Published: 04/12/2007

In 2005, Women Research Institute (WRI) conducted a research on “the Impact of Regional Autonomy on Women Political Participation in Decision Making at the Local Level”. The research was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, WRI analyzed local regulations in nine districts/cities by using feminist research methodology. It was an initial step to see how women’s public space and political roles are being perceived, represented and regulated within the context of regional autonomy. The nine districts/cities were spread in seven provinces, namely West Java (Sukabumi and Tasikmalaya), West Sumatra (Solok), West Nusa Tenggara (Mataram), Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (Banda Aceh), Bali (Gianyar), East Nusa Tenggara (Kupang), and East Kalimantan (Samarinda, West Kutai). The diverse character of the selected districts/cities allows WRI to look at the general trend of women participation in regional autonomy across the multicultural landscape of the contemporary Indonesian society.

In the second phase, WRI evaluated the impact of local regulations on the society through in-depth interviews in five out the nine districts/cities, namely Solok, Mataram, Banda Aceh, Gianyar and Kupang. Due to lack of qualified and committed researchers, WRI was forced to drop Sukabumi, Tasikmalaya, Samarinda and West Kutai. WRI then, based on similar criteria applied in the first research phase, selected the district of Kebumen (Central Java), the city of Manado (North Sulawesi), and the city of Pontianak (West Kalimantan) as replacement. The results of the first and second phase of WRI’s research reveal the two faces of decentralization concerning the plight of women in local governance.

Finding of the First Phase

WRI’s selection of the nine districts/cities is based on three considerations. First, the selected districts/cities should include locations in Java and non-Java to capture uneven economic development and social and cultural differences across regions. Second, the selected districts/cities should include both regions that are revitalising Islamic values such as West Java (Sukabumi and Tasikmalaya), West Sumatra (Solok), West Nusa Tenggara (Mataram) and Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, and non-Muslim regions such as Bali (Gianyar) and East Nusa Tenggara (Kupang). Third, conflict regions such as Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (Banda Aceh) and Kalimantan (Samarinda and West Kutai) should also be represented in the selected districts/cities.

The goal of the textual reading of local regulations was twofold in character. First, WRI wanted to reveal how the regional governments regulated women’s involvement in local decision making. Second, WRI would like to investigate how women were represented in local regulations. Findings of the first phase research represents one face of decentralization that marginalizes women.

No Laws Stipulating Women Participation in Local Decision Making

Although regions such as Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) and Gianyar have acknowledged the problem of gender inequality and discrimination, and responded with a formulation of policies to act upon, no specific laws have been made to stipulate women’s participation in local decision making. The percentage of women in legislative body in the nine districts/cities ranges from 0–12 percent, a far cry from the 30 percent requirement set by the Election Law 1999.

Due to the non-existence of laws that stipulate women participation in local politics, certain interpretation of Islam could easily be used to limit women’s access to participate in local decision making. Although the text of regional regulation (Perda) is gender-neutral, the cultural context of its application could be used to hinder women’s participation. In Tasikmalaya for example, five women were appointed to become heads of sub-district (Camat). But some members of the Local House of Representative (DPRD) challenged the appointments by arguing that Islam prefered male to female leaders, prompting women activists and women politicians in the DPRD to counter the objection. The case illustrates that gender-neutral regulations open opportunity for gender-based discrimination action, and that an explicit regulation stipulating women’s participation in local decision making is a must.

Local Regulations Marginalize Women

New local policies concerning women that are issued under regional autonomy have focused on providing training, supporting equipments, for women to conduct household activities such as cooking, sewing, and other domestic activities. Crucial issues in motherhood and household such as reproductive health and domestic violence are left untouched. Women do not receive support to take part in public activities to pursue their interests either. For example, although women have been active in local economy, the present local regulations fail to acknowledge their activity and provide proper access to capital, market, and skill.

a. Denying the Role of Women in Public Space

Women’s roles in public sphere are not being acknowledged in local regulations. The exclusion of women from decision making in the exploration of natural resources in West Kutai has resulted in the loss of women’s sources of income. In Gianyar, spouse of a woman employee is not entitled to receive benefits and support if the employee is ill or deceased since women are not considered as breadwinners.

