Women Continue Long Battle for Rights in Indonesia

Women participate in a rally marking International Women's Day outside the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta in this 2013 file photo. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

By : Yohannie Linggasari, Dian Manafe & Yuli Krisna | on 2:39 PM March 09, 2013
Category : News

Women rallied at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta to mark International Women's Day on Friday. (JG Photo/Safir Makki) Women rallied at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta to mark International Women's Day on Friday. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

As the world celebrated International Women’s Day on Friday, activists in Jakarta and Bandung held a rally to raise awareness of the violence, discrimination and marginalization of women.

In Jakarta, members of 53 local women’s groups marched from the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle to the State Palace.

“In this rally we made eight demands, asking the government to fulfil its promises to protect women in the form of policies that to this day remained unrealized,” said Luviana, a coordinator of the rally.

Luviana cited the prolonged deliberations of a bill to help eradicate domestic violence as one example, and also criticized the lack of representation of women in politics and the lack of protection of women.

Violence against women, she said, was a theme of the rally given several recent cases of rape on public transportation and cases of discrimination and harassment of female workers.

“Many companies still discriminate against female workers, particularly when it comes to pay. The men tend to earn more with benefits while women are considered to be secondary breadwinners. Pregnancy leave and menstrual leaves are also problematic with many women not getting to enjoy those rights,” Luviana said.

A discussion on women at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Friday agreed that women still faced discrimination in Indonesia.

Dian Kartikasari, secretary general of the Indonesian Women’s Coalition (KPI), told participants in the “Women Making Indonesia” seminar that only 10 percent to 20 percent of government social programs targeted women.

“As a result, women often lose access to education and health care because the state has arranged for women to be housewives,” she said.

While the discussion acknowledged that women had made progress during the post-Suharto reformation era, with some 90 percent of girls now graduating from elementary school, Yuli Ismartono, a senior journalist at Tempo Magazine, said Indonesian women still had a long way to go to eradicate discrimination.

Shinta Widjaja Kamdani, managing director of Sintesa Group, said successful women must help other women through education. “It’s a pity that a lot of women are unable to explore themselves because of their role and their position as a wife. My desire is to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs,” Shinta said.

Friderica Widyasari Dewi, a director at the Indonesia Stock Exchange, sought to raise awareness among women on the importance of investment.

“Women are responsible for the success of the family. So I have established a ‘Women and Investment’ program to educate women from Aceh to Papua about investment,” she said.

Peter F. Gontha, publisher of the Jakarta Globe, said gender equity in Indonesia was much better than in developed Asian countries such as Japan. But education in Indonesia was still a concern, he said. “Women still need to fight for education. Nobody is taking care of education. We need more NGOs in education,” the executive said.

In Bandung, hundreds of women spoke out against domestic violence and rape, demonstrating in front of the West Java governor’s office.

Euis Tita Kurniawan, a rally coordinator, said many female workers were denied the rights to take maternity leave mandated by law, and received inferior pay to men. “We want to excel, to be prosperous and to be equal with men,” she said.

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