Female representation in the legislature remains low, especially in the eastern part of Indonesia, despite increases from election to election, says a minister.
The matter was disclosed by Women's Empowerment and Child Protection State Minister Linda Amalia Sari Gumelar in a meeting on prospective female legislators capacity building for the 2014 legislative election, held jointly by the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection State Ministry Office and the Home Ministry in Makassar, South Sulawesi, recently.
The event involved more than 100 prospective female legislators from various political parties in South Sulawesi. Linda said the eastern part of the country was home to 117 regencies and municipalities in 10 provinces. Of the number, 19 regencies and municipalities are represented by between six and nine female councillors at the legislature, 47 regencies and municipalities represented by between five and seven female councillors and 40 regencies and municipalities represented by one or two female legislators.
“In fact, 11 regencies and municipalities in eastern Indonesia had no female representation in the legislature during the 2009 election,” said Linda.
She added that 51 regencies and municipalities would likely lack female representation at the legislature due to intertemporal changes of representatives.
Home Ministry director general of Politics and National Unity Andi Tanribali Lamo shared a similar perspective. According to him, in the 1999 election, female representation in the House of Representatives stood at 9 percent and gradually rose to 11 percent in the 2004 election and 18 percent in the 2009 election. “However, it's still far from our target,” said Andi.
The small proportion of women in the legislature, said Linda, was due to women's limited political access, especially in terms of networking and campaign budgeting.
On the other hand, political parties have yet to show serious commitment to encouraging women to become legislators.
“Apparently, there is a regulation that requires political parties to meet the minimum quota of 30 percent in submitting a prospective legislator. But female candidates are not placed in the central numerical order, so they fail to qualify. So female presence in the legislature remains low,” said Linda.
Consequently, she added, political parties should show their commitment to increasing the proportion of females in the legislature not only during the registration of prospective legislators but as they attempted to reach the 30 percent quota.
Linda said increasing the number of female representatives in the legislature, especially in the eastern part of Indonesia, was critical as the human development, gender building and gender empowerment indices had remained low.
“South Sulawesi, for instance. Based on the National Statistics Agency data, the human development index in that province is ranked 19, gender development index is ranked 27 and gender empowerment index is ranked at 20 of the 33 provinces. This has raised our concern,” added Linda.
Besides low female presence in politics, according to Andi voter participation also remains low and has further dropped from one election to another.
“Voter turnout during legislative elections as well as regional leadership elections remains low. Voter turnout in some provinces is as low as 25 percent. In Java, where the population is very big, voter participation is less than 50 percent,”
He said low voter turnout was due to monotony and public apathy, as in the past five years, members of the public have been asked to vote in five elections — village chief, regency/municipality, gubernatorial, legislative and presidential elections.