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Experts of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women commend universal health care coverage in Indonesia, note remaining challenges to women's rights

29 October 2021

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women today concluded its consideration of the eighth periodic report of Indonesia, with its Experts commending the provision of universal health care coverage and noting remaining challenges to women's rights in the country, including the reportedly high rates of female genital mutilation.

A Committee Expert commended Indonesia for the comprehensive health care coverage which had been instituted in the country.  What was being done to protect women from maternal mortality?  Another Expert asked about the current legal status of female genital mutilation in Indonesia, noting that according to the Committee's information, it was one of the top three countries with the highest rates of female genital mutilation.  Experts also asked about relatively low levels of female representation in politics, and whether special temporary measures could be envisaged to remedy the situation.  The situation of indigenous women and girls, as well as women's rights in the formal and informal labour force, were also topics of the dialogue. 

The delegation of Indonesia noted that through a series of reviews involving stakeholders, including civil society, the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Human Rights had identified legislation that was considered intolerant and discriminatory, and which needed to be revised.  As for the trend of an increase in gender-based violence online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it could not be separated from the rise in the use of social media platforms. 

I Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, Minister of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia and head of the delegation, presenting the report, detailed the severe effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the situation of women in Indonesia, noting that it had caused serious setbacks to development progress and that restrictive measures risked bringing about violence against women and girls.  The Indonesian Government's response had included an intensive vaccination effort, leading the country to emerge as a global leader in vaccination. 

A speaker from the National Human Rights Institution of Indonesia noted that it had created a team to encourage the Government to protect human rights defenders, adding that progress in the promotion of women’s rights in Indonesia had been possible through cooperation between the State and civil society. 

The delegation of Indonesia was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection; the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Cultural Affairs; the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology; the Ministry of Law and Human Rights; the Ministry of Home Affairs; the Ministry of National Development Planning; the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Ministry of Finance; the Ministry of Social Affairs; the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Labour; the National Statistic Agency; the Ministry of Religion; the National Population and Family Planning Agency; the Indonesian National Armed Force; the Indonesian National Police; the National Task Force for Covid-19 Response; the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology; the Supreme Court; the Provincial Government of Papua; the Provincial Government of West Papua; the Provincial Government of Aceh; and the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women’s eightieth session is being held from 18 October to 12 November.  All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found on the session’s webpage.  The meeting summary releases prepared on the public meetings of the Committee can be found here.  The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.

The Committee will next meet at 3 p.m. on Friday, 29 October, to conclude its consideration of the tenth periodic report of Ecuador (CEDAW/C/ECU/10). 
Report
The Committee has before it the eighth periodic report of Indonesia (CEDAW/C/IDN/8). 

Presentation of the Report

I GUSTI AYU BINTANG DARMAWATI, Minister for Women's Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia and head of the delegation, said today's dialogue reflected Indonesia's commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Despite the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia had continued its established practice of involving relevant ministries, human rights institutions, academia and civil society organizations, and all other relevant stakeholders in the reporting process.  Indonesia was the fourth-most populous country in the world with an estimated population of around 270 million, living on more than 16,000 islands.  Gender mainstreaming strategies had been integrated into Indonesia's development strategies, and its human rights strategy included women as a priority target group.

The Indonesian Government had five priority areas, including enhancing women’s empowerment in entrepreneurship; increasing the role of mothers in children’s education, reducing violence against women and children; reducing child labour; and prevention of child marriage.  Facilitating access to education for women was important, as was facilitating economic participation through access to financial services and increasing digital literacy.  At the international level, Indonesia was strongly committed to gender equality, as demonstrated through its support for the Beijing Declaration and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.  Progress on addressing challenges, including the implementation of the Committee's recommendations, had been addressed in the report now before the Committee.  Strengthening the normative framework on the protection of women and girls, enhancement of the economic capacity for women, and promoting the rights of women and girls with disabilities, were among the areas of work. 

Emerging challenges spurred Indonesia to search for creative solutions, the Minister said, reviewing the COVID-19 pandemic situation in the country.  Its effects were unquestionable and had caused serious setbacks to development progress.  It remained a global challenge.  The Indonesian Government's response had included an intensive vaccination effort, leading the country to emerge as a global leader in vaccination.  It aimed to reach 200 million people by the end of 2021.  The Indonesian Government was not losing sight of its cautious and anticipatory policies in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  The multiple and disproportionate effect of the pandemic on women and girls was beyond question, and for a country like Indonesia, it meant the pandemic had severely affected 133 million women nationally. 

