Female legislators and regional heads are failing to use their positions to promote gender equality, a women’s rights activist said on Tuesday.
Dwi Windyastuti, a researcher from Surabaya’s Airlangga University, said most Indonesian women tended to enter politics simply to enhance their social standing rather than champion women’s causes.
“Affluent businesswomen are more likely than other women to enter politics, which is due to the high cost of vying for public office, particularly a position as regional head,” she said.
“As a consequence, their motivation for getting into politics is more about gaining personal prestige than about improving social standards through a gender-based perspective.”
She added women in politics tended to emulate their male peers by prioritizing position and power over all else.
“Once these women get their positions, they forget that they’re meant to represent the country’s women,” Dwi said.
“They forget that they should be fighting for gender equality by addressing domestic violence, championing reproductive health awareness and ending human trafficking.”
Meanwhile, a 2010 UN Development Program Indonesia report points out that only 17.32 percent of seats at the House of Representatives (DPR) are occupied by women, up from 11.8 percent prior to the 2009 elections.
The report said there is only one woman among the country’s 33 governors — Ratu Atut Chosiyah of Banten province — along with 38 female district heads and five female ministers.
Angelina Sondakh, a House legislator and deputy secretary general of the ruling Democratic Party, said that while they remain outnumbered by men in politics, women are now increasingly taking up more important positions.
“In the past, you’d rarely see women serve in strategic positions, but now [female legislators’ roles] are improving,” she said.
She added that political parties should not only be concerned about meeting the quota to assign 30 percent of their House seats to women, they should also give them key positions in the party and the House.
However, Eva Kusuma Sundari, from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) said that “We still have a long way to go if female politicians are to play a role as agents of change.”