The political changes in Indonesia in 1999, which marked the fall of the New Order regime, were not followed by a change of paradigm. Even the “regime reforms” in power until today show a continuation of the New Order regime. The “handover” of power from the military’s dual function hegemony (dwifungsi in Indonesian) to political parties only managed to carry out successful elections, but has failed to achieve true democracy. Liberal democracy has become an “electocracy” (elected bureaucracy) controlled by oligarchy groups.
Therefore, despite freedom of the press and the proliferation of political parties, there have not been social and cultural changes. The political movement to remove the quota of thirty percent female representation in parliament gained little support. Because political parties are unwilling to support female candidates, women are used as messengers in parliament. This is evident in the lack of female parliamentarians who properly understand the issues of women in a social structure that is built within a neo-liberal economic climate.
No doubt, the problems of women (and girls), as happened previously, did not move and did not experience any progress, though the state has created some regulations on issues relating to women (and children). Considering socio-political development until now, it can be predicted that in five to ten years into the future the situation with regard to the problems of women and children may not be changed or at least not yet showing signs of change.
Crucial Problems for Women and Children
Bad economic conditions certainly have a worse impact on women and children among the lower layers of society – those who live in rural, sub-urban areas on the outskirts of town and in villages and urban villages. The economic burdens of the family that are not resolved by the main breadwinner (a role which has always played by a man in a patriarchal culture), result in a double burden on women. These circumstances mean women have to overcome the problem of family needs. Gradually this results in children getting less attention and care in the family. Additionally, the high “cost” of education might lead them to a worse life (dirty and dangerous).
On the other hand, with difficulties in the public domain, men as heads of the household are often faced with psychological pressures. In these circumstances, usually gradually, he will vent his frustration at home – and the wife and her children will fall victim to the resentment. Domestic violence potentially occurs in this situation.
In the demand to be able to meet the economic needs of the family, too, many women enter the public domain, either as domestic workers (Pekerja Rumah Tangga or PRT in Indonesian) and migrate overseas to find work. This connection is noteworthy as the entry of women into the public domain is not caused by increased cultural awareness to remove themselves from the domestic domain, but because of necessity. As with the above, then gradually the children will experience the same problem.
Meanwhile in the public domain, women are also not in a safe position. They face physical and psychological abuse, rape and murder. There are a lot of cases of such violence in the public sector. So in addition to violence in the home (domestic violence), women also face violence in the public domain. Similarly, the children, in addition to the threat of domestic violence, also face the threat of violence when they are out of the house. Schools should give a sense of security, however in some cases violence has occurred – such as sexual abuse committed by teachers and fellow schoolmates.
The Relevance of Women and Children’s Protection Programs
Seeing the above issues and trends that will not end, new forms of action to protect women and children are needed. Taking into account the intensity and the number of cases, direct action case management and short-term measures of prevention are urgently needed. In parallel an integrated approach should also be created with a strategic program for change.
In this regard, family or group economic development programs should be considered. Without considering the cultural factors, instead of liberating women from the threat of violence, precisely the opposite effect will occur – gender equality will not to be achieved, but it plunges women into double burden.
In an atmosphere of electoral politics, political institutions such as political parties, parliament (national and local) and executive bodies focus on matters from election to election. Thus, matters of violence against women and children is not on their minds or agenda. Therefore, the limits of political advocacy must be recognized. Advocacy done solely to create a record may be useful later after changes or regime changes are made.
Mitra Wacana’s Focus Areas
Mitra Wacana WRC, as an institution that cares about women’s issues, should be involved in current issues, without ignoring the long-term strategic issues. For its part, Mitra Wacana WRC will locate its position as a medium, both in terms of knowledge and as a social force. In its position as a medium of knowledge, Mitra Wacana WRC will be a bridge between the ideas of gender equality and egalitarianism, based on social realities that are still fraught with gender bias and the remnants of patriarchal culture. While in its position as a social force, Mitra Wacana WRC will take direct action in the form of direct handling, interventions for prevention, and policy advocacy.
In its position as a medium, Mitra Wacana WRC is not alone, but interacts with other institutions that have the same interests. It should have horizontal relationships within the network. It is intended as a means of strengthening Mitra Wacana’s position as a medium, as well as its expansion as a social force. Further Mitra Wacana WRC programs will be designed based on the focus position as described above.