An Indonesian minister is under fire after he compared coronavirus to rebellious wives, in remarks aimed at soothing public fears about easing COVID-19 restrictions across the Southeast Asian archipelago.
Women’s groups and social media users slammed the apparent joke by security minister Mohammad Mahfud MD, who made the comments during an online address to a local university earlier this week.
“Are we going to be holed up forever? We can adjust to the situation while still paying attention to our health,” the minister said on Tuesday.
“The other day I got a meme from my colleague… that says: Corona is like your wife. Initially you tried to control it, then you realise that you can’t. Then you learn to live with it.”
Critics panned the remarks as sexist and said it underscored Jakarta’s weak response to the virus outbreak.
“This statement not only reflects the superficial power of the government to solve the Covid-19 pandemic problem, but also shows the sexist and misogynistic mindset of public officials,” Women’s Solidarity group chief executive Dinda Nisa Yura said in a statement.
Mahfud’s office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Indonesia is deploying some 340,000 troops to clamp down on rampant social distancing violations as coronavirus infections surge in the world’s fourth-most populous country.
The move comes as the government eyes a reopening of shuttered businesses next week, fearing a collapse in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.
Indonesia has confirmed around 24,000 cases of COVID-19 and 1,496 deaths, but the country of more than 260 million has some of the lowest testing rates in the world.
Researchers estimate the true number of virus fatalities is several times the official toll.