14 April 2012

Power of men blamed for death of women in labor in Indonesia

Jakarta Globe - April 12, 2012

Dessy Sagita – The strong prevailing patriarchal culture is being blamed for the country's high maternal death rate, with some pregnant women missing out on urgent medical care because of a need for consent from a male relative.

Wendy Hartanto, the deputy chief for population control at the National Family Planning Coordinating Board (BKKBN), said that many pregnant women who needed emergency assistance did not receive help because they could not get approval from their husband or father fast enough.

"The problem is that when these women arrive at the health centers, it is often already too late," Wendy said.

He said that women should be given full rights to make their own decisions during emergency situation. "Most mothers died through loss of blood, and in many cases this is preventable and measures would have been taken had the decisions been made fast enough," he said.

He said that in the regions, local culture usually dictates that injured women delegate important decisions to men – husbands and fathers, including whether to seek medical treatment in cases of a problematic pregnancy.

Wendy also said that the bad conditions of local infrastructure, such as bad roads, and difficulties in accessing medical services in regional areas were also to blame for the high death rate among pregnant women. Indonesia has one of the worst maternal death rates in Southeast Asia – even more so than Thailand and Vietnam, he said.

Gender inequality in the region could also affect the education of women in regional areas. "Most often, in a family, the ones prioritized for education are the boys, and girls are usually sidestepped as they are usually designated to provide domestic roles in the kitchen," he said.

Wendy also made the point that by 2020 or 2030, the country's workforce would be so large that the younger generation will have a much more difficult time finding work.

"If this growing demographic change is not accompanied by better standards of productivity and equality, it will become a demographic disaster and an additional burden," he said.

He added that in the labor market, it may become five times more difficult for the younger generation to find work than their older rivals. Data from the BKKBN showed that unemployment among those aged 15 to 29 was at 19.9 percent, higher than the 17.9 percent in Sri Lanka and the 16.2 percent in the Philippines.

Wendy said that 5.3 percent of the unemployed youths were university graduates, while high school graduates accounted for 30 percent and those with a maximum of a junior high school education accounted for 50 percent.

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