Jakarta Globe | Insight

Activists Observe International Women’s Day

Jakarta. Representatives from 69 organizations joined together in a women’s parade in South and Central Jakarta to observe International Women’s Day on Thursday (08/03).

The rally started at 9 a.m. in front of the House of Representatives complex in Senayan. At 1 p.m., it moved to the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection and to the State Palace in Gambir to join Kamisan, a weekly silent protest of the families of victims of human rights abuses.

The Women’s Day rally was themed “Women Take Action to Fight Discrimination, Intolerance and Impoverishment.”

Participants of the rally urged the House to enact the long-overdue bill on the elimination of sexual violence, and rejected the proposed revisions to the Indonesian criminal code, which contain problematic articles on morality, such as criminalization of extramarital sex.

Activists also spoke about issues such as the plight of domestic helpers, who face various kinds of mistreatment by their employers. Leni Suryani from the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT) said domestic workers are not protected by the law. The bill supposed to guarantee their rights is already waiting 14 years to be enacted.

Representatives of the Union of Media and Creative Industry Workers for Democracy (Sindikasi) called on fellow reporters and creatives to produce less sexist media coverage.

Not Jakarta-Centric

Some of the rally’s participants came from outside Jakarta.

Diah Ayu Setyarini, representing the People’s Coalition for Justice in Fisheries (Kiara) and the Sisterhood of Indonesian Fisherwomen (PPNI), brought up several issues from her hometown, Jepara, and nearby Demak, both in Central Java, where fishing is the main source of sustenance.

She said that not in every region fisherwomen are recognized as working women, in their identity cards they are “housewives,” which precludes them from being under the insurance scheme provided by the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

“My friend in Demak got bitten by a snake, and she couldn’t work for three months. The government is blind to this, because to them women are unworthy. In my village, if a fisherman dies, his family can get Rp 150 million [$10,950]. Why can’t women receive this coverage?” she told the Jakarta Globe.

Ayu, center, participates in the rally in front of the House of Representatives building. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Putri Kalua flew from Samarinda, East Kalimantan, only for the rally. She represents Embrio Perempuan Merdeka, a multi-sector women’s rights organization.

In her speech, she addressed many forms of discrimination against Indonesian women, including layoffs of female factory workers who get pregnant, as they are seen as “nonfunctional.”

She also spoke about the ban on niqab (face veil) at Yogyakarta’s Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University (UIN), which has been imposed to prevent campus radicalization. Putri, however, saw this as yet another case of women being told by society what they are supposed to wear and what not.

“Whether you’re wearing a mini skirt or niqab, it’s wrong. Women are always blamed, from head to toe,” she said.

“Niqab or not, hijab or not, it’s part of everyone’s freedom of expression. People’s individual rights shouldn’t be prohibited. No matter what their religion or ethnic group is, they can’t be told what to wear,” said Jumasih from the Indonesian Laborers Confederation (KPBI), who served as the field coordinator of the rally.

Beside political speeches, there was poetry and music. Kerri Na Basaria, the organizer of Women’s March last Saturday, read a poem. Trans activist Rebecca Nyuei performed a monologue, while Jati Anindito from indie pop band Westjamnation sang for all who gathered to observe the Women’s Day.