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Jakarta’s Girls   

From activism to radicalisation, the battle of Indonesian young women

Photo by Mirko Cecchi

Indonesia is the fourth most populated country on the planet, with a population of over 270 million people. Home to hundreds of ethnic groups spread across the thousands of volcanic islands, it’s the nation with the highest number of Muslims in the world: 87% of the population is of Islamic faith. Over the last twenty years, radical movements have put down strong roots within Indonesian society and are currently gaining in popularity and strength, including among young people. This was underlined by a survey carried out in 2019 by the Alvara research agency, according to which Indonesians between 14 and 29 years old hold much more extreme views and positions compared to the older sections of the country’s population.  

A situation which doesn’t just pose a threat to the religious freedoms of minority religions, but also for those of women: conservative Muslims believe the woman’s role is to look after the family and, with the help of Islamist legislators, they are impeding their emancipation in a variety of ways, despite the battles being fought by feminist movements.
This reportage recounts how many young women (Muslim or otherwise) are experiencing the emergence of these radical movements, the threats they are being subjected to and what they’re doing to fight back.



Stories of women activists fighting for their rights by becoming members of NGOs, of women carrying out cultural professions (journalists, writers, musicians) and making their contribution towards a liberal and open society, and of others who have embraced the radical trend and turned it to their advantage, like the Islamic fashion influencers, for example.
A mosaic of testimonies to understand what’s really happening in Indonesia and the consequences that the emergence of radicalism might bring to a country whose population is both enormous and young at the same time, a country where Instagram is a key platform for both Islamic proselytism and the fight for civil rights.

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