Current Project / Women & Politics / Women's Participation

Published: 05/10/2004

The study case was conducted in nine regions in Indonesia namely Aceh, Solok, Sukabumi, Tasikmalaya, Samarinda, Kutai Barat, Kendari, Bali, Mataram, and Kupang.


“The Beijing Platform for Action includes a detailed set of recommendations to all sectors of the local and international communities to enhance women’s political participation and decision-making.” (Karam, 1998, pg.1)


It is interesting to look at Banda Aceh’s Qanun (Law) No.7/2000 on the procedures for the selection of village headman (kepala kampung). It will become even more interesting when we read article 8 paragraph (1) of the third chapter on the requirements to be Geucik (a village headman). There are 14 requirements for Geucik candidates and there is one point that requires the candidates to, “Be able to take the role of imam in a prayer”. At the same time, in Islamic law as well as in general perspective, only men are allowed to be the imam in a prayer when the worshippers are both men and women. Women, on the other hand, are not allowed to act as imam for men in a prayer. With this requirement, women have no chance of becoming Geucik and at the same time, this requirement affirms that the concern about authority that neglects women is not unreasoning. It can be interpreted from the selection of Geucik that women experience discrimination. This also shows that with the implementation of local regulation, local patriarchal values gain more strength, thus closing public sphere for women.


This reality also leads us to a question, “What exactly triggers the closing of public sphere for women?” First, the closing of public sphere for women is originated from the problem of representation which includes the representation of women as culturally constructed representation. Second, the interpretation of cultural product related to human representation including human rights is influenced by social, cultural, and religious values. This is in line with the findings of Drage (1999) who stated that the interpretation of women’s human rights is influenced by religious and socio-cultural values.

Furthermore, the local regulation is a proof that Law No.22/1999 on local government leads to the making of local regulation (Perda) throughout Indonesia. This does not happen in Banda Aceh only, but in all parts of Indonesia. For example, in Samarinda, after the enactment of the regional autonomy law, 25 local regulations have been made while previously there were only 23 Perda (2000), 15 Perda (1999), 19 Perda (1998), 23 Perda (1997) and 15 Perda (1996).

The productivity in making regulation can be seen positively as a response to restructure the centralistic power relation to be more decentralized. However, it is important to also ask whether the distribution of power also carries the understanding of gender equity perspective. There is a concern that when power is distributed to local authority without gender awareness, this will strengthen patriarchal structure in local level as can be seen in Banda Aceh’s Qanun No.7/2002.


Law No.22/1999 point 1 states, “The implementation of regional autonomy is performed by considering the aspects of democracy, justice, equity, and each region’s potential and diversity”. (Bratakusumah and Solihin, 2002, pg.4). Referring to this Law, the requirement to be Geucik in Banda Aceh is clearly not in accordance with the principles of regional autonomy which uphold the values of democracy and social justice. Moreover, the Indonesian government has also ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women or also known as Law No.7/1984. With this Law, the national and local government is responsible in making public policy which ensures the fulfillment of human rights and basic freedom based on equality and equity for men and women in social, economic, political, and cultural life.

The ratification and enactment of the convention is hoped to serve as an intervention which would be able to change the national political structure in which women, thus far, have no chance to be involved in running political institution which affects the lives of all citizens. The expected changes are not only in the increasing number of women involved in decision-making circle, but also in the recognition of women’s interests in political field.


Several cases related to women and the implementation of local regulation also occurred in other regions like Jakarta and Kendal in West Java. One of the main point of the regulation is making men as leaders, both in public and domestic spheres (Kompas, 14/6/2001). This fact shows that regional autonomy which is supposed to ensure democratization which engages all citizens’ political participation brings discrimination instead.

The representation of women in formal political institution in national or local level has great impact on women’s life. This is due to the fact that women’s life can never be separated from the public policy made by formal political institution. This condition is greatly determined by who are involved in policy-making process, what perspective that they use, and what kind of underlying ideology that is there in the implemented public policy. It is therefore important to comprehensively study the role and position of women in the participation and representation in politic and public policy in the era of regional autonomy. ***