Commemorating International Women’s Day
Towards Justice through Gender Equality and Awareness
[Jakarta] 19 March 2021 – International Women’s Day, commemorated internationally every year on 8 March, is a tradition started in 1908 when more than 15.000 women marched to demand shorter working hours, good wages and voting rights in New York.1
On the occasion of this important day, a campaign was organised by Yayasan Perlindungan Insani Indonesia (YPII), the Institute for Women Empowerment (IWE) and www.Konde.co – with the support of the Government of Canada – to promote the importance of the role of Women Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) in Indonesia. This collaborative project’s aim is to raise awareness among public opinion about the issues Women Human Rights Defenders have and to encourage the government to provide them protection and health insurance.
So far, the Declaration on the Rights and Responsibilities of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognised Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (known as the 1998 Declaration on Human Rights Defenders) has not been widely recognized by the public. Besides, protection mechanisms for human rights defenders are still weak and there has been no explicit recognition of human rights defenders as referred to in the 1998 Declaration of Human Rights Defenders.
To this day, women’s groups in Indonesia, especially WHRDs, are still in a vortex of increasingly complex threats and violence. In terms of regulations2, the State has provided, through statutory regulations1, awareness measures to protect women, together with institutional mechanisms, such as the Ministry of PPPA, the National Human Rights Institutions (Komnas HAM in Bahasa Indonesia) and the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan in Bahasa Indonesia). Still, threats and violence against women, especially women human rights defenders, are increasingly concerning in the field.
The 13 documentary films about WHRDS’ experiences documented in the programme testimony many of these violent facts. The situation of those WHRDs, coming from various sectors and regions, shows the way threats and violence continue to this day: criminalisation, harassment, coercion, stigmatisation, social and political discrimination, intimidation, digital attacks, prohibition of creating a home worker union, sexual harassment, impunity for perpetrators, sexual violence, terror, destruction of property (such as business premises) and death threats.
The 13 WHRDs’ stories told in the documentary films produced are those of women who incessantly fight for human rights.
- Masnuah is a member of the Indonesian Fisherwomen Association
- Rosnida Sari, fights for the Right to Freedom of Belief and Religion within the academic sector
- Yertin Ratu is involved in anti-corruption and agrarian reform issues
- Martheda Esterlina Selan is both an educator and a WHRD struggling for the rights of indigenous people
- Ninik Kusniati fights against gender-based violence
- Ernawati is a pro-democracy, human rights and women activist
- Jumiyem struggles for the rights of Domestic Workers
- Nurul Aini / Paini advocates for the Environment and for land rights
- Lilis M Usman is a Labour Women Human Rights defender
- Rasminah works against child marriage and in favour of girls and women’s empowerment
- Yuyun Agustina is an environment and disaster women Human Rights Defenders
- Syamsiah supports the rights of people with disability
- Sultinah fights sexual harassment in the workplace.
The stories of the WHRDs are very diverse: some start as victims of injustice, discrimination or gender-based violence, others found themselves dealing with big corporations or with grief due to a disaster and then became WHRD – some even women leaders. Some others, after the experience they lived, now accompany those who are oppressed by injustices.
Apart from launching the documentary films, this programme has also organised a video contest for the public and young people about WHRD, which was held in February 2021. This competition is a way to show appreciation to WHRDs’ work and to inspire all parties to increase their capacity and awareness about the urgency for WHRDs protection in Indonesia
During the video competition, which received 18 documentary videos by the participants, the jury, composed of Luviana, from Konde.co, Theresia Sri Endras Iswarini, Komnas Perempuan Commissioner, YPII’s Farhad Shameel and Raihana Diani (IWE) chosed three winners:
- “The Struggle of Alexa”, by Gina Nurohmah.
- “A story of struggle from the Kendeng Mountain Range”, by Lena Sutanti.
- “Giving voice to the voiceless”, by Doni Chairullah.
The jury also bