Coronavirus: Indonesian minister says COVID-19 ‘is like your wife,’ sparks backlash

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An Indonesian minister is under fire for quoting a meme that compared coping with coronavirus to a husband coping with his wife, sparking accusations of misogyny.

“Yesterday, I received a meme from [the Minister of Maritime Coordination] which said, ‘Corona is like your wife. Initially, you try to control it, then you realize you can’t. Then you learn to live with it’,” said Mohammad Mahfud MD, Indonesia’s Minister for Politics, Law and Safety Coordination.

Mahfud made the comment in a streamed YouTube event on Tuesday, after asking rhetorically: “Are we going to be holed up forever? We can adjust to the situation while still paying attention to our health…”

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Comments spark backlash

His comment made international headlines and provoked criticism from women’s rights groups.

“It shows he doesn’t have a clear understanding of the seriousness, the gravity and the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic [in this country],” Mike Verawati Tangka, the secretary-general of the Indonesian Women’s Coalition, told the ABC news outlet.

According to the Jakarta Post, the head of Women’s NGO Women’s Solidarity said that Mahfud’s remarks exposed the culture of sexism among public officials.

“[His] statement not only reflects the government’s shallow thought process in resolving issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it also exposes public officials’ sexist and misogynistic mindset,” said Chief Executive Dinda Nisa Yura in a statement on Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reported.

On Thursday, Indonesia reported 687 new coronavirus cases and 23 new deaths. The death toll in the country is now 1,496, with a total of 24,538 cases, according to the Health Ministry.

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