Female candidates will face uphill battle in 2014 election
Hans Nicholas Jong
The Jakarta Post
Despite efforts to increase the number of women in politics, they still face an uphill battle to join the male-dominated political world, a political expert has said.
Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) political analyst Siti Zuhro said women in general were still victims of discrimination.
'So many challenges hamper women: Some are related to competence, others to outside influences such as a culture that discourages [women from politics],' she said.
According to Siti, women still face the social stigma prevalent in patriarchal society that perceives men as more dominant and capable than women.
Siti also said that the Islam further put women in a difficult position.
'It's not true that Islam restricts women. But in Indonesia, not all Muslim give equal opportunities to women,' she said.
A 2012 study by LIPI says that in Aceh, women were found to be discouraged from entering politics and becoming community leaders because of local conservative Islamic values.
Aceh is one of the provinces with the lowest number of women at the local council level. In Aceh, only four out of the 69 council members are women.
By law, underscoring affirmative action, women must account for a minimum 30 percent of a political party's list of candidates for the House of Representatives and local legislatures (DPRD) and the Regional Representatives Council (DPD).
Currently, 108 of 506 lawmakers at the House are women ' which equates to only 18.06 percent. This number is much lower than neighboring Timor Leste, which has 38.5 percent female representation at its parliament.
The survey found that in Papua, female councilors constantly struggle against local values, which deem women as objects for men that have no right to make their own decisions.
In Aceh and Papua, like in many other patriarchal societies, politics is seen as the domain of men and women are not allowed to enter, the study says.
Besides social stigma, female politicians face constraints from the government and political parties' lack of commitment to the improvement of the quality of female political candidates.
She said political parties were more concerned with increasing the number of female councilors and lawmakers rather than the polices or legislation they champion.
'For example, what are the 108 female lawmakers actually doing? What are their programs?' she said. 'We need professional female lawmakers [...] What's the use of an affirmative action policy if you [a female lawmaker] end up in jail [for corruption]?'
General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioner Sigit Pamungkas, meanwhile, said that the minimum requirement of 30 percent did not necessarily translate in to pro-women policies.
'[What's important is] individuals who are competent and are concerned about gender issues,' he said. 'So just because the legislative candidates list has met the minimum requirement of 30 percent, it doesn't necessarily mean they are individuals with pro-gender ambitions.'
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