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Shopkeeper in Aceh
(Photograph by Deborah Abraham)
Indonesia ratified the Convention in 1984, entering one reservation to Article 29, paragraph 1.1 The country’s initial report was reviewed by the CEDAW Committee in 1988, followed ten years later by the review of its combined 2nd and 3rd reports. In 2000, the country signed the CEDAW Optional Protocol, but has yet to ratify it.
Its 4th and 5th combined reports were examined in August 2007, at the 39th CEDAW session. Indonesian NGOs submitted an alternative report, the result of broad consultations involving about 50 national and local women’s organizations, in a coordinated process considered significantly more inclusive and comprehensive than a decade earlier. There was dialogue between government and NGOs during the drafting period – the government body tasked with drafting the state report included representatives from civil society, while NGOs shared the findings of their Independent Report with relevant government agencies before the CEDAW session in New York.
National Women's Machinery and Mechanisms to Advance Gender Equality
The Ministry of Women Empowerment (MOWE) is the national women’s machinery tasked with promoting and protecting women’s rights. In 2001, the Ministry’s role was expanded to include the welfare and protection of children. MOWE coordinates official reporting, monitors state obligations to CEDAW, and works to implement the provisions of the Convention through promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in the government’s policies and programmes. This is buttressed by a presidential decree (2000) that obliges all government representatives and agencies to mainstream gender in their policies, programmes and budgets to eliminate gender discrimination.
Further, a ‘national vision’ guides the gender equality efforts of the government: “The national vision on women empowerment has been the realization of gender equality and justice within the family, community and state. This vision has been translated into several missions namely; a) improvement of women’s quality of life; b) promotion of public awareness about gender equality and justice; c) elimination of violence against women; d) promotion and protection of women’s human rights; and e) institutional strengthening of women’s organizations.” 2
Since recent reforms providing more autonomy to local provincial and district government bodies, efforts are underway to create ‘Women Empowerment Bureaus’ in each province, and ‘Women Empowerment District Offices’ at the district level. According to the latest government CEDAW report, 15 out of 30 provinces have established bureaus, and 40 districts have district offices. Other provinces and districts that do not have these are supposed to have units responsible for gender mainstreaming. The challenges lie in the non-uniform structures, status and mandates of the various empowerment mechanisms, which lead to very different resource allocations, and autonomous decision-making that may not reflect national legislation and priorities.
Legislative Reform to Remove Discrimination and Enforce Women's Rights
In the last decade, the government has made efforts to identify gender-biased laws and amend them accordingly to remove discrimination. 21 laws were identified by the government as being discriminatory towards women – not all have undergone revisions as yet, and several that have still contain some discriminatory provisions according to the CEDAW Committee. Examples include the amended Law on Citizenship which still does not provide women with the same rights as men to retain or transmit their citizenship; and a 2003 Law on General Elections which established a 30 per cent quota for women candidates of political parties in the legislature – the concern is that the law fails to include sanctions or enforcement mechanisms to ensure compliance with the quota. In addition, although the Indonesian Constitution of 1945 guarantees equality for men and women, and an amendment made in 2000 provides that discrimination is a violation of human rights, no precise definition of discrimination yet exists, leaving it open to interpretation.
The process of decentralization has raised some concerns on implementation and enforcement of legislation at the local level – there is uneven recognition and enforcement of women’s rights in different regions, including Aceh, and a number of local laws and regulations have been established in recent years that discriminate against women on the basis of culture and religion.
In keeping with the government’s announced ‘zero-tolerance policy’ on violence against women, a number of related laws targeted at eliminating violence have been enacted, including the Law on Domestic Violence (2004), the Victim Protection Law (2006), and the Law on Anti-Trafficking (2007).
Civil Society and CEDAW
Indonesia has a strong and vibrant civil society. Many NGOs working on gender equality and women’s empowerment issues, through training and capacity-building, have begun to integrate CEDAW principles and the CEDAW framework into their advocacy and development efforts. They have played instrumental roles in lobbying the government and the National Assembly to amend discriminatory legislation and enact new laws that address women’s rights. They have also formed networks to monitor CEDAW implementation.
In November 2007, an NGO-led review of five laws related to electoral processes and political parties, endorsed by MOWE and the Ministry of the Interior, led to amendments to the Law on Political Parties, which now require that new political parties must have at least 30% female membership in order to be registered, and that women must make up at least 30% of all political appointments and management positions within parties.
Amendments to the Law on General Elections were passed in February 2008, providing for a new ‘zipper’ system in the electoral process which requires that for every three candidates on the party list at least one must be female. This provision is intended to prevent women candidates from being left at the bottom of party lists during elections.
NGO advocacy has also already begun to target the next General Elections in 2009, where it is hoped that many more women than in the past will be elected at all levels.
1) Article 29, Paragraph 1 – “Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of the present Convention which is not settled by negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If within six months from the date of the request for arbitration the parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of those parties may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice by request in conformity with the Statute of the Court.” This reservation is considered permissible because it is not deemed incompatible with the object and purpose of the Convention.
2) Combined 4th and 5th periodic report of Indonesia.