Gerwani Is Not The Cutters Of Generals' Genitals, It Is A Lie!

The incident of G-30-S (30 September 1965 Movement) is one of extraordinary moments in Indonesian modern history. Several terms have been used to call the incident, for example Gestok (October the First Movement) by Sukarno, Gestapu (September the Thirtieth Movement – which is grammatically incorrect in Indonesian) to make it somewhat similar with Gestapo in Nazi Germany, then it has been called G-30-S since 1966. The term G-30-S is used because it is more objective as the perpetrators used this term to call themselves. The effect of that incident is the establishment of an authoritarian regime that had been in power for more than 30 years, the New Order.

Citing John Roosa, from his book Pretext for Mass Murder: The September 30th Movement and Suhartos's Coup d'État in Indonesia:

“When it was early in the morning on October 1st 1965, seven high officers of Indonesian Army including The Minister Commander of The Army, Lieutenant General Ahmad Yani, were killed and their bodies were thrown into an empty well. The force occupied the central office of Republic of Indonesia Radio (RRI) and announced that the purpose of their act is to protect the President from a coup. Their leader was Lieutenant Colonel Untung, the Commander of Battalion I Kawal Kehormatan Cakrabirawa (President's guard). Hundreds of soldiers who supported G-30-S occupied Lapangan Merdeka (which is now Lapangan Monas) at the centre of the city”.

Suharto utilised G-30-S to took over the power from Sukarno. Suharto accused The Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) as the scapegoat which planned the movement. He then arrested one million and five hundred thousand (according to Roosa) people and hundred thousands other were massacred by the Army and civil groups which worked for them. In the state of national emergency, Suharto became the replacement for leader even though he was not officially appointed as president until Supersemar in March 1996.

In their version of G-30-S, The Indonesian Army accused Gerwani (an abbreviation of Indonesian Women's Movement) – which is seen as the member of “communist family” – as the torturers and executors of generals. The term “communist family” was coined by Saskia Wieringa because there were members of PKI being active in other organisations. The example are Njoto in Lekra (a communist artist organisation), Nyono and Tjugito in SOBSI (communist labour union), Asmu in BTI (communist farmer's union), Sukatno in Pemuda Rakjat (communist youth movement), and Mrs. Mugdido, Salawati Daud and Suharti Suwarto in Gerwani. These PKI cadres became members in other organisation because of Musso's New Path concept which says that PKI had to embrace strong mass organisations to expand the party's influence.

The Army immediately accused them of their involvement in G-30-S because they had been in conflict since a long time ago. The Army also had political interest. It started in May 1957 when martial law was enacted and the leaders of the Army got bigger power and regional commander got the chance to apply their political ideas. With the rise of the Army as political power, in 1959 Sukarno saw PKI as an ally which could be a balancing power in the political system.

According to the Army, since the incident in Madiun, 1948, PKI is a traitorous party, anti-nationalist and controlled by foreign countries. PKI was also deemed as a threat because it had a good organisational quality and discipline, where with such commitment they could attract soldiers and weaken the potential of the Army as a united political force. In contrast, PKI called leaders of the Army as “bureaucrat capitalists”. It was because after December the 13th 1957, General Nasution with the martial law seized all Dutch companies and shared them between military officers, placed them as the new bosses. But PKI never faced the Army directly but depended on the “progressive” section in the Army (their allies) and President Sukarno's influence. The party's effort to seek allies in the Army is visible from the formation of Special Bureau by D. N. Aidit (the Chairperson of the party) to attract soldiers because he saw they are also the oppressed class, just like labourers and farmers.

As for the involvement of Gerwani in G-30-s, this is what Saskia Wieringa wrote about it:

“On the day of the incident, around 70 women, most of them were young women from the communist youth organisation while the others were from the labour and farmer's union and members of Gerwani, including soldiers' wives, were gathered in Lubang Buaya for anti-Malaysia campaign. There were those who were assigned to sew insignia on uniforms, maybe for the members of G-30-S, but they did not know why they should do it. The planners of G-30-S were able to use Lubang Buaya because this area was under the control of the Air Force (leftist), the opponent of the Army (right wing). Gerwani as an organisation was not involved in this plan. Near the early morning on October the 1st, the women were awoken by shouting and when they run outside, they saw soldiers were dragging the kidnapped officers, some were already killed. They were scared and run back to Jakarta, most to their own houses, the others to the headquarter of Gerwani where Sudjinah and Sulami, the secretaries of the organisation, usually slept. That was the first time the leader of Gerwani heard about the kidnapping of the generals and coup because none of them were at Lubang Buaya that night”.

