National

Poor women have little
access to health service

Gender-biased policies and poor implementation of health laws hinder the fulfillment of women’s rights to adequate medical services, a study has found.

According to research conducted in Jakarta, Yogyakarta and Bengkulu, assessing government health policies, women who are poor or are victims’ of domestic violence face difficulties in accessing healthcare services.

“There are many policies in Indonesia that impact women and their health in adverse ways,” Beth E. Rivin of Uplift International, an organization that collaborated with several NGOs in Indonesia on the research, said on Tuesday.

“There are some policies that do not really help women access health information and services if they are poor,” she added.

Despite Indonesia’s numerous  laws ensuring women’s right to health services, such as the 2009 Health Law, the 2004 Domestic Violence Law, a 2006 Government Regulation, the strapped health budget weakens their implementation.

The government, this year, allocated only 5 percent of the state budget to the nation’s health system.  
At the local government level, the Jakarta administration, has allocated Rp 413 billion (US$45.43 million) this year to support health services for poor families, including victims of domestic violence.

However, according to Veronica of LBH Apik who assisted with the study’s research in Jakarta, the main problem in implementing the laws was the lack of knowledge of gender issues among government officials.

“Many officials working in the field do not understand gender issues,” she said. “This also happens because there is a lack of training about gender sensitivity and laws related to it,” she added.

The study also indicated that health services are even harder to access in the regions.

Susi Handayani of the Women Crises Center, who summarized the research results in Bengkulu and Yogyakarta, said poverty made it difficult for women to access vital services.

“Women living in poverty face difficulties accessing information, economic assistance and egalitarian use of public facilities,” she said.

She also said that even though there were many regulations ensuring women’s access to health services, there were many loopholes in their implementation.

“Cultural stigmas are a problem for women accessing health services,” she said. “The government provides the Jamkesmas [the public health insurance scheme] for the heads of families. The assumption is that men head families, not women, so this automatically hinders widows and divorced women from
access to health services,” she added. (map)

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