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Cities hear women's voices on international day

Jakarta Post - March 9, 2011

Andi Hajramurni and Apriadi Gunawan, Medan/Makassar Cities in Indonesia saw women voice various concerns from lax law enforcement to poverty afflicting women at International Women's Day commemorations on Tuesday.

Makassar saw two separate rallies on Tuesday noon while another event was slated for the evening on the 100th anniversary of the international day. Dozens of activists colored the streets in Makassar where demonstrators distributed flowers and bread while voicing their concerns.

"[Female Indonesian migrant workers] have contributed a lot of remittance to this country. But look, the government does not bear an adequate responsibility toward their fate," Bunga Rosi, coordinator of Barisan Perempuan Indonesia's rally, said.

A group of women staged a rally in front of the North Sumatra Council, demanding the government eradicate discrimination and enforce laws that were made to protect women. Jumaida, activist from Perempuan Mahardika said Indonesia had several laws protecting women but she said the laws were paper tigers without real implementation.

Women in Semarang voiced a rather particular concern on the heel of a rape case of a teenager in Jepara, Central Java. Evarisan, director of the Legal Resource Center for Gender Justice and Human Rights, said on Feb. 26, 2011, the court handed down a year and five months in jail for rape defendant LA, 17. Evarisa said LA was not detained.

The group also rallied in front of the High Prosecutors' Office and the High Court in Semarang to demand a more severe punishment for LA, Antara reported Tuesday.

In Jakarta, prominent women activists observed the day gathering to declare a "Community for a Just and Egalitarian Indonesia".

"A hundred years after the establishment of International Women's Day, there has not been much change. For the poor, the condition remains. We have seen the birth of Musdah Mulia, Sri Mulyani and stateswomen like Megawati [Soekarnoputri]," former lawmaker Nursjahbani Katjasungkana said as quoted by detik.com. "But it does not signify progress. Women are still oppressed and that's a sign that equality and discrimination eradication has yet to be achieved."

Riza Damanik of the People's Coalition for Fisheries Justice Indonesia, said many Indonesian women working in the fishery sector still lacked adequate protection, whereas they were the backbone of their families' economy amid sharp increases in food prices.

Citing an example, he said that women living in Tasikagung village, a fishing village in Rembang, Central Java, had contributed almost half to the total family income. The hard work was not translated into fair rewards, however, Riza said. "Many women living in almost 10,000 coastal villages across the country have limited or no access to education, health and empowerment activities," Riza said in a statement.

UN resident coordinator in Indonesia El-Mostafa Benlamlih said Tuesday that improved gender equality was key to sustainable development, including the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the aid effectiveness agenda.

"Women's empowerment, together with the protection of the rights of women and girls, is the cornerstone of the development agenda," he said in a statement sent to The Jakarta Post. He said countries that invested in women had greater returns on the development of their economies and societies.

The UN Country Team in Indonesia, he said, was strengthening its commitment to gender equality and human rights for women and girls. "We have just launched a groundbreaking joint program to combat violence against women and girls in Papua," said Benlamlih. (ebf)

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