Women in Indonesia

Women in Indonesia

Indonesian women often run small business to support their family, such as traders in marketplace or as street vendors.
Gender Inequality Index
Value 0.494 (2012)
Rank 106th
Maternal mortality (per 100,000) 220 (2010)
Women in parliament 18.2% (2012)
Females over 25 with secondary education 36.2% (2010)
Women in labour force 51.2% (2011)
Global Gender Gap Index[1]
Value 0.6613 (2013)
Rank 95th out of 144

The roles of Indonesian women today are being affected by many factors, including increased modernisation, globalisation, improved education and advances in technology. Many women in Indonesia choose to reside in cities instead of staying in townships to perform agricultural work because of personal, professional, and family-related necessities, and economic requirements. These women are moving away from the traditional dictates of Indonesian culture, wherein women act simply and solely as wives and mothers. At present, the women of Indonesia are also venturing actively into the realm of national development, and working as active members of organisations that focus and act on women's issues and concerns.[2][3]


Kartini school in early 20th century.

In Indonesian society, women performed vital roles both within or outside the family. In rural native society, certain positions, such as dukun beranak (traditional midwife), traditional healer, to ritualist and shaman are often held by women. Despite their roles seems to being reduced, if not rather confined, after the adoption of somewhat patriarchal cultures of Hinduism, Buddhism, to Islam and Christianity, women still hold important position, especially within family. The Minangkabaus are known as one of the few traditional society that applied matriarchal culture, where property and family names is inherited from mother to daughter, and husband is considered as "guest" in their wives' household.[4]

In Indonesian history, there are records of some prominent women that held and exercised considerable power and influences within their society, despite usually reserved only for elite ruling class. Among others are Queen Shima of Kalingga Kingdom (c. 7th century), Pramodhawardhani of Medang Kingdom (c. 9th century), Mahendradatta of Bali (c. 10th century), Ken Dedes of Singhasari (c. 13th century), also queens of Majapahit (c. 13th-15th century); Gayatri Rajapatni, Tribhuwana Wijayatunggadewi and Suhita. Sultanate of Aceh also recorded several sultanahs ever ruled the sultanate.

The women emancipation movement was started in late 19th century colonial Dutch East Indies, when a handfull of upperclass native woman advocated for women's rights and education for women. These women's right pioneers are Kartini of Jepara and Dewi Sartika of Bandung, both of them established school for girls, and has been recognized as the national heroine of Indonesia.[5](p5)

In 2001, Megawati Sukarnoputri—then serving as Vice President—became the first female president of Indonesia after the removal of President Abdurrahman Wahid.[5](p1)

Health and welfare

President Sukarno with leaders of the Indonesian Women's Congress in June 1950.

Many pregnant women in Indonesia do not have the financial capability to pay for hospital deliveries and birthing by Caesarean section, because of disproportionate salaries and medical expenses. Thus, these women require the support and assistance of "birth sanctuaries" that provide "free prenatal care, birthing services and medical aid", such as the Yayasan Bumi Sehat (Healthy Mother Earth Foundation) health clinics established by Robin Lim, an American midwife, in 2003. Such 24-hour nativity havens, mostly located in Bali and Aceh, help Indonesian women to escape the common practice of private hospitals in Indonesia that entails detaining newborn infants until medical bills are fully remunerated by the birth mothers.[6]

Nonetheless, the economy now seems to be improving (high GDP growth in 2012 as high as 6.2%)[7] and some programs had been done by the government to help promote the health and welfare of women and child. A ministry that especially concerns in the field had been established for a long time since the regime of the late President Suharto during the New Order.[8]


After a surge of foreign multinational investors began investing in Indonesia during the 1970s, many Indonesian women became the "prime workforce" and a source of cheap labourers in manufacturing businesses.[3] In the 1990s, some women in Indonesia, including adolescents and the homeless, resorted to engage in employment as sex workers and housemaids due to financial hardship. Some of the women who were forced into such work opted to go abroad, into countries such as Saudi Arabia and Thailand. Some have since become victims of torture, sexual abuse, murder, illegal detention, rape, sodomy, and other forms of sexual assault. Health-wise, as a consequence of becoming prostituted by human traffickers, some have contracted HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.[9]

Sri Mulyani Indrawati, an influential Indonesian economist, currently Minister of Finance.

