The birth of the new order state in Indonesia: Sexual politics and nationalism

Saskia E. Wieringa

Research output: Working paperAcademic

3 Downloads (Pure)


In this paper I argue that ex-president Soeharto’s New Order state, which lasted
from 1966 till 1998, legitimated itself not only by its destruction of the Communist
Party of Indonesia (PKI, Partai Komunis Indonesia), as other scholars have suggested
previously (Mortimer 1969 for example). I suggest that the sexual politics underlying
this process of legitimation have so far been largely ignored. I focus on the military’s
orchestrated campaign of slander and sexual innuendo against the PKI’s women’s
organization Gerwani (Gerakan Wanita Indonesia, Indonesian Women’s Movement).
This campaign was pursued for more than 30 years since the 1 October 1965 putsch in
Indonesia which eventually brought Soeharto to power. It embodied a powerful
supportive logic by which Soeharto’s rule was sustained until mid-1998, creating a
particular form of national, militarized identity. Another consequence of the sexual
accusations falsely hurled at Gerwani was the destruction of what was at the time one
of the most powerful women’s movements in the world. Not only was Gerwani banned
and destroyed, the remaining women’s organizations were brought under strict
government control. The state even set up its own mass women’s organizations, under
the umbrella of Dharma Wanita (Women’s Duty) which were intended to resubordinate women, rather than to emancipate them. The feminist organizations in
Indonesia which came up in the mid 1980s had to manoeuvre very carefully to avoid
being called ‘Gerwani baru’, ‘new Gerwani’.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2001

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


Dive into the research topics of 'The birth of the new order state in Indonesia: Sexual politics and nationalism'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this