The theory and context of the stigmatisation of widows and divorcees (janda) in Indonesia

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24 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015 Editors, Indonesia and the Malay World. This article theorises and contextualises the stigmatisation of janda (widows and divorcees) in Indonesia. It firstly reviews the social science literature on stigma in society, showing a shift towards the study of stigmatisation as an exercise of power by a dominant group in society. It argues that the content of that stigmatisation works best when it is culturally relevant, useful to the dominant and hurtful to the stigmatised minority. Secondly, it surveys the social and cultural context in which widows and particularly divorcees are stigmatised in Indonesia. It argues that the apparent acceptability of divorce in the 1950s and 1960s shifted through the period of the New Order (1966–98), and divorce became much less common and more stigmatised. An education revolution contributed to more elaborate courtship patterns, later age of marriage and a trend to marriage by choice rather than parental arrangement; the patriarchal gender system and nuclear family ideology of the New Order state, and its reconstruction of marriage and divorce, along with other features of its development agenda, contributed to social transformations that include the stigmatisation of divorce for women. Finally, the article suggests other promising areas for future research on the stigmatisation of janda in Indonesia – among them are representations of janda in popular culture, a study of the ‘broken home’ phenomenon, and the class dimensions of janda stigmatisation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-26
Number of pages20
JournalIndonesia and the Malay World
Issue number128
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2016


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