The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recently welcomed its new chairwoman, Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, a household name in the fight for women's rights in the country. Yuniyanti recently talked to The Jakarta Post's Arghea Desafti Hapsari on the commission's new direction at a time when the government is looking to streamline bureaucracy, putting the existence of the institution at stake. She also comments on Komnas Perempuan's role in the country where political and religious issues are widespread and making a big impact on the livelihoods of Indonesian women. Here are excerpts of the interview:
Question: What do the next few years hold for you as new chairwoman?
Answer: As an institution that fights for women's right, Komnas Perempuan plays a very important role for the country and therefore we need to maintain its existence. However, in the latest evaluation conducted by the State Secretary (and the Administrative Reforms Ministry), Komnas Perempuan is among the institutions that may be merged with other institutions. We don't know what method was used to make that evaluation, but the bottom line is efficient bureaucracy. So this condition complicates matter and requires us to strive to keep control of our institution.
In 2009, the commission's data showed violence against women in the country rose 264 percent. The numbers clearly show that this institution is still needed, but why does this fact lose its significance when compared to the policy of efficiency? We understand and agree that efficiency and reform of bureaucracy are important. But can efficiency offset a very substantial aspect in the fight for humanity? And the next question that arises is whether the state views addressing acts of violence a top priority.
Do you think efficiency is the sole reason for the merger? As new chairwoman, you must have your own evaluations of the commission.
I think in the future Komnas Perempuan needs to seriously communicate and publicize its works to the larger public and to the government. We have never worked directly with the State Secretary or the Administrative Reforms Ministry. We have only worked with institutions that address women issues, such as the Social Services Ministry and the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry.
We have started intensive discussions with the State Secretary and they have started to consider a more comprehensive evaluation for Komnas Perempuan, so it looks like the merger plan is not yet final.
Are there new strategies or ideas that you are planning for Komnas Perempuan?
Several ideas that I am developing for commission include making this term's leadership a collective leadership, in which all the commissioners are leaders. You see, most formal organizations rely on their chairpersons to make everything work. But for Komnas Perempuan, I want everyone to play a vital role externally and internally. They will have their views heard by the public. We are formulating a mechanism to implement this idea.
I also want for Komnas Perempuan to belong to the public. The strategy is to create more partnerships, including with the media.
We also need to see the context, the condition that we are currently in today. For example, the autonomy granted to regions has resulted in hundreds of bylaws that discriminate against women. We try to review the bylaws from several aspects: its content, the lawmaking process and the impact. A lot of the content puts the burden of morality on women. When we look at the process, women's involvement is very limited. We also review how women have fallen victims to such bylaws. Komnas Perempuan has a mandate to monitor and we have empirical data that there have been actual victims of the bylaws.
There are also judicial review requests that we feel we have to get involved in because we want to defend pluralism in religion and culture and ensure that women's needs are addressed. Nowadays, people are fighting to get certain issues instituted in texts of law. This is a contest where everyone tries to get their views heard. Komnas Perempuan's role is to give its recommendation based on victims' experiences, which we get from reports.