A new law on gender equality currently being drafted is expected to serve as a legal reference to ensure that all government policies are gender sensitive, State Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Linda Amalia Sari said on Friday.
“This law will give us a strong base from which to push all ministries and local governments to implement gender-sensitive policies,” Linda told the Jakarta Globe.
“This law is important as we are currently relying on a presidential decree issued in 2000 to push for gender mainstreaming in the country, and yet this decree is not as strong as a law in the legal context,” Linda said. “The bill being drafted will replace the presidential decree.”
She said the new legislation would act in the interest of both sexes and that a gender-responsive budget system — expected to be implemented across all ministries by 2011 — would help to achieve this.
Ida Rowaida, head of the gender studies department at the University of Indonesia, welcomed the government initiative.
“I feel this law is both relevant and urgently needed. We have long used the phrase ‘gender equality,’ but now we can attach real values to that term,” Ida said.
She agreed that the main barriers in overcoming the lack of equality between the sexes was traditional views on gender.
“Disparities continue to exist in education, particularly in rural areas, in the economy and also in politics,” she said, adding that the rate of illiteracy among Indonesian girls stands at 5.4 percent compared to 2.7 percent among boys.
Masruchah, a commissioner of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) said drafting new legislation was not the answer to overcoming gender bias in society.
“If the substance of the new law is similar to the 1984 Law on Discrimination Against Women, it would be better if we just promoted the existing law instead of drafting a new one,” Masruchah said.
She said the current law seemed weak only because it was not being implemented more aggressively.
Gender discrimination, Masruchah added, was one of the factors behind the steep rise in the number of domestic violence cases.
She said there were 154 bylaws across the country that were considered discriminatory.
Masruchah cited a bylaw in West Sumatra’s Pesisir Selatan district that requires female employees and high school girls to wear Islamic clothing.