In renowned Indonesian author Nurhayati Dini’s late 1970s short story, ‘The Young Divorcee’, her protagonist, Warsiah, realizes that ‘a divorced woman is considered to have a defect, or disability, and should be kept at a distance. A divorcee is of a diﬀerent quality to a widow.’1 Anthropologists and demographers have frequently contended that Muslim divorce in Java for most of the twentieth century attracted little stigma, but this ﬁctional depiction of divorce in the 1970s suggests otherwise. This chapter therefore endeavours to reassess the impact of shame upon the negotiation and outcome of divorce between 1974 and 2005. To do this, I investigate how discourses of shame were constructed and used in diﬀerent ways by the state, courts and litigants, and how the category of gender operated within these constructions and uses. This chapter has three major aims. First, I wish to expand the argument
made in the previous two chapters, in which I claimed that the state attempted to control women through the legal restriction of divorce. Here, I examine if and how the state employed discourses of shame in policy and public programmes in order to further limit female agency and access to divorce. Second, by applying the insights of anthropologists regarding Javanese cultural notions of shame and status to my analysis of divorce records, I wish to reassess the scholarly commonplace that divorce in Javanese society (roughly prior to 1974) carried little stigma. Instead, I will posit a more nuanced picture of divorce, which may change in signiﬁcance according to gender, and historical context. Finally, using court records and oral history, I will interrogate how discourses of shame were used and applied by female and male litigants and judges, how gender mediated uses of shame and how shame could be used particularly by women in resistance to state projects.2 Throughout the chapter, I am also attentive to the ways in which the relationship between gender and shame might have changed with time. This introduces an element of historicity to existing scholarship on divorce and shame, topics which have been scrutinized by anthropologists but have received less attention from historians. The study is framed by court material dating prior to the introduction of the Marriage Law in 1974, and also after the fall of the New Order in 1998. This will allow some analysis of the extent
to which the New Order used existing Javanese cultural frameworks of shame, or introduced its own discourses of shame, and how inﬂuential such eﬀorts might have been in terms of the application and use of discourses of shame in the post-New Order period. To answer the key questions of the chapter, I have divided it into six major
sections. In the ﬁrst section, I outline the sources utilized in this chapter. Because I argue that the New Order constructed divorce as an inherently shameful act, state-produced documents must be read cautiously and I explain here the speciﬁc advantages and limitations of the sources I employ. In section two, I deﬁne the term ‘shame’. I use this deﬁnition to reinterpret existing scholarly assessments of divorce in Indonesia, and to then analyse shame and divorce from a historical perspective, employing gender as a tool for analysis. One of the other aims of the chapter is to demonstrate that the state played a role in inﬂuencing the ways in which shame was employed in courts. I therefore contextualize this eﬀort in sections three and four before examining court records in section ﬁve. Section three charts state attempts to disseminate a more individualized, gender-speciﬁc concept of shame and divorce. I have selected particular examples of these state eﬀorts for analysis, including a Mahkamah Agung (Supreme Court, the highest court of appeal) instruction, a landmark decision, and public programmes of the semi-oﬃcial marriage counselling body, BP4 (Badan Penasihat Perkawinan dan Penyelesaian Perceraian). Section four examines representations of shame and divorce in the print media, reading these depictions as partly (but not wholly) reﬂective of state views. I then examine uses of shame in court records, highlighting litigants’ co-optation of, and resistance to, state ideologies over four decades. In the ﬁnal section, in which I analyse some of the oral evidence obtained during ﬁeldwork in 2004-5, I assess the inﬂuence of the state on the viewpoints of women from a range of backgrounds. Did divorce become unequivocally shameful under the New Order, or did the New Order simply build upon existing Javanese cultural understandings of shame? How have women resisted and used these stereotypes?