In Tasikmalaya and NAD, women are obliged to wear headscarf. Women’s fashion and public appearance is used as superficial indicators of the new Islamic identity of the regions. New laws were made to make women dress in certain ways (Tasikmalaya and NAD) and to put a curfew for women (Solok), and the regulations became a ground for violent attacks against women who are considered violating the new norms.

b. Very Low Budget Allocation for Women

Local government with minimum funding sources are scrambling to collect various taxes and retributions to meet targeted regional revenues, and it turns out hurting women economically. In Tasikmalaya, the local government imposed taxes on services and trades that mostly serves women consumers or employ women workers such as market vendors. In Sukabumi, the local government imposed taxes on small beauty parlours and restaurants. In Kupang, the municipality decided to establish a special place for sex workers, and then tax them to increase the city’s revenues.

After being taxed, do the women get better public services from the local government? The answer is no. Budget allocation for women only ranged from less than 1% to almost 3% of the total regional development budget. The miniscule budget allocation was also integrated with programs for children and adolescents, as well as for health and social welfare, thus strengthening the stereotypical representation of women as caretakers of the family. There is no particular budget allocation for programs to eliminate discrimination against women such as special scholarship for women to enter public schools, training on community leadership, or capital for small businesses.

c. Reproductive Rights are Neglected

Women are seen more as consumers of contraceptives marketed through family planning programs. Urgent needs of women for the improvement of reproductive health itself does not receive adequate attention despite the fact that almost every region shows high maternal mortality rates.

d. Taxed but Left Unprotected

Mataram is one of the main sending areas of migrant workers in Indonesia, and the city imposes service tax on migrant worker agencies, reaping a fortune from migrant workers. However, the city hardly allocates budget or develop laws to protect the rights of migrant workers.

Findings of the Second Phase

Data gathered during the second phase of the research is currently being analysed and written up. The second phase of research is designed to identify views from different stakeholders (ranging from the government to grassroots actors) regarding women’s roles as well as to identify potential ideas and working partners in advancing women’s position in local societies.

Result of the first phase of the research shows that local regulations marginalize women’s role in the public sphere and in decision making. Result of the second phase of the research is more optimistic, showing that regional autonomy has also created space for women to redefine their role in local governance. Although varying in degrees, local women’s organizations (especially NGOs) have started to consider a new role as critical working partners for the local governments.

Women Rising up to Make Regulation Against Trafficking

Women and children in north Sulawesi are vulnerable to trafficking, and the history goes back to the Japanese occupation period in early 1940s. Nowadays, many women and young girls from the area are trafficked to Papua to work as bar hostesses or sex workers. They are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection and might spread the disease when they return to their hometowns or villages. The local government of North Sulawesi passed an anti-trafficking Local Regulation in January 2004, the first multistakeholders initiative local regulation ever made in Indonesia under the regional autonomy. Local women NGOs and activists participated in the drafting and advocacy of the anti-trafficking Perda. This regulation imposes administrative sanctions (demotion, dismissal) on local government officers that are involved in trafficking. The Perda shows a new perception in looking at local authority and the role of stakeholders in solving common problems, as well as a new value that it is an offence when public officers fail to prevent a potential criminal act in trafficking.

Carving Women’s Public Role in Syariah Islam

Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam was granted special status in regional autonomy since 1999 and the implementation of Syariah Law has been a prominent issue in Banda Aceh. The Syariah Law itself was made by the regional government with only limited participation of local religious leaders. Other stakeholders, especially women, were marginalized. The Law obliges Muslim women to cover their body when they appear in public places and exercise some punitive measures (i.e. fine). Many interviewees show their concern and disagreement with the application of Syariah Law. However, there has been no open resistance in the public since syariah is considered as the most important aspects of local culture, and that historically as well as at present, Syariah implementation is seen as a way to appease local powers in the context of armed conflict in Aceh.

