Hans Nicholas Jong, Jakarta – In conjunction with the recent International Women's Day, the government has laid out its plans to protect Indonesian women from violence, with this year's focus being on the eastern part of the country.
Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohana Susana Yembise said on Tuesday that the eastern part of the country, especially Papua, needed special attention from the government as it had long been neglected in many respects.
"My attention has shifted to that area at the moment," Yohana said during an event held to commemorate International Women's Day in Central Jakarta.
Data from the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) in 2013 showed that Papua had a high prevalence of violence against women, with 1,360 cases reported for every 10,000 women in the province.
Domestic violence made up 56 percent of the cases, followed by sexual violence with 24 percent and trafficking of women at 18 percent.
While Jakarta has a higher rate of violence against women, with 1,699 cases in every 10,000 women, the ministry said that the figure was higher in the capital because women could have their reports heard compared to women in Papua.
Yohana, who is the first female minister from Papua, blamed patriarchy for violence against women in Papua. "We are living in a male-dominated society," said Yohana.
Regina Muabuay from the Rising Papua Women Coalition said that the patriarchal culture of Papua had prevented women from achieving their true potential.
"So when there is a woman who has goals or ambitions, sometimes men will not approve of that due to tradition," she said on Tuesday.
The tendency for Papuans to maintain their traditions also resulted in poor law enforcement. "Because people perceive tradition as higher than the law, when someone reports a case to the police, they will ask that person to settle the case amicably through tradition first," Regina said.
There is also a tradition where men give dowries to their brides, which results in men feeling that they are entitled to women. "So when men hit their wives, they feel it is acceptable since they have already 'paid' for their wives," said Regina.
Some men reportedly cannot accept the fact that their wives earn more than they do. "Men who abuse their spouses usually lack confidence. They could be offended by income disparity," University of Indonesia (UI) psychologist Rose Mini said on Tuesday.
Yohana said that she planned to roll out programs to change the patriarchal system in Papua to make it more flexible, although it is not yet clear how she would do that.
Yohana also said she would tackle the wide distribution of alcoholic beverages in Papua, which she suspected of having contributed to the high prevalence of violence against women. "There is a need to control the distribution of alcohol in Papua," she said.
Yohana also said she would take initiatives to prevent domestic violence cases in Papua by handling the problem of women's trafficking.
"Trafficking of women in Papua has destroyed the fabric of families in Papua. Women trafficked to Papua ended up being mistresses and after I investigated the cases, these women came from Manado, North Sulawesi," she said. "I need to go to Manado to meet religious leaders and regional government and ask them to stop sending young girls to Papua."