Social protection programmes were important when economic recession took place, the Minister noted. 
To address the increasing cases of domestic violence during the implementation of some restriction measures, the police had stepped up existing efforts to address the issue in accordance to the health protocol during the pandemic.  The provision of special assistance for women, children, and the elderly included nutritional assistance and the provision of personal protective equipment.  It was an unfortunate fact that the pandemic had caused around 140,000 fatalities.  The Government had increased the expenditure of social protection programmes to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic.  Special attention was given to women micro-entrepreneurs, including through measures enabling them to produce masks as a temporary measure during the pandemic.  Millions of micro-enterprises had benefited from assistance programmes. 

The COVID-19 pandemic had caused Indonesia to redouble its efforts to assist the most vulnerable populations.  The dialogue would show Indonesia's commitment to women, and the delegation stood ready to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Committee.  Considering the importance of the global commitment to uphold the rights of women and girls, Indonesia encouraged the Committee to cooperate more with other treaty bodies.  

GRATA ENDAH WERDANINGTYAS, Chargé d'Affaires, Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Indonesia would continue to advance multilateralism to enable all States parties to adapt and evolve on an equal footing.  What was needed was a sincere global partnership and a constructive dialogue.  Women's issues had become second nature in Indonesia's diplomacy.  Indonesia had initiated action in the Security Council on women and peacekeeping.  As an example, she cited the protection of women migrant workers as a priority of Indonesia.  Indonesia was determined to promote women representatives in various international bodies; a third of its Mission staff were women, representing the future of Indonesia's diplomacy.  Indonesia's investment in the core values of the Convention was well-spent, she said. 

National Human Rights Institution of Indonesia said it had a specific mandate to eliminate violence against women.  Its work comprised compiling data on reported cases, and information regarding discriminatory bylaws in the name of religion and majority rule at regional levels, among other issues.  It had also created a team to encourage the Government to protect human rights defenders.  The progress achieved in the promotion of women’s rights in Indonesia had been possible through multi-stakeholder coordination and cooperation between the State and civil society.  There was a need to revise the Criminal Code in Aceh that reduced legal protection for women and children.  Recurring incidents of violence in Papua, as well as natural resources-based conflicts and their impact on the indigenous community, were also areas of concern. 

Questions from a Committee Expert

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, asked the delegation about legislation criminalising all same-sex relations, asking whether all discriminatory laws would be repealed?  Women were required to cover their bodies, and there was a practice of forced veiling.  Those practices violated women's human rights.  Virginity testing amounted to sexual assault, she noted, asking whether Indonesia's Ministry of Health would condemn virginity tests?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said the Government of Indonesia fully understood the limitations of the Penal Code, which was adopted from the Netherlands.  The Penal Code bill had preventive and restorative aspects, and non-governmental organizations had been invited to provide input.  The bill had to be in line with the needs of Indonesia's domestic constituency.  The questions put by the Committee would be taken as input into the bill.  It was hoped that discriminatory local regulations would cease to appear.  Regarding the criminalisation of same-sex regulations, that would also be looked at in the drafting of the Penal Code bill.  As for the use of the hijab, schools could not oblige their students to wear the hijab.  Students had a right to decide which uniform to wear, in accordance with their religion or belief. 

Indonesia had consistently taken efforts so women were not subjected to discrimination, including in the context of virginity tests.  The National Police had excluded virginity-related matters from health requirements since 2016.  There had not been any complaints as regards health examinations for candidates for National Police members.  As regards the armed forces, the recruitment of soldiers did not include a virginity test; the health exam was a holistic exam, including mental health.  The test was done to guarantee that when a soldier was taken on, they were healthy in body, mind and spirit. 

Indonesia had mechanisms to ensure that regional regulations were in line with national law, including judicial review through the Constitutional and Supreme Courts.  Through a series of reviews involving stakeholders, including civil society, the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Human Rights had identified legislation that was considered intolerant and discriminatory, and which needed to be revised.  

Follow-up Questions from a Committee Expert

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, said numerous cases of intimidation, humiliation and arbitrary arrest on the grounds of sexual orientation had been identified by human rights organizations.  The draft Criminal Code punished extramarital sex.  Would Indonesia communicate that it opposed criminalising sex outside marriage, and same-sex conduct?