However, women NGOs and activists in Aceh have been strategizing to influence the implementation of the Syariah Law. They are in agreement that if the implementation continues to be executed in the present way, women in Aceh will be further confined to domestic sphere and lacking access to participation public life. Such condition would definitely hinder gender-mainstreaming agenda, as women are not given proper channels to express their aspiration.

Redefining Customary Law and Identity

Most of the time, customary values and religion are inseparable. In Solok, for instance, customs are perceived as anchored in Syariah, which in turn is rooted in Al-Qur’an. Based on that perception, the local government of Solok issued regulations on dress-code for women and requirement to be Al-Qur’an literate for public officers, students, and people who want to get married. Women NGOs and activists in Solok have been conducting advocacy to change the regulations.

The women NGOs and activists are also making their ways to participate in the revitalization of the customary law that regulates land ownership. Under the custom of Minangkabau’s Bundo Kanduang, women have the rights to inheritance. However, the custom does not bestow the women the rights regarding what to do with the inheritance. Decision making is in the hands of the mamak (men). Many women do not even know the function of Bundo Kanduang, neither do the mamak and the community in general. The issue of the rights to a customary land emerged when it became public knowledge that the local government had sold many parts of the customary land to individuals/investors. The sale is considered violating the customary law that bestows land ownership to the Bundo Kanduang. Women NGOs and activists are now participating in the advocacy to return the rights to regulate customary land to the Nagari authority. The women and NGO activists want the government to put the revitalized customary law into a regional regulation (Perda).

Women Leaders Do Make a Difference

The appointment of Rustriningsih as the regent of Kebumen (Central Java) opened wider access for women to decision making in the district. Although Rustriningsih’s administration has not specifically produced gender sensitive policies or programs, it has done a lot to encourage women participation in decision-making process. As a result of political leadership education programmes conducted by the local executive (Pemda) and the Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KPPI), the number of women in local legislative body (DPRD) rose from 3 to 8, an increase of almost 300%. Women also occupy more decision making positions in the bureaucracy as Camat (Head of sub-district), Kepala Dinas (Head of Department), and school directors. The local government has also tried to use participatory decision making approach and made participation of women conditional. The Indonesian Women Coalition (Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia, KPI) and KPPI are in the forefront in the advocacy to enhance women’s participation in local politics in Kebumen.

Socializing Gender Budgeting and Planning to Multi-stakeholders in The Region

WRI conducted a preliminary research on women and budget allocation in 2001-2002. The research reveals that budget allocation in Indonesia is gender neutral. It is still assumed that by using a general language, public budgeting has already addressed the interests of both men and women. The fact is that men and women benefit differently from the current budget allocation since budget allocation for women is always related to the stereotyped roles of women in the domestic sphere.

Gender Budgeting socialization in the district/city is needed to explore and identified specific local problems concerning the understanding of gender and gender injustice because each district/city has unique problems in understanding gender and gender budgeting.

In Banda Aceh, Syariah Law has become the stumbling block of budget allocation specifically directed for women empowerment and other gender sensitive programs. Religious leaders in Aceh, most of them are men, tend to think in a patriarchal ways, proclaiming that Islam does not tolerate women to become leaders. In addition, Law No.3/2003 or Qanun No. 3/2003 states that any act of ratification by the authority as well as by parliament members should be discussed with the religious leaders.

In Solok, custom law prevents budget allocation for the revitalization of Nagari authority to regulate the sale of inheritance land. Women inherit the land, but in practice there has been many cases where uncles sell the inherited land without the consent of their sisters. It is also hard to imagine that the government would allocate budget for reforming land certification that protects the rights of women to inherit and decide the use of land.

In Kupang, it is the structure of the local government that prevents budget allocation for women. The body that has the authority to handle women problems is the bureau of women empowerment that does not have decision making authority to allocate budget.

In Gianyar, the male dominated custom prevents budget allocation for women. Customs are proposed by praremen, the majority of which are men, and women are not involved. The prevalence of customs has prevented women to occupy decision making positions and act accordingly to allocate budget to fulfill women’s needs.

