IWD commemorations reject discrimination and anti-pornography bill

Kompas – March 9, 2006
Women workers protest on International Women's Day in Jakarta (Sindo News)
Women workers protest on International Women's Day in Jakarta (Sindo News)

Jakarta, Kompas – Commemorating International Women’s Day on March 8, women in Jakarta, Banda Aceh, Yogyakarta and Makassar held peaceful actions demanding that the government and the House of Representatives (DPR) resolve the nation’s major problems.

The issues emphasised yesterday were poverty, corruption, education and health. Protests also rejected regulations that limit women’s political space.

In Jakarta hundreds of women from a number of different groups and organisations that are concerned with issues of development and poverty called on the government and the DPR not to shift public attention away from urgent national problems by using women’s issues.

In the Acehnese provincial capital of Banda Aceh, hundred of women from dozens of women’s groups – the majority of whom were victims of the tsunami disaster – held a peaceful action at the Regional DPR and the Banda Aceh offices of information and communication. They were demanding that the enforcement of Islamic law in Aceh not just focus on women’s clothing but also on the eradication of corruption.

In the Central Java city of Yogyakarta, hundreds of women from various organisations held a peaceful rally opposing the Draft Anti-Pornography Bill (RUU APP)

In the South Sulawesi provincial capital of Makassar, hundreds of women workers from various different companies and dismissed former employees condemned government policies that are bringing suffering to the people. They said that the fuel price hikes and planed increases to basic electricity charges, the high cost of education and healthcare and mass dismissals indicate the government’s insensitivity to the lives of ordinary people.

In Jakarta, the coordinator of the APIK (Association of Indonesian Women for Justice) Legal Aid Foundation, Ratna Batara Munti, said the rally from the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in Central Jakarta to the National Development Planning Board at 10.45am and then on to the State Palace was to demand basic rights for Indonesian citizens.

The government is unable to fulfil basic rights such as healthcare, education and employment. At the same time however, women who work at night are limited by various local regulations.

According to Munti, the action was aimed at rejecting the politicisation of women’s bodies for the sake of political power. What we reject is political horse trading to obtain popular support by discriminating against women. The inability of the government and the DPR to fulfil basic rights that is more urgent is now being shifted to politicising women’s bodies said Munti.

The coordinator of Indonesian Heroines of Democracy, Nuraini, said that the government is unknowingly forcing women into a corner. On the one hand the fuel price hikes and the planed increases to basic electricity rates have forced women to work harder to cover household expenses. On the other hand, when they work outside of the home, women are confronted by regulations that restrict their movements. The RUU APP currently being discussed in the DPR with its multi-faceted articles will stop women from being free to be active outside the home.

[Abridged translation by James Balowski.]