The National Commission on Violence against Women has reported that more than 85 bylaws in the country discriminate against women to this date with the figure tending to increase each year.
Advocates, representatives and NGO officials on women’s issues, electoral watchdogs, a political party and the government agreed in a discussion in Central Jakarta on Monday that such a situation could be prevented if the quantity and quality of women elected in national and local councils increased.
A recent example of discriminatory policy was the controversial statement made by Jambi provincial councilor Bambang Bayu Suseno from the National Mandate Party ( PAN ), who proposed a policy to screen female students based on their virginity.
Center for Women Empowerment in Politics chairman Sjamsiah Achmad said, “About 50 percent of Indonesia’s population comprises women but the amount of women in councils throughout the country was less than 20 percent. Those who have had seats, often don’t have the capacity to exercise their role.”
The Central Statistics Agency ( BPS ) reported this year that there were 118.05 million women citizens or 49.69 percent of the country’s total population, while the number of female legislators in the House of Representatives in this period was 103 people or only 18 percent of the total 560 seats.
According to the Center for Political Studies at the University of Indonesia ( UI ), known as Puskapol UI, a similar condition can be found in the local councils but it is in a much worse condition as some provinces have a few while many cities do not even have one female legislator.
There are currently 321 female representatives or about 16 percent of the total number of legislators in the provincial councils throughout the country. Seven provinces have women occupying 30 percent of the seats in their respective council, while other provinces have less than 10 percent.
Their numbers in the city councils are less as Puskapol UI reported that there were currently 1,857 female politicians of the total 15,758 seats throughout the country’s 461 cities. Twenty seven of the cities do not have any female legislators and others only have one or two.
Puskapol UI director Sri Budi Eko Wardani said that there were many factors causing these conditions.
“Our study shows that some of the factors relate to the welfare of local residents, local culture, restrictions from political parties and female candidates’ lack of confidence,” she said.
She added that although the 2008 law stipulated that at least one third of political parties’ management should comprise of female members, the National Awakening Party ( PKB ), PAN and the United Development Party ( PPP ) were three parties that had accommodated the idea in their charters explicitly as of last year. “Our study finds that these political parties usually accommodate female members who are connected through family to high-ranking officials in that particular party,” she said.
More than a quarter of the total female candidates for the national election in 2009 were connected through family to other members in the respective party, while more than 64 percent had this tie in the local elections of council members.
Hadar Gumay of the Center for Electoral Reform said political parties played important roles in empowering women in the councils, saying that the country should be experimenting with various electoral systems to achieve such a goal.
“However, I think that it’s too late to change the system for the next election in 2014. Our study on the election bill shows that they plan to use the one of 2009,” he said.
The election bill is currently being discussed in the House Legislation Body. A previous report said that legislators were targeting to complete the bill next year.
In the meantime, he added, political parties should put more female politicians at the top of their list of candidates for the election in 2014 so that they had a better chance of selection as the country used the proportional representation system. ( rch )