Ina Parlina, Jakarta – The Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Ministry is considering a proposal to cut the work hours of women civil servants by two hours per day to give them more time to take care of their children.
The idea was first raised by Vice President Jusuf Kalla last week during a meeting with the Muslim Union (PUI). Currently all civil servants and private employees follow the regular 8 working hours per day.
Administrative and Bureaucratic Reform Minister Yuddy Chrisnadi said on Monday that such a move would be humane. "So that every woman can pay more attention to her family, especially to small children and in the case of newlyweds," Yuddy said on a sidelines of an event at the National Monument on Monday.
Several lawmakers have said they might consider supporting the proposal, while Regional Representatives Council (DPD) deputy speaker Hemas, who is also the sultana of Yogyakarta, says the plan is not a wise answer to the struggles of raising children.
The National Population and Family Planning Agency (BKKBN) is among the supporters of the plan. According to Antara news agency, BKKBN head Fasli Jalal said children would have more time to interact with their mothers, which would be good for their development.
Women activists have rejected the idea. For example, Erna Ratnaningsih of the Legal Aid Foundation of Indonesian Women's Association for Justice (LBH APIK) said such a move would instead close the door to men to participate in raising children by putting the responsibility of children's needs solely on the mothers.
"It is a form of discrimination against women. Both parents share the responsibility of raising the children," she said on Monday. She said the move would hamper efforts at the empowerment of women.
Titi Anggraini, who actively campaigns for women's political rights, said such a plan would only mask the root of the problem.
"The heart of women's issues lies in the matter of whether or not women have access and opportunities, as well as fulfillment of their rights. Therefore, the government must instead address the two problems. For example, by ensuring better wages and maternity leave, as well as providing capacity building opportunities for women."
The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), which has recorded increasing cases of violence against women and children in many areas across the country, also rejected the idea.
Andy Yentriyani of Komnas Perempuan criticized the government for coming up with such an idea, which she said put all the responsibility of ensuring children's development squarely on the shoulders of women.
"Such a move is not the answer. We all need to think about the matter comprehensively; therefore we would be able to give a comprehensive solution," she said.
The government, she added, should be able to see other aspects behind the problem, instead, for example, whether or not the government ensured the fulfillment of the basic needs of mothers.
"We need to remember that both mothers and fathers share the burden," she said. "Instead, such a move seems to make women solely responsible for the family, domestic affairs and children.
"We appreciate the intention to ensure the fulfillment of children's needs. However, it should be done only after considering the all aspects related to the overall issue," Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) chairman Asrorun Ni'am said.
"We don't want to see fewer work hours used for other activities outside their responsibility to fulfill children's needs."