Editorial (The Jakarta Post)
Mon, August 29, 2022
For the first time, Indonesia, dubbed the world’s third-largest democracy, will hold general elections – the presidential and parliamentary elections – and nationwide regional elections in the same year. It takes place in 2024 and will perhaps be one of the biggest democratic events of the year that will be followed closely by people around the world.
Indonesia has held six national elections and hundreds of local elections, where every vote counts, since 1999 to elect the president, deputies, governors, regents and mayors in a relatively democratic manner. But in most cases men have won public office.
Although women make up nearly half the population, they have traditionally been underrepresented in elected positions, including in the House of Representatives — even after Indonesia introduced at least 30 percent female parliamentary candidates for every political party that contests elections over a decade ago.
Female MPs currently make up 20.8 percent of the 575 seats in the House of Representatives, up slightly from 17 percent in 2014. But the 30 percent mark has remained elusive.
More recently, Speaker of the House Puan Maharani pledged to empower women to be more actively involved in politics, saying she believes Indonesia will see more women regional leaders and a female president again in 2024.
Many have expected the ruling Indonesian Struggle Democratic Party (PDI-P) to nominate Puan in the presidential race. If elected, she will emulate her mother Megawati Soekarnoputri, Indonesia’s first female president and current matriarch of the PDI-P, which has the mandate to select the party’s candidates for national and local elections.
In recent months, Puan and the PDI-P have stepped up efforts to raise their public profile, particularly to appeal to female voters. She has lobbied for two bills that particularly affect women: the Mother and Child Welfare Act and the Sexual Violence Act, which were passed in April.
However, political representation of women in the House of Representatives or in public office should not be just about quotas or numbers.
Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Bintang Puspayoga has called on everyone to fight for women’s representation in legislatures, either at national or regional level, so that they can bring a gender perspective to the legislative process.
Indeed, many expect that the representation of women in politics would further promote equality and more gender-sensitive politics, or at least stimulate conversations about reproductive rights, childcare and many other policies that predominantly affect women, such as education, jobs and protection for domestic workers.
The country’s gender gap is particularly visible in the workplace. A 2020 study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) showed that there is a lack of women at the decision-making level of Indonesian companies, with only 20 percent of the 400 companies surveyed having top female executives.
We need a lot more encouragement for more women to run for public office. And as the election approaches, women – and political parties – must work to join the race.
It is true that Puan’s eligibility scores lag far behind potential male candidates. So are other potential candidates such as East Java Governor Khofifah Indar Parawansa and Social Affairs Minister Tri “Risma” Rismaharini.
But among the 133.5 million women in the country there must be many female figures who can really break the glass ceiling in politics in 2024, if not in the next five years.