Burqa, Body and The Ultimate Piety of Being a Woman: The Construction of Sexuality and Resistance among Indonesian Female Migrant Workers

  • Inayah Rohmaniyah UIN Sunan Kalijaga Yogyakarta


Burqa is often identified with Middle Eastern tradition, especially the Arab Spring, but many Indonesian female migrant workers who worked in East Asian countries wore the burqa when returned home to their hometown. Taiwan is the third country on the rank that becomes the destination for the most workers from Indonesia, after Malaysia and Hongkong. This is particularly after the Government issued a moratorium on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia. According to data from BNP2TKI, Indramayu and Lombok are on the top two cities out of 10 that supply migrant workers abroad. In addition, many ex-migrant workers in Indramayu wear the burqa after returning home to Indonesia. The burqa and loose clothing have also begun to decorate the city of Mataram that becomes a benchmark for education in Lombok. This article reveals the process of reification of the construction of sexuality among Female Migrant Workers from Indramayu and Mataram in relation to the burqa and their bodies, and how the clothing has become a symbol of change and resistance against the existing religious norms and practices in the society.

This paper is resulted from a qualitative research conducted in two cities, Indramayu and Lombok, Nusa Tenggara Barat Indonesia in 2019. Primary data included the results of interview with female workers wearing the Burqa as key informants, as well as those who have close relationships with them. Among them included the family members, religious leaders, community leaders, and staffs of the Indonesian Migrant Worker NGO in Indramayu and Lombok. Interviews were conducted with 10 migrant workers who have returned to Indonesia and some other who go back abroad to work. Secondary data was obtained from several sources including social media, especially Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. Data was collected through structured free interviews or via the media what's up. The tools during interviews included a list of questions, notebooks, cameras and cellphones to conduct interviews via online. The data then was analyzed using the construction theory from Peter L. Berger and James Scott's resistance theory.

The study found that the objectivity of the female Migrant workers upon the burqa led to reification when they felt themselves had changed to be a better muslimah after wearing the burqa. The burqa was accepted as a symbol of change and of the ultimate obedience and piety. Reification derived its legitimacy from religion interpretation they internalized from Youtobe, claiming that the burqa aims to protect the body and self as a woman. Reification served to perpetuate the construction on the burqa and the sexuality of the female body as a source of temptation. On the one hand, the internalization process was indicated by their missionary service and movement to call other women for wearing the burqa, both directly or via social media. They further organized a burqa community that promotes and encourages other women to accept the burqa. Clothing and burqa, on the other hand, have become symbols of resistance against the existing religious rituals and practices they previously followed in the community. Before working abroad, they believed and were involved in such local traditions as slametan, tahlilan, memitu, and others, that reflect the fusion of Islamic and Javanese culture. Yet, they now considered these non Islamic and against Islam.

How to Cite
Rohmaniyah, I. (2021). Burqa, Body and The Ultimate Piety of Being a Woman: The Construction of Sexuality and Resistance among Indonesian Female Migrant Workers. Ushuluddin International Conference (USICON), 4. Retrieved from http://conference.uin-suka.ac.id/index.php/USICON/article/view/306