In Mataram, it is the domination of men with religious vision in the executive and legislative that prevents budget reallocation for women. The vision of the city of Mataram to become a developed and religious city is manifested more in the development mosques. Meanwhile, women traders actually want the government to lessen the number and amount of retribution that they have to pay.

In Kebumen, although the regent is a woman, there are still policies that discriminate women. For example, women cannot withdraw their money from the bank without the husband’s consent. The challenge in Kebumen is to put more women with gender perspective in decision making positions.

In Manado, there is already regional budget allocation for women empowerment. The problem is that the programs did not reach the targeted beneficiaries. The reason of mis-targeting is because most of the projects are carried out by the PKK that direct the funding for comparative studies rather than to improve women’s capacity and quality of life.

In Pontianak, the understanding of gender budgeting among local executives has not been translated into gender sensitive budget allocation. The challenge is to increase the number of women in the local legislative.

Training of Gender Budgeting to Multi-stakeholders

The aim of the training is to improve the capability of civil society organizations and the decision makers in the local executive and legislative offices to develop budget reallocation that is sensitive to the poor and marginalized communities, including women. The training is aimed at capacity enhancement in three areas:

  1. Identifying problems that occur due to budget allocation that is not gender sensitive;
  2. Analyzing the implementation of budget allocation that is not gender sensitive;
  3. Identifying counterparts in local executive and legislative offices to promote the implementation of regional gender budgeting.

Participants of the training are more specific compared to participants in the gender budgeting socialization workshop. From the local executive and legislative bodies such as Budgeting Commission were invited along with women local parliament members, if any, and head of section or sub head of section of Education, Health, Women Empowerment, and Labor Department. The parties invited were related to the issues that WRI wanted to address. Second, those parties had access to or were involved in budget decision making. Third, the program should reach its objective effectively. The gender budgeting training itself went through five steps.

Step 1: identifying participants’ level of understanding of gender budgeting concept, gender perspective, and gender method of analysis.
Step 2: using group discussion and plenary to identify and map gender issues in the respective districts/cities.
Step 3: discussing the need to develop gender budgeting for the respective districts/cities.
Step 4: studying budget allocation by using the city of Bandung’s budget in group discussion and plenary session.
Step 5: designing performance based and gender budgeting through group discussion and plenary.

Conducting Policy Advocacy on Gender Budgeting

Policy advocacy on planning and budgeting in the districts/cities in form of public dialogues and seminars is a must. It was at the same time gender budgeting and pro-poor budget advocacy. The advocacy was done by actively involving multi stakeholders in each of the regencies/municipalities.

The Next Agenda: Mainstreaming Women’s Needs into Democratization Agenda at the Local Level

We need to capture women’s voices at the local level to identify gender problems that are related to democratization agenda at the local level. The capturing should be done both at the social and conceptual level.

At the social level, we need to capture local women’s perspective on culture, structure and regulation. Culture refers to values, norms, and beliefs in the society that relate to power and gender relations. Structure refers to institutions and organizations, both formal and informal, in the society that deal with decision making processes. Meanwhile, regulation refers to policy and legal products that manage or mismanage gender relations

Culture, structure, and regulation are related to each other. For example, the value that a man is the household head and a woman is the homemaker has contributed to the limited/lack of access of women in the process of decision making in the family (domestic sphere), the legislative and executive bodies, and in the cultural/religious institutions (public sphere). Consequently, the content of regulations (public and domestic), policy, or other legal products do not represent women’s voices, needs and interests.

At the conceptual level, we need to capture the distinction between public and domestic spheres that has become a conceptual base for discrimination against women. Currently, the public sphere is considered to be the area for activities that are impersonal in character. Meanwhile, domestic sphere is the area where people conduct their personal activities.

In examining the separation of domestic and public spheres, we can clearly see that issues that are perceived as ‘personal’ are not considered as important problems just because they take place in the domestic area. The current discourse of democracy still misses gender issues because it only covers activities that take place in the public arena. Since the dichotomy of the domestic and public area puts women in domestic area, women’s needs and interests are not accounted for in this discourse. ***
Women Research Institute