Indonesia was one of the few countries in the world to have a female president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. In 2012, 18% of national parliament representatives were held by women.[10] Tri Rismaharini is one example of the rising numbers of female leaders throughout Indonesia. More and more women are becoming scholars, as in schools proven that female students in the recent years excels more than their male competitors. The ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary schools is also even as of 2013.[11]

More scholarships awarded by the Indonesian government (and some other institutions other than the government) were given to women, and resulted in higher achievement in their later life. In most major cities like Jakarta and Surabaya, the educated female workforce tends to postpone the marital age and girls who finish secondary school are six times less likely to marry early.[10]

Indonesian women could be making considerable shifts to national employment - women currently hold 33% of non-agricultural employment as they also work in the prestigious and traditionally male-dominated field such as architecture, medicine, and engineering.[12] Indonesian women has pursued various line of works and some has excell in their career. Prominent women figure including economists such as Sri Mulyani Indrawati and Mari Elka Pangestu, Olympic gold medalist sportswomen such as Susi Susanti and Liliyana Natsir, to activists such as Butet Manurung and Yenny Wahid.

Sexual harassment and women-only transport

An Indonesian railway company, PT Kereta Api, introduced women-only carriages on some KRL Jabotabek commuter trains in the Jakarta metropolitan area from August 2010 in response to many reports of sexual harassment in public places, including commuter trains and buses. [13]

The women-only carriages on commuter trains are usually denoted by large pink or purple stickers, which read "Kereta Khusus Wanita", and are located at each end of the train. This kind of carriage was previously only able to be found on air-conditioned EMUs, but a number of recently repaired non-air conditioned EMUs have also been equipped with the women-only carriage stickers.

Recently, PT Kereta Api launched a special women-only train (the train itself uses an ex-Tokyo Metro 6000 series EMU, set number 6107F), which intended as further protection for female passengers from sexual harassment. To give difference from standard EMUs (which only provides women-only carriages on each end of the train), the women-only train had all of its cars decorated with large "Kereta Khusus Wanita" stickers coloured purple or pink. Since 1 October 2012, PT Kereta Api Indonesia (Persero) Commuter Jabodetabek launch the women-only trains.[14] This practice ended in May 2013 after reports found that mixed-use cars were overcrowded during rush hour while women's only cars were underutilized.[15]

See also



  1. "The Global Gender Gap Report 2013" (PDF). World Economic Forum. pp. 12–13.
  2. Ingham, Xylia (2005). "Career Women in Indonesia: Obstacles Faced, and Prospects for Change". Australian Consortium for 'In-Country' Indonesian Studies. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  3. 1 2 Ahmad, Abdul Razak (29 December 1998). "Redefining the role of women in Indonesia". New Straits Times. Third World Network. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  4. Rathina Sankari (22 September 2016). "World's largest matrilineal society". BBC.
  5. 1 2 Kathryn May Robinson; Sharon Bessell (2002). Women in Indonesia: Gender, Equity and Development, Volume 8 dari Indonesia assessment series. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 9789812301581.
  6. Ruffins, Ebonne (10 March 2011). "CNN Heroes: 'Mother Robin' delivers for poor women in Indonesia". CNN. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  7. http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/indonesia
  8. http://www.indonesia.go.id/in/kementerian/kementerian/kementerian-negara-pemberdayaan-perempuan-dan-perlindungan-anak/1647-profile/274-kementerian-pemberdayaan-perempuan-dan-perlindungan-anak
  9. "Indonesia". Coalition Against Trafficking in Women. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
  10. 1 2 Bachelet, Michelle. "Women are integral part of Indonesian success". UN Women. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  11. "Ratio of girls to boys in primary and secondary education (%)". The World Bank. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  12. "Share of women employed in the nonagricultural sector (% of total nonagricultural employment)". The World Bank. Retrieved 18 November 2013.
  13. Indonesia Railway Company Launches Women-Only Carriages
  14. First Operation of Women-Only Train in Indonesia
  15. http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/news/world/542689/indonesian-women-only-trains-are-scrapped.html

Further reading

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