Officers, But Not Gentlemen – TNI soldiers no longer a prized catch
Uniforms don’t turn on the Indonesian woman anymore. She now values US dollars over the rupiah and security over power in choosing a life partner
She is looking for her knight in shining armour.
She wants him to bring home the US dollar – not the falling rupiah – and stay out of harm’s way to remain in her arms when night falls.
Who is the prized catch for the Generation X woman in Indonesia these days?
Certainly no longer the military man, who once guaranteed a woman’s status in the country and was a passport to a good life.
For underwriter Yanna Safira, 24, marriage to a soldier would mean having to live with someone whose organisation is in shame and ridicule.
“My parents won’t allow it,” she said.
“Why should I stoop so low as to marry a potential murderer? I don’t want to be associated for life with someone who works for people with a bad name.”
She said that human-rights atrocities in Aceh, Irian Jaya, Maluku and abuse of power in the 30 years of the Suharto rule gave the TNI a bad name.
“Officers, yah, but gentlemen? I wonder,” she added.
Of course, better education and greater financial independence for women, especially in the cities, have meant more discernment in choosing a life partner.
Many of those interviewed were adamant against joining the Dharma Wanita, an outfit for the officers’ wives to organise social functions.
Ms Arista Idris, 31, who works for a non-governmental organisation in Jakarta, said: “I don’t like the idea of being just a housewife and waiting for my soldier-husband to bring home the money.
“Being married to a soldier will not give me control over my own life. I want to make my own money.”
For many other women craving to wear that silky, rich sarong kebaya and Gucci handbag, the money is with someone working in the private sector and not a soldier.
A trend that even senior ranking military officers acknowledge.
A three-star army general tells The Straits Times that even his two daughters are against marrying soldiers because they doubt that military men can give them a good life.
“I sometimes want to introduce my daughter to a junior ranking officer who I think will make a good husband,” said the general.
“But they say that the marriage won’t work because these men won’t be able to give them enough money to buy nice clothes or wear expensive makeup! They want to marry bankers or someone working in a multinational. We are no longer at the top of the list.”
But he insists that this is a growing trend only in the capital. In the provinces, he claims, girls are lining up for the men in green.
Take 30-year-old Wiwik Winarni from Madiun in East Java. She has been going out with a lieutenant for the last two years. She said: “I hate men who wear suits. They are so weak. I prefer men who wear uniforms. They have nice, strong bodies. They are so sexy.”
She added that girls in villages like dating military men because of the power they are perceived to wield in outlying areas. There are also a smaller pool of men to choose from – the others are farmers, fishermen and traders.
But in the provinces too, women are beginning to turn away gradually.
Soldiers trying to find love in outlying areas can only blame it all on television footage showing TNI men being killed in Aceh and other trouble spots.
It is even harder to find a mate in the restive provinces, where the military and police are abhorred.
The men in uniform, however, are confident that they can continue sowing the seeds of love in the provinces where they once sowed discord.
Policemen Abdullah Sufi, who is stationed in Aceh, believes that he will have little difficulty marrying an Acehnese girl.
But his sister, Nuriah, disagrees: “You can’t marry a soldier. People will reject you and be suspicious that you are a spy.”