The accusation of Gerwani's involvement in G-30-S by the Army was shared through their own mass media, Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha. The content of the accusation is visible through the stories of the members of Gerwani's arrests which are usually started with accusation as “whore”, “cutters of general's genitals”, or “those who had killed the generals”.

In opposition to that accusation, the result of the autopsy showed different facts. The result from the generals' body autopsy is attached by Benedict Anderson in his work How Did The Generals Die?. He found this autopsy result among photocopies of Extraordinary Military court stenography from Lieutenant Colonel of the Air Force Heru Atmodjo. This autopsy was done by five forensic experts. This team was gathered on Monday, October the 4th in accordance to General Suharto's order as Commander of Strategy of the Army to the chairman of Central Hospital of the Army (RPSAD). The team was composed from two military doctors (including the famous Brigadier General Doctor Roebiono Kertopati) and three civil forensic specialists from the Faculty of Medicine Universitas Indonesia. The most senior of the civilian doctors was Doctor Sutomo Tjokronegoro who was the most expert forensic doctor in Indonesia at the time. Besides Roebiono Kertopati and Sutomo Tjokronegoro, other doctors were Frans Pattiasina, Liauw Yan Siang and Lim Joe Thay (Anderson, 1987:114).

They worked for 8 hours, from 16.30 on October the 4th to 00.30 on October the 5th in surgery room of RSPAD. Each one of the report from seven bodies followed a single format: 1) statement from the instruction of Major General Suharto to the five experts; 2) identification of the body; 3) description of the body, including clothing and ornaments; 4) details of detected wounds; 5) conclusion with consideration of the time and cause of death; 6) statements from the five experts, under oath, that the dissection had been done completely and correctly (Anderson, 1987:109).

Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha newspaper published the news about the condition of the bodies on October the 5th 1965 while the doctors were still doing autopsy. Angkatan Bersendjata attached the blurred pictures of the decaying dead bodies, describing their deaths as “barbaric act in the form of inhumane tortures”. Berita Yudha wrote “the wounds all over our heroes bodies are caused by tortures before they were shot”. Major General Suharto himself stated “ It is obvious to us who witness it with our own eyes how cruel the tortures that had been done by the savages of September the 30th Movement”.D. N. Aidit

Far from what the military newspaper has written, the findings of the forensic experts state none of the victims had their eyes plucked, all of their penises are also intact: even it is said that four victims are circumcised and three are not. General Yani, Panjaitan and Harjono died because of shooting at their houses while General Parman, Suprapto, Sutoyo and Lieutenant Tendean were killed after they were brought to Lubang Buaya. Even if they died in Lubang Buaya, all of them are killed by bullet wounds, including fatal shot in the head.

Professor Doctor Arif Budianto (who was using the name Liem Joe Thay before) also said that all of the bodies were wearing complete clothing as when they were alive. The body of General Ahmad Yani has crooked teeth in which there is another tooth or mesio dentist between the incisor and canine and his eyes are gouged because when he was thrown into the well he fell head first. With the rumours regarding the victims' penises, the doctors put more stern observation on the matter. The result shows that the penises of the seven officers are not separated, there is not even a scratch on them.

Even though the autopsy result showed that there was no castration and tortures happening, Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha still published it. This false story about castration is based on Guy Jean Pauker's idea, a worker of RAND Corporation and agent of the CIA who was inspired by Émile Zola's novel Germinal. The involvement of the United States of America (US) in G-30-S is because in the Cold War, US saw Indonesia under Sukarno had acted like a communist country and even more openly opposed the US compared to communist countries. If Indonesia freed itself from US influence, it is going to be a big lost considering Indonesia is the biggest domino in Southeast Asia, not only because its large population and territory but also its plentiful natural resource.

The accusation towards PKI and Gerwani was used as a justification by the military to take over power, in purpose to control the situation. The Army would then grow into the New Order which continuously propagating the lie about G-30-S and followed it with other crime which is the massacre of 78,000 (according to the fact seeking commission under the State Minister Oei Tjoe Tat), 1 million (according to Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order/Kopkamtib) or 3 million (according to Sarwo Edhie Wibowo, ex-Commandant of Regiment Para Commando of the Army) humans who were involved or accused as involved with PKI.

