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Jakarta Post

Indonesia remains ‘grim place’ for working women

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, March 11, 2019   /   06:26 pm
Indonesia remains ‘grim place’ for working women The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) in its 2018 report revealed that workplace violence on women was rampant nationwide. (Shutterstock/File)

To commemorate International Women’s Day, a coalition of women's rights organizations has reminded people that the country is still a nightmare for working women, who are often the target of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Statistics Indonesia (BPS) reported in February an increase in the labor force participation rate among women to 55.4 percent in 2018 from 55 percent the previous year, but challenges for female workers in the workplace remain high.  

“Women remain a target of exploitation,” said Nining Elitos, the Congress Alliance of Indonesian Labor Unions (KASBI) chairwoman, said at a press conference on Friday.

The group cited the recent case of Baiq Nuril Maknun, a former high school teacher in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, who had been sentenced to jail for defaming her former superior who had allegedly harassed her. While she was on trial for recording conversations between both of them that she claimed to contain verbal assaults against her, the harasser is yet to be put on trial for the alleged sexual harassment.

A 2017 survey by Perempuan Mahardika revealed that 56.5 percent of the 773 women garment laborers in a Jakarta industrial complex were sexually harassed. Most of them, however, did not report it to their supervisors.

The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) in its 2018 report revealed that workplace violence on women was rampant nationwide.  

Nining said even existing laws that were meant to protect women were hardly enforced. She cited the 2009 Health Law, which requires workplaces to provide areas for breastfeeding, with employers who flout the provision facing a potential prison sentence and a maximum fine of Rp 300 million (US$21,273).

According to Health Ministry data in 2018, around 35 percent of companies in 19 provinces did not have a lactation room.

Nining also accused employers of neglecting maternal and menstruation leave as regulated in the 2013 law on employment, which could further leave room for “exploitation of women”.

“We also demand that employers don't dismiss female workers just because they are pregnant,” Nining said. “This happens really often.”

She quoted the 2017 case of a worker at an industrial area in Karawang, Bekasi, who was 8 months pregnant and allegedly forced to quit her job after she had requested maternity leave.

Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) chairman Rosan Perkasa Roeslani claimed that more companies were providing the facilities, including a lactation room, for women.

He also expressed hope that more companies would help to ease the burden of female workers.

“Kadin keeps urging [employers] to treat all Indonesian workers equally. [Employers] should provide a comfortable work environment for women without any discrimination,” Rosan said on Sunday.

Things are not necessarily better for working women in other parts of the world. A 2016 Equality and Human Rights Commission study in the United Kingdom indicated that one in nine pregnant mothers were either dismissed or treated so poorly that they felt they had to leave their job. (mai)