mothers that can detect and prevent terrorist act. Still, due to the limited number of women working in BNPT institution, there is a challenge in ensuring the effective implementation of The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (or Bangkok Rules) to ensure the sexual and reproductive rights and health given to convicted female terrorist.
Another significant challenge to implement NAP is ensuring the continuation of CSO engagement in the rehabilitation and reintegration of deportees, returned and ex-combatant, when it deals with government, especially local governments where sectoral ego more palpable. Although there is shift of partnership styles between CSOs and government to be more open and collaborative, for instance, the initiative information of the Working Group on Women and P/CVE (WGWC). Nevertheless, this partnership remains a challenge when it comes to the formal type of partnership between government and CSOs in terms of coordination within ministries and between the central and provincial governments, due to the different structure of CSOs that are not joined in one big organization from national to local but more of various different CSOs, activists and social workers. Moreover, there is funding challenge, whereby the lack of financial support in some provinces is also resulted to local government and CSOs working in silos.
Conversely, when it comes to women peacemakers and women-led organisations working in a conflict setting, there is a need to consider them as experts that are capable to work within the nexus of women’s rights and struggle to ensure women’s voices and influence in peace and security, including in issue of radicalization and terrorism. However, with the recent increase of women’s involvement in national violent extremism acts, the legitimacy of women participation in PCVE is challenge.
Therefore, it is important to take note that women’s participation in terrorist acts is a phenomenon with multiple and complex forms, where women play diverse roles, have diverse identities, and can engage with non-linear activities, both in preventing and participating to violent extremism. As such, there is a need to utilize intersectional perspectives, and apply gender analysis to be able to provide better understanding on the gendered motivation of women engaged in violent extremism and in countering them.
To close, having NAP or multiple NAPs is important to enable whole society approach in PCVE. Yet, it is not a panacea. All the stakeholders involved in PCVE must acknowledge different actors’ limitation, such as structural-bureaucratic, financial sustainability and constraint of perspectives. Additionally, it is crucial to understand the existing gender inequality and injustice influencing push and pull factors, gendered pathways for radicalization, as well as gendered impacts of violent extremism.
Fitriani is a Senior Researcher, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Indonesia