Gerwani has a special place in the Army's narration about G-30-S. Gerwani is accused as the direct perpetrator who tortures and kills the generals. Other assumptions have also grown that Gerwani members are sexually deviant which is reflected on Ine Sukarno's, the Chairperson of National Congress of Indonesian Women/Kowani in April 1999 who says that Gerwani supports lesbianism and intend to establish a brothel.

The news coverage by Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha is a made up story. The label established about Gerwani can be seen from society's assumption that thinks Gerwani members are prostitutes, cutters of generals' genitals or killer of generals, also as lesbians and brothel makers. The effect of this label was members of Gerwani were arrested, sexually assaulted and tortured and demonised by the people. Until now, this label towards Gerwani prevails, even after more than half-century since G-30-S.

To analyse this case, I use theory of Sexual Politics and theory of Amplification of Deviance as dissection tools. As women, the sexuality of members of Gerwani are attacked and eventually it has a different effect than persecution towards male victims. Thus why to strengthen and deepen the analysis, I use feminist perspective.

Theory of Sexual Politics was founded by Kate Millett in her book Sexual Politics which was published for the first time in 1970. Rosemarie Tong categorises her thinking into libertarian-radical feminist school of thoughts. In the context of “sexual politics”, the term “politics” is used not just to describe things such as meetings, parliamentary members, and political party. The term “politics” means relation which is ordered based on power structure where one group of people is controlled by the other.

The word “politics” is used to talk about sex because this word is useful to show the real form of the ever changing sex status. Ideologically, sexual politics gains acceptance through “socialisation” to both sexes about patriarchal rules regarding temperament, role and status. What is meant as temperament here is the formation of human personality based on sexual category of masculine and feminine which in turn is based on the needs and values of the dominant class, regulated according to what they think is suitable for the lower class: for men those are aggression, intelligence, motivation and effectiveness while for women those are passivity, ignorance, obedience, morality and ineffectiveness.

This aspect is complemented by the second factor, sex roles, which regulates behaviour, gestures and trait for every sex. In the form of activities, sex roles assign domestic servitude and baby rearing to women while the all other human achievements, interests and ambitions are assigned to men. The roles for women make her limited to biological experience. Therefore almost all activities which can be used to describe humans instead of animals (because animals also give birth and rear their children) are assigned to men.

Then of course sex status also follows the same order. If we analyse three categories above, we can divide the status as political component, roles as sociological component and temperament as psychological component. They who can achieve high status tend to adopt the role of masters because the are the first who developed the dominant temperament.

Regarding sexual revolution, Kate Millett writes:

“A sexual revolution would require, perhaps first of all, an end of traditional sexual inhibitions and taboos, particularly those that most threatened patriarchal monogamous marriage: homosexuality, “illegitimacy”, adolescent, pre and extra-marital sexuality. The negative aura with which sexual activity has generally been surrounded would necessarily be eliminated, together with the double standard and prostitution. The goal of revolution would be permissive single standard of sexual freedom, and one uncorrupted by the crass and exploitative bases of traditional sexual alliances.”

The effort that had been done was not ended in revolution but sexual reformation. A completed sexual revolution demands an end to the institution of patriarchy, abolishing both the ideology of male supremacy and the traditional socialisation by which it is upheld in matters of status, role and temperament. As long as patriarchal ideology is only reformed, the essential social order of patriarchy will exist. Because most people do not have other idea, it seems that the alternative of patriarchal ideology is chaos. The social order needs women subordination; but for conservatives what is needed is a family order with women's subservience in it. The head of the family is the extension of the government while other family members are the followers. An authoritarian government prefers this patriarchal system because the atmosphere of a fascist state and dictatorship really depends on a patriarchal society.

The second theory comes from Stanley Cohen. In his book, Folk Devils and Moral Panics: The Creation of the Mods and Rockers, he uses Leslie Wilkins' amplification of deviance to explain the relation between mass media and moral panic. In amplification of deviance, mass media is the main source for public knowledge about social deviance and problems.

