Articles by Elizabeth Pisani

Castration: another knee-jerk ‘solution’ from Jokowi

Indonesia’s president had rushed out a knee-jerk response to the gang rape of a 14 year-old girl: chemical castration and even death for perpetrators. But what’s needed is more thoughtful structural reforms that might reduce violence while protecting and helping victims.





Less touring, more studying would serve Indonesian politicians well

Trying to cut words from a headline? Replace “study tour” with “junket”. Most Indonesians think of study tours, or “studi banding” as a politician’s way of going on an overseas holiday at the taxpayers’ expense. There are exceptions, of course. Over a decade ago, I took the then vice-governor of Papua province, Konstan Karma, to Uganda to see what a generalised HIV epidemic looked like. One morning, we visited a clinic at a university hospital in Kampala. It was overflowing…


Indonesia is 70: Many happy Etc.s

Seventy years ago today, Sukarno and Mohmmad Hatta were frog-marched to a radio station by students hungry for independence. There, they declared the formation of the republic of Indonesia. Both the text and its original presentation in Sukarno’s handwriting (pictured above, rescued from the waste-paper basket) tell us much about the country.


My dynasty’s bigger than your dynasty: Indonesia beats the US at patronage politics

Earlier this year, Indonesia’s national parliament passed a law that tried to curb dynastic succession in politics. This was frankly a little surprising. The chairwoman of the largest party in parliament, Megawati Sukarnoputri, is the daughter of Indonesia’s first president. Though she never did manage to get elected herself, Megawati did spend some time in the top job after her boss President ‘Gus Dur’ was impeached. After a bit of political arm-twisting, her own daughter now sits in the cabinet….


Too much testosterone: can women save Indonesia?

Indonesian President Joko Widodo has appointed an all-female panel to select the next anti-corruption commissioners. While some think this is a sign that women are gaining political power in Indonesia. I argue that the panel will probably do a good job precisely because women are generally marginalised, and therefore less likely to be woven into networks of patronage and corruption.


Indonesia gets noticed (not in a good way)

Several times over the last months, I’ve been asked to comment on the impending execution of convicted drug dealers. I’ve always refused, largely because I thought I’d just be fuelling hysteria about something that wasn’t actually going to happen. Then, just a few minutes before I was about to speak on a panel called “Death Sentences” at the University of California Irvine, I heard that Indonesian police had indeed pulled the trigger on eight people, one of them mentally ill….


Whose word counts? A hierarchy of Indonesian justice

In colonial times, there were different laws for different people in Indonesia. Seventy years after independence, it looks as if that’s still the case. In the last week, a woman has been jailed because in a private Facebook chat she told a friend that her husband was abusing her. Her husband, snooping around in her private correspondence (itself a pretty good indicator of abuse) found the comments and reported his wife to the police. Then two teachers, one a foreigner, were jailed for 10 years on the evidence of a six year-old who accused them of using a magic stone conjured from thin air to lessen the pain of sexual abuse.