INDONESIA: 2010 Review: Women 'Bear Greater Brunt' of Free Trade, Fundamentalism

Monday, January 10, 2011
The Jakarta Post
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Peace Processes
Human Rights
Reconstruction and Peacebuilding

Free trade, weak government and rising religious fundamentalism made Indonesian women's lives more miserable last year, the Indonesian Women Coalition said.

Fluctuating prices of food commodities, such as chillies, have born extra burdens for women, as many in Indonesia are still traditionally responsible for preparing meals for their families, the coalition said in the notes of its 2010 review, made available over the weekend.

“The root of the high prices lies in the liberal trade policy,” coalition secretary general Dian Kartika Sari said in the notes.

The coalition said 3-kilogram gas canisters used for cooking, which they called “bombs at poor people's kitchens”, have robbed many women of their sense of security in their own kitchens.

The group pointed to the government's weak management in distributing the canisters. “The conversion from kerosene to gas was not followed by giving women enough instruction to know how to use them safely,” Dian said.

The group's study showed that in 2010 at least 20 people died from fires caused by faulty gas canisters, and over 100 women, children and elderly people were permanently injured from LPG canister explosions, while thousands of others lost their homes.

Last year, Susi Haryani visited the Presidential Palace to plea her case before President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, carrying her four-year-old son who suffered severe burns caused by a defective gas canister.

The coalition, established in 1998 by 75 women activists and 500 supporters, also addressed the country's domestic workers, both at home and abroad, whom they said were perpetually impoverished due to the lack of legal protection from the government. It pushes for the deliberation of the domestic workers bill to recognize and protect migrant workers, upon whom millions of Indonesian families depended.

Religious fundamentalism also took its toll among women in 2010, Dian said.

Anisah, the head of Pelimbang district in Bireun regency, Aceh, had her leadership qualifications questioned by the local council because of her gender. The councilors said according to Islamic law, or sharia, women are not allowed to lead. Bireun council speaker Ridwan Muhammad said they did not single out Anisah, as they wanted all leaders in Bireun to be male. The regent, however, did not succumb to the councilors' demands and allowed Anisah to continue leading the district.

In their year end notes, another women's rights group, LBH Apik, said Bireun's councilors failed to understand Aceh's history, which has had many prominent women leaders, such as Cut Nyak Dien, Cut Meutia, Laksamana Malahayati and Sultanah Safiatuddin.

LBH Apik also addressed problems surrounding discriminative bylaws, which reportedly reached 182 as of 2010. LBH Apik also noted love affairs involving male legislators, reported by their wives to the House of Representatives' Ethics Board, and weak enforcement of the domestic violence law.