9 October 2010

Women still targets of discriminatory bylaws, Women rights group says

Jakarta Globe - October 7, 2010

Dessy Sagita, Jakarta -- The National Commission on Violence Against Women 
(Komnas Perempuan) said on Wednesday there were still plenty of bylaws 
discriminating against women, despite the state's promise to eradicate such 

"After he was re-elected, [President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] said 
eradicating discriminatory bylaws would be a priority," said Andy Yentriyani, a commissioner at the agency. "But instead of decreasing, the 
number of these kinds of bylaws is getting bigger," she said.

Last year, Komnas Perempuan criticized the state for its failure to repeal 
154 bylaws nationwide that were considered discriminatory -- 64 of which 
hampered women's rights to free expression and gainful employment.Since 1999, the group has found 200 bylaws that it said suppressed women's 
rights. Since last year, various state institutions have either proposed or 
passed a total of 62 new policies that can violate women's rights, Andy 

As an example, she cited a West Aceh policy that prohibits Muslim women 
from wearing certain types of clothing. "The mayor of West Aceh used the 
regional budget to buy skirts for women because, apparently, wearing jeans 
was not allowed," Andy said. "This is ridiculous."

The commissioner also criticized a provincial lawmaker's proposal to have 
teenaged girls undergo virginity tests before they enter state schools.

Such discriminatory policies, she says, are often used by politicians who 
want to appear morally righteous in order to gain public support or 

She said some bylaws were issued out of "moral panic." Some lawmakers, she 
says, craft laws out of fear that their families or children will be 
exposed to immoral acts. "It's sad that some bylaws were products of the 
naivete of the politicians or the lawmakers," Andy said.

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi, however, denied that discriminatory 
bylaws existed in Indonesia. Despite regional autonomy, he said, the 
central government still had the authority to filter laws for questionable 

"If we find anything discriminative in the bylaw draft, of course we can 
annul it," he said. "The real question is which bylaw is considered 
discriminative? By whom? We have to understand clearly whether the bylaw 
was issued to restrict women or even to protect them, and the issue is 
still debatable," he said on Wednesday.

Gamawan says provinces like Aceh and Papua have been granted special 
autonomy. He says provinces are generally allowed to issue any bylaw that 
reflects local norms or traditions, as long as it does not run counter to 
the public interest.

"Nyepi (Day of Silence) in Bali is not considered discriminatory, right? So 
the regulation for women to wear skirts in West Aceh must also be 
respected," he said.

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