Parliamentarians play a critical role in curbing violence against women, a UN official says.
Kiran Bhatia, a regional adviser on gender at the United Nations Population Fund's (UNFPA) Asia and the Pacific regional office, said Saturday that parliamentarians could introduce new policies and support initiatives to protect women, as well as amend outdated laws that were discriminatory to women.
“Parliamentarians can play a big role in raising women's voices in parliament. They can definitely play an essential role in allocating more funds for ‘weak' ministries. Women's ministries are often weak; so, they need more support,” she told The Jakarta Post at the 8th Regional Women Ministers and Parliamentarians' Conference on Young Women and Girls.
The two day conference titled “Enhancing parliamentary support for and monitoring of gender equality” was held by the UNFPA, the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Demography (AFPPD) and the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry.
With the cooperation of the AFPPD, Bhatia said her agency had set up a male parliamentarian committee on the prevention of violence against women violence.
“[This committee] consists of male leaders from Asia and the Pacific and senior parliamentarians who will bear the role of introducing the prevention of violence against women and provide leadership,” she said.
According to Bhatia, the AFPPD and UNFPA's joint initiative has produced good results. In their own countries, many male parliamentarians at the committee show their strong leadership by introducing new policies.
Sexual reproductive health is one of the sectors prioritized by the UNFPA. Bhatia said research carried out by the agency was concerned with how to best provide reproductive health services for women, as most women still lacked access to those services.
National Demography and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) chair Sugiri Syarief said that in Indonesia young women and girls remained vulnerable in almost all dimensions of health, especially reproductive health and education. They were also very susceptible to violence either within the family or in society, especially sexual abuse. Sugiri said marriage at a young age was still a common practice in the country, resulting in the higher risk of pregnancy and maternal mortality.
According to BKKBN data, the number of women between the ages of 15 and 19 years old who already had children or were carrying their first child continued to decrease. “But, 8.5 percent of women 15 to 19 years old are already pregnant or having a baby,” Sugiri said in a statement presented by Eddy Hasmi, a member of the agency's international cooperation and training center on demography and family planning.