Amplification of deviance happens in a society that creates symbols which can be used to identify “deviants”. Mass media then operates to publish events that are seen as deviance, causing the spread of a belief that these deviants are evil. The role of the media in creating moral panic are: 1) Setting the agenda – selecting those deviant or socially problematic events deemed as newsworthy, then using finer filters to select which of these events are candidates for moral panic; 2) Transmitting the images – transmitting the claims of claims-makers, by sharpening up or dumbing down the rhetoric of moral panics; 3) Breaking the silence, making the claim.

In amplification of violence, media images or what Cohen calls as inventory about deviance go through distortion. The situation which was initially interpreted and presented by the mass media is the form which most people receive their pictures of both deviance and disasters. Reactions take place on the basis of these processed or coded images: people become indignant or angry, formulate theories and plans, make speeches, write letters to the newspapers. Media inventory is distorted in three ways; exaggeration and distortion, prediction and symbolisation.

Exaggeration of inventory realised in the exaggeration of the seriousness of the events, the number of those involved, the degree of damage and violence, which is showed through sensational headlines, hyperbolic vocabulary and the exaggeration of those elements in news. Next is prediction. Prediction is the implicit assumption that what had happened is inevitably going to happen again. The presence of predictions can be disastrous because if the prediction is not fulfilled, a story would be forged as if the prediction happens.

Lastly, it is symbolisation. Mass communication relies on the symbolic power of words and images. In symbolisation there are three processes: a word (e.g. “Mod”) becomes a symbolic of a certain status (deviant); objects (hairstyle and clothing) symbolise the word; and finally the objects symbolise status. Another effective technique of symbolisation is the use of dramatised and ritualistic interviews with “representative members” of the deviant group. Through symbolisation and other methods of distortion, images is deemed as the real thing and people deny reality.

In amplification of deviance, it needs a huge amount of communication to spread issues. Mass media publish news with stereotypes about how deviants act based on symbols that the society creates. Sensationalisation is one of the mechanism of amplification. Controlling agents (such as the police) decide which acts can be given the label as deviant. Control tactics they are using are influenced by sensationalisation and symbolisation by the mass media so people who are not causing any harm but fit with the symbols of deviants (such as punk hairstyle and clothing) would be detained. Cohen then cites Becker who says someone is given the label deviant not because they have been violating the rules but because of disrespect to law enforcement.

The data I use in this writing is secondary data. Secondary data source I use are articles from Berita Yudha and Angkatan Bersendjata newspapers and fragments of them cited in books and journals. I use Saskia Wieringa's book Sexual Politics in Indonesia and Benedict Anderson's article How Did the Generals Die?. The technique used to analyse data is feminist text analysis. Sara Mills in Feminist Stylistics (1995) writes that text analysis can be done in three levels: analysis in the level of words, in the level of sentences and in the level of discourse.

With the stated technique above, I analyse this case this way: patriarchy is a social structure system and practices where men dominate, oppress and exploit women. This system manifests in the form of the state and cultural institutions such as the media. The state is a patriarchal structure where patriarchy is inherent in the procedures and ways to operate. Therefore, patriarchy is always involved in every step or policy taken by a state.

The United States of America produced efforts to keep Indonesia away from communism. According to David Easter's (2005) writing, not only the US involved in anti-communist campaign in Indonesia but also the United Kingdom, Australia and Malaysia. They saw Sukarno as a threat. Information Research Department of Foreign Office, a UK body that specialised in covert propaganda established South East Monitoring Unit in Singapore with the purpose to propagate that PKI and the communist China are threats. The US used CIA to depict PKI as the enemy of Sukarno and instrument of the Chinese government who wanted to take control of Indonesia.

Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha newspapers wrote about the Army officials who experienced tortures and castration. This could happen because the Army occupied media by banning newspapers which were seen as supporters of G-30-S. The Army also took control of the national news agency Antara. Gerwani members were depicted as killers and castrators of the high officers, femme fatale, witches and sexual deviants. These depictions are a manifestation of misogynistic media which has the purpose to amplify the deviance of Gerwani members and label them as sluts.

The fear towards strong women is a form of sexual politics in action. Power as a dominant temperament should had been owned by men because this temperament is needed to reach a high status. This high status is reserved by patriarchy only for men. Thus why according to the theory of Sexual Politics, women are demanded to have passive and obedient temperament then limited in their role to give birth and rear children. This is in accordance with the ideas of radical criminology feminism which see crime as the act of men to dominate women, forcing women to become mothers and sex slaves.

