INDONESIA: Rights Rollback for Religious Minorities, Women, HRW says

Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Jakarta Post
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Human Rights

Indonesian women and religious minorities have faced heightened discrimination as a result of the government's failure to enforce human rights protections in 2013, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says in its World Report 2014.

The Indonesian government under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono should reverse course and enforce laws protecting religious freedom, the New York-based non-governmental advocacy organization further said.

“President Yudhoyono is all talk and no action when he faces government officials and militant groups who are intent on curbing the rights of women and religious minorities,” HRW deputy Asia director Phelim Kine in a statement made available to The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

“Unless Yudhoyono takes decisive action in the final months of his presidency in 2014, his legacy will be marred by his failure to defend the rights of all Indonesians,” Kine added.

The HRW said Indonesia should amend or abolish hundreds of local bylaws that discriminate against women and religious minorities.

“The government should also release dozens of political prisoners, mostly Papuan and Moluccan activists, who were imprisoned for peaceful dissent,” it said.

In the 667-page world report, which is its 24th edition, HRW reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. It is said militant Sunni Islamist groups, such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), have frequently threatened or attacked religious minority communities with impunity.

“Yet, Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi praised the FPI as a potential ‘national asset', on Oct.25, 2013,” HRW said in the statement.

The National Commission on Violence against Women reported in August that both central and local governments in Indonesia had passed 60 new discriminatory regulations in 2013, in addition to 282 similar rules already on the books. These include 79 local bylaws requiring women to wear the hijab, or head scarf.