|April 21, 2007|
THE FIGHT GOES ON: Stage actress Sita takes part in a street demonstration featuring women rights activists in Jakarta on Friday. The rally was organized in conjunction with the commemoration of Saturday's Kartini Day, which observes the birthday of early Indonesian feminist Kartini. (JP/J. Adiguna)
Women still left high and dry
National News - Saturday, April 21, 2007
ID Nugroho and Stevie Emilia, The Jakarta Post, Surabaya, Jakarta
The maternal mortality and illiteracy rates in East Java show that women have been neglected by development, activists said Friday.
In a demonstration held to observe Kartini Day, which falls on Saturday, activists from the Women's Pro-Democracy Committee urged the government to set up a system to ensure women were not considered second-class citizens.
"In our records, the maternal mortality rate in East Java is 364 per 100,000 births," said committee leader Erma Susanti at the protest outside the Grahadi building in Surabaya, East Java.
The 2005 World Health Report put the country's maternal mortality rate at 307 per 100,000 deliveries.
The protesters also focused on the lack of a special budget to empower women, such as through improving mothers' health care.
The absence of such a budget, Erma said, was responsible for the country's high number of illiterate women.
In East Java alone, 2.8 million had not been educated, she said.
The committee also recorded that 17.4 percent of the province's 35 million residents were illiterate women.
Across the country, there are around 15 million illiterate men and women, they said.
"These problems should get the government's special attention and be prioritized. If the mother is uneducated, how can she take care of her children properly?" Erma said.
Although milestones have been achieved in the form of several laws, such as that on domestic violence, there was still much to be done for women's equality, the group says.
It said that leaving women out of development had made them easy targets of domestic violence.
The committee recorded 855 cases of domestic violence in the province last year. It said most of the cases had been unfairly resolved, with women being forced to accept out-of-court settlements.
"Again, women are disadvantaged," Erma said.
She said she believed that if the government set aside a special budget to deal with women's problems, women would no longer be second-class citizens.
"There are still customs within the community that encourage gender inequality. This should change," Erma said.
The Constitution guarantees gender equality but in the past year, it has been contravened by a range of controversial rulings. Many regencies and municipalities have made sharia-inspired bylaws on public behavior, with a focus on morality and the conduct of women.
Experts have said they are concerned that the crop of bylaws on sex and morality are unconstitutional, gender-biased and threaten to splinter the country as they fail to take into account the country's multiethnic and multi-religious composition.