Wieringa (2003) writes that this fear was also triggered by the depiction of castration by members of Gerwani to high officers of the Army. This metaphorical castration drived conservative section of the society, especially conservative men, scared. This fear seems to become real when the metaphorical castration was “realised” in the writings of Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha. Ni Wayan Ariati P. (2010) also says that this whole construction is similar with the legend of Goddess Durga. Strong women are portrayed negatively as Durga-Uma in the story of Sudamala or Rangda in the story of Calon Arang where they have to be overpowered by a powerful man.

Society's fear was furthermore manifested in the label of “slut” assigned to Gerwani. The result was a moral panic. A news coverage full of hate speech then caused hate crimes in the form of tortures and sexual violence to members of Gerwani. This hate crime was not seen as crime by most of Indonesian society because it was based on militarism and patriarchy.

Construction as sluts towards Gerwani was built through gendered language, which is language using social construction of gender. Members of Gerwani were “sukmawati” (it means warrior but the “-wati” suffix makes it feminine), “whores”, “beautiful”, “devil women”, “providing sexual service”, all of these terms were born from social construction of gender. Men would never be written as sukmawati or beautiful because in a patriarchal society, men and women are treated different in all aspects, including different gender in language (the Indonesian language is gender neutral except a few instances such as “sukmawati” above but what I mean here is the choice of words). Men are “sukmawan” (in Indonesian, the suffix “-wan” is the masculine form of “-wati”), not beautiful but “handsome”, also not givers of sexual service because according to social construction of gender, men are expected to want and pursue sex, so their position are “receiver of sexual service”.

Language was utilised to build a construction that members of Gerwani had failed in performing femininity demanded in social construction of gender. The judgment whether someone has succeeded or failed in performing femininity is based on men interests. If women fail to fulfill the demands of femininity such as in what Gerwani had done, then they have to be punished with the label “sluts”. The label “sluts” is used to maintain the dominance of men and subordination of women. It is clear that the use of such language and construction is intentional.

According to Lanier and Henry's (2004) the prism of crime, the labeling as sluts towards Gerwani is a hidden crime. Even if it is hidden, it is still a crime which indirectly has caused heavy damage. Besides this construction is also a crime because according to feminist criminology, this construction is based on male domination and gender based violence is a mean to maintain that domination. Male domination is realised in political domination while women's political agency is eliminated. The conclusion is the construction as sluts towards members of Gerwani in the publication of Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha is gender based violence.

To sum it all, The September the 30th Movement in 1965 had caused Gerwani or the Indonesian Women's Movement, one of the largest women's organisation in Indonesia with their programmes such as education and advocation for the welfare of the people, being labeled as a outlawed organisation filled with prostitutes. They were attacked sexually, jailed, and killed by state apparatus and also the people who they were advocating before. This sudden reversal of Gerwani's position was caused by Angkatan Bersendjata and Berita Yudha newspapers which purposefully neglected their journalistic responsibilities by sharing fake news about G-30-S and Gerwani. This fake news coverage was done by amplification of deviance to build a construction of Gerwani as an organisation of sluts. This amplification had caused moral panic and an extraordinary hate from the people. The patriarchal society attacked Gerwani members as those who defied their “natural roles” as women.

The construction as sluts is no other than an effort to place women back to subordination, because Gerwani as a women's movement had threatened male dominance and the interest of patriarchal institutions such as the state and the military. After analysis, this act was a gender based violence against Gerwani because from the motivation to the means were all based on patriarchal social construct of gender to punish women who failed to fulfill femininity.

My suggestion to society is to always be critical in watching over the media and to reprimand them if they ever post unverified news and hate speech. Mass media is also responsible in watching over the quality of their journalists and forbidding the use of sexist words and stereotypes which humiliate and hurt women. The press also has the responsibility to take the side of truth and the interest of the public without the influence of any political interest. The state has obligation to guarantee the freedom of the press without using media as its political wagon.

The state also has to impose sanction on media which spread hate speech and propaganda. Then the state also officially has to admit the existence of the 1965 Incident, give justice and clear the names of victims, especially members of Gerwani. The state also has to admit the manipulation of history by the New Order and revise the story according the most truthful version so this crime will not be repeated again.