CEDAW Reviews: Indonesia

16 Jul

Delegates from the Republic of Indonesia came before the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on 11 July 2012 for the Committee’s review of the state party’s obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (hereafater “Convention”). In introducing the report, the Minister of Women and Child Protection discussed the establishment of a national development plan and national strategy plan for the protection of human rights including women’s rights; legislation on human trafficking and migrant smuggling; and migrant and domestic worker’s rights. Indonesia also discussed the ongoing progress in gender mainstreaming, education and awareness as well as socialization training.

Questions from the Committee ranged on a variety of issues, with special attention on female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM was previously outlawed but has again been legalized within health care facilities. In making the practice legal again, Indonesia hope it will ensure that FGM is administered safely and within sterile conditions. Nevertheless, FGM remains a grave violation of human and women’s rights. A secure, equal and non-discriminatory environment cannot be upheld where this practice is encouraged under a veil of traditional or religious rights. Moreover, the practice is in direct violation of Convention obligations. Until the practice is completely eliminated, it demonstrates an unwillingness to protect women. It is an act of discrimination and violence and is a significant barrier to achieving women’s equality.

Most strongly addressing the FGM issues were Committee members from Afghanistan, Egypt and Turkey, each stating that FGM was not associated with or upheld by the Muslim religion. Overall, the Committee was persistent on this issue and reasoned that, regardless of traditional or religious justifications, the practice was still a significant violation of the obligations under the Convention.

Besides FGM, compliance with CEDAW recommendations on the issue of gender equality was also addressed, especially as it pertains to political life and meeting gender quotas; to marriage and family relations; and inequalities in land rights and tenure. Such inequalities can inhibit the status of women within society, specifically when political decentralization is used as a veil behind which human rights violations targeting women are occurring. 

The utilization of decentralization to restrict the rights of women sets a challenging and complex precedence, which may have vast consequences on women’s security. Women’s security is significantly threatened when the violation of their rights are not addressed within political systems. Decentralization is being used in this case to give local governments the authority to establish bylaws in direct violation with national, international and human rights laws. Such violations can lead to gross domestic violence and damaging marriage practices as well as other discriminatory and violent acts against women.

Overall, Indonesia is trying to progress in the realm of women and gender equality.  Most notably they have implemented legislation on human trafficking and migrant workers; they are working toward meeting their quota agenda; they are mainstreaming women and gender equality and they are implementing training and socializing programs at multiple governmental levels, within law enforcement, the judiciary and within civil society. While all of these efforts are of course welcome and promoted, there are still grave human rights violations, specifically targeting women and girls. It is understandable that behavioral norms, customs and cultures are challenging specifically when trying to change a society steeped in years of a patriarchal system. But, at the same time, the government must take a stand to address and end the gross violations against women and to progress forward. Although CEDAW maintained an understanding of the climate and culture within Indonesia, they also highlighted these issues and raised the bar of expectations in terms of Indonesia’s future report.

–          Cara Lacey 

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