Follow-up Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said that if conduct was done based on consent and was not against the law, the legal authorities would not cover that, because it was a very private matter.  More information would be provided in writing. 

Questions from the Committee Experts

LOUIZA CHALAL, Committee Member, asked for an update on the gender equality bill currently moving through Parliament?  How was work coordinated on women's empowerment? 

HIROKO AKIZUKI, Committee Member, noted that the ratio of female parliamentarians was below international targets of 30 per cent; were there plans to introduce special temporary measures to address that?  If so, could the delegation elaborate on those measures?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said special budget allocations were used for the handling and prevention of violence against women and children.  The budget at the central level was gender-responsive to the needs of women.  A working group at the national level for gender mainstreaming included all ministries.  As for the trend of an increase in gender-based violence online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it could not be separated from the rise in the use of social media platforms. 

Indonesia continued to innovate to answer the specific demands of women, the delegation noted.  Human rights institutions in Indonesia worked in the field of the protection of women and children, and their work had produced specific inputs in how policies were designed.  A special detention centre provided protection for women and children who had committed specific crimes.  Indonesia was proud that women's representation in Parliament was increasingly representative. 

As for ensuring women's participation in decision-making, Indonesia tried to strengthen women's rural leadership; village councils had until now been dominated by males.  Those steps could be followed up by local and city governments.  As for special temporary measures to ensure women in all regions were involved in decision-making processes, trainings had been conducted to ensure that female participation in public life was more open and transparent.  There was also affirmative action to ensure and increase the participation of women. 

Follow-Up Question from a Committee Expert

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, asked for information about the budget and human resources allocation for the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection. 

Follow-Up Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said that the Ministry of Women's Empowerment focused on entrepreneurship as well as on survivors of disasters and violence.  Women had to be empowered economically to resolve all other issues. 

Questions from the Committee Experts

BANDANA RANA, Committee Member, asked for a timeline by which the Government would adopt the draft anti sexual violence bill, ensuring rehabilitation for all women and girls, in line with the Committee's recommendations.  As for the COVID-19 pandemic response, it was said that gender-based violence had increased dramatically.  Had women been placed at the centre of Indonesia's response plan?  Indonesia was one of the top three countries with the highest rates of female genital mutilation.  How would Indonesia enact and implement the law to fully prohibit and criminalise all forms of female genital mutilation and circumcision?  Conversion therapy practices targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people were also of concern. 

NÁELA GABR, Committee Member, asked about the situation of domestic workers, noting that the domestic worker protection bill was not listed among the priorities.  On issues of sexual exploitation, it was reported that a form of trafficking involved short-term marriages for young girls; what was being done to combat this?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said the Ministry of Health had implemented a law in 2017 which did not provide that female circumcision was enacted.  There were also guidelines which had been “socialised.”  In response to a question on security, the delegation explained that within the national action plan, efforts aimed to address the radicalisation of women.  An increasing number of young women were being radicalised and joining people disseminating ideology.  The delegation explained that it would expand on answers to the questions posed by means of written follow-up information within 48 hours. 

As for the situation of migrant domestic workers, minimum wage could not be used, as their work was different in scope from that of formal workers.  A task force in 27 provinces aimed to prevent human trafficking, as did awareness-raising programmes in different regions.  Regional regulations aimed to protect people from issues related to contract marriages.  The Government continued to conduct preventive efforts against contract marriages through the extensive examination of foreigners arriving in Indonesia, among other measures. 

Questions from Committee Experts

In follow-up questions, Committee Experts asked the delegation for clarification on national action plans, as well as whether conflict-related sexual violence would be addressed?  As for female genital mutilation, the delegation had only mentioned guidelines; what was being done to change the mind-set of men and boys?  Had there been any study examining efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation?  Indonesia was a country of origin for domestic workers in the Gulf area; how did the State party work to prevent them falling into exploitative situations?  

HIROKO AKIZUKI, Committee Member, noted that the participation of women in politics remained low, and that less information had been provided on women at the decision-making level.  Was there any disaggregated data available on the participation of women in all sectors and at all levels?  Were there measures aimed at increasing the participation of women? 

CORINNE DETTMEIJER-VERMEULEN, Committee Member, asked about rules around women's ability to transmit their Indonesian nationality to their children and partners.  How did the authorities envisage making that situation clearer and removing remaining hurdles?

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, noted that there were eight female ministers mentioned in the current Cabinet of Indonesia.  How many male ministers were there?  As for Parliament, what steps were being taken to reach the quota of 30 per cent representation of women?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said responses to some questions posed would be provided in written form, as requested by the Chair. 

Concerning the participation of women in politics, the delegation said that the number of women in Parliament had increased over the last years, as had the representation of women in government in various provinces.  There had also been female representation on the Supreme Court.  Females had contributed in several sectors of development, and the percentage of professional women had increased from year to year. 

In response to the question on citizenship, the Government had strengthened regulations to ensure children's access to birth certificates.  The Constitutional Court had decided that children born out of wedlock still had legal rights. 

Questions from Committee Expert

TAMADER AL-RAMMAH, Committee Member, asked about the educational situation in Indonesia.  Were targets in education reached?  What steps had been taken to ensure that gender-sensitive teaching materials were included in teacher training materials?  There was not enough information about the number of women in technical training.  Could the delegation shed light on measures taken to increase the number of women in science, technical, and mathematical fields of education?  What measures had Indonesia taken to ensure that girls with disabilities could access education?  Could Indonesia provide information on measures taken to eliminate violence in schools?  Was there adequate training for teachers to help eradicate violence in schools?  Did girls in remote areas have access to education?

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation explained that the Government had prioritised education, adding that teachers were trained to ensure they could provide services for people with disabilities.  There were special classes for people with disabilities.  Indonesia continued to increase women's access to education, while trying to ensure there were no gender disparities, including in the science fields.  As for violence in schools, regulations provided for counselling for victims and sanctions for institutions if they did nothing about the problems.  Through those efforts, it was hoped that violence in schools would decrease.  A regulation said that all books for schools had to be screened for gender stereotypes, and it was hoped that those efforts would eliminate gender bias in education.  

As for infrastructure for people with disabilities, the focus was on counselling to support inclusive education.  Units in the Ministry of Social Affairs focused on the enhancement of vocational capacities for persons with disabilities.  In response to a question on the elimination of bullying in schools, the delegation explained that the Ministry of Women's Empowerment had established child-friendly schools, and also Islamic boarding schools and madrassas that were child-friendly, developing them with related line ministries, including the Ministry of Religion, to prevent bullying happening in those schools.  As for access to education for pregnant girls, schools were not allowed to expel girls who were pregnant.  The Ministry for Education and Culture had a task force to handle those types of situations, working with the education services when problems of violence occurred. 

Questions from Committee Experts

Committee Members, in follow-up questions, asked for more information about the education of girls in rural areas.  They also asked whether any Indonesian laws or policies provided explicit protection for schools and universities from military use during armed conflict?  The answers requested could be provided in writing to the Committee. 

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA, Committee Member, asked about information regarding employment, noting that difficulties remained.  Indonesia was the world's largest producer of palm oil.  What measures were being taken to protect women in that industry?  There were reports of stigma against women with leprosy; what was Indonesia doing to better support their needs, including workplace counselling?  How was paid maternity and paternity leave implemented in practice?  As for health checks for military personnel, reference had been made to a reproductive health check.  Could the delegation clarify that point?

Responses from the Delegation

The delegation said workers with disabilities could enter the labour market.  There were small quotas in the public sector for such workers.  The recruitment of public servants also provided special access for persons with disabilities.  A social enterprise for persons with disabilities had been established in the culinary field, as well as in other areas. 

In response to the question on health checks, the delegation said the military had a rule which was very clear, the regulation around health examination for candidates of the Indonesian armed forces stipulated follow-up by the heads of staff by the army, navy and air force.  In all Indonesia's services, there was no virginity test. 

Questions from Committee Experts

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, asked how Indonesia was protecting the human rights of domestic workers who were not recognised as such, and lived in indecent conditions?  How were migrant domestic workers protected from trafficking?

NATASHA STOTT DESPOJA, Committee Member, thanked the delegation for their response explaining that there were no virginity tests, yet repeated her request for clarification about reproductive health checks for candidates to join the armed forces. 

FRANCELINE TOE BOUDA, Committee Member, asked about health and family planning, commending Indonesia for the comprehensive health care coverage which had been instituted in the country.  What was being done to protect women from maternal mortality?  Was there a possibility for women to have access to risk-free abortion?  Regarding the situation of women in institutions, the Committee had information that women were subjected to forced sterilization and contraception, forced treatment and a lack of support for reproductive health and medical care in general.  What measures would Indonesia take to put an end to all forms of violence against women with a psychosocial disability living in such facilities?

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation said abortion could be conducted in certain situations, primarily in a medical situation posing a severe health risk to the mother, and a situation affecting the life of the baby after it was born.  Secondly, it was practiced due to rape which caused psychological trauma to the victim.  Protection for women with psychosocial disabilities was regulated in a law regarding psychological health.  Those with psychosocial disorders were in an unstable situation, they were stigmatised. 

The delegation spoke about maternal mortality in Indonesia, noting that anaemia affected many pregnant women.  Indonesia was working to strengthen the capacity of doctors as well as prenatal and postnatal treatment. 

Questions from Committee Experts

NAHLA HAIDAR, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked about the situation of women living in extreme poverty.  What was the overall percentage of women working in the informal sector?  Micro-entrepreneurs could participate in financial literacy programmes and training in entrepreneurship; how many women had benefited from such training? 

LIA NADARAIA, Committee Member, asked about the promotion of the human rights of rural women and disadvantaged women, as well as indigenous women.  Deforestation threatened the indigenous populations; what concrete policies recognised indigenous women and their community rights to land and forest?  What steps were being taken to ensure that displaced indigenous communities were provided with compensation and resettlement by companies operating palm oil plantations?  Asylum seekers, refugees and stateless women and girls experienced discriminatory policies and practices in education, livelihood, health and the birth registration system.  They were currently unable to work legally. 

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation noted that some questions were repetitive, adding that some information would be provided in writing.  In response to a question on entrepreneurship, a draft Presidential Regulation was being elaborated governing entrepreneurship which would also cover women entrepreneurs. 

Social protection for women was a national priority, with the main target being mothers, the delegation said.  There were also schemes for older persons and persons with disabilities.  A programme aimed not just to reduce extreme poverty, but also to address housing problems.  Regarding the situation of women in villages, the delegation said the Government had conducted action plans regarding human rights for the last decades.  Target groups included women, children, and persons with disabilities.  Strategic targets in the human rights action plans aimed to give “customary communities” access to services, including legal services. 

Indonesia was not a party to the Refugee Convention of 1951 and was not bound by the stipulations of that convention.  Nevertheless, Indonesia recognised the definition of protection for asylum seekers.  Indonesia aimed to guarantee the basic rights of all refugees, their right to life and health, and shelter and education, among other rights.  Indonesia also ensured that other rights could be fulfilled through cooperation with the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration.  The Indonesian labour law did not recognise the provision of work for refugees. 

Questions from Committee Experts

ROSARIO MANALO, Committee Member, asked what was being done to ensure rural women had access to village funds?  What policies would be adopted to protect indigenous women and their rights to their land and forests?

ELGUN SAFAROV, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked when Indonesia would change the marriage law and related civil code articles?  When would the State party prohibit judicial dispensation from the marriage age, and what steps were being taken so religious courts would not provide dispensation to allow child marriage? 

Replies from the Delegation

The delegation said that regarding child marriages, there had been an increase due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend which had been seen globally.  Marriage by abduction was a part of the culture, but it respected the role of women.  If it was criminal, it was immediately processed by the police.  Polygamy was an exception which was allowed with very strict requirements. 

Concluding Remarks

I GUSTI AYU BINTANG DARMAWATI, Minister of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection of Indonesia and head of the delegation, said the constructive dialogue had been held despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The dialogue was historic, as it was the only Indonesian reporting process during the pandemic, and the Committee was commended for holding it.  The complexity of the issues discussed reflected the dynamic changes in the socio-political environment.  The delegation was pleased the Committee had recognised progress which had been achieved, and appreciated the concern expressed by Committee Experts to challenges which remained in Indonesia.  Women's rights remained a cornerstone of national priorities.  The delegation looked forward to receiving the concluding observations. 

GLADYS ACOSTA VARGAS, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue, which had provided insight into the situation of women in Indonesia.  The Committee commended the State party for its efforts and encouraged it to take all efforts to address the recommendations of the Committee. 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/10/comite-pour-lelimination-de-la-discrimination-legard-des-femmes

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For use of the information media; not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.