'Corona is like your wife': Indonesian Minister slammed for 'sexist' comment

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD talks to reporters on the sidelines of an event held by law firm Dentons HPRP in Jakarta on Jan 22, 2020.
PHOTO: The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD has caught flak for his recent statement that likens the country’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 to a husband’s control over his wife.

Women’s NGO Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity) chief executive Dinda Nisa Yura said Mahfud’s remarks exposed casual misogyny and sexism among public officials.

“[His] statement not only reflects the government’s shallow thought process in resolving issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it also exposes public officials’ sexist and misogynistic mindset,” she said in a statement on Wednesday.

Dinda went on to say that Mahfud’s remarks had explicitly conveyed an intention to subjugate women as a mere object by rendering them analogous to coronavirus.

“A joke that casually objectifies women will only normalise violence against women,” she said, adding that Mahfud’s outlook had also demeaned women as inferior to men.

“When a public official says something condescending to women, it becomes a challenge for us as we continue to push the government to fulfil and protect women’s rights.”

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It was previously reported that Mahfud compared the country’s efforts to adjust to the post-coronavirus reality to being married to a woman.

“I got a meme from [Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister] Pak Luhut yesterday that goes, 'Corona is like your wife. You try to control it then you realise that you can’t. Then you learn to live with it',” he said in jest during an online event on Tuesday as quoted by tempo.co.

His statement has also been met with a less-than-enthusiastic response from the public, with many social media users expressing their disappointment in Mahfud’s blatant display of sexism.

Prominent scholar Ariel Heryanto took to Twitter to publicly pan Mahfud’s statement.

“Disgusting. I’ll wait for a clarification!” @ariel_heryanto tweeted on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, investigative journalist Febriana Firdaus tweeted sarcastically in reference to Mahfud and Luhut’s inside joke.

https://twitter.com/febrofirdaus/status/1265280042742898688

“If they don’t like their [wives], why don’t they marry each other?”

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had confirmed 23,851 Covid-19 cases and 1,473 deaths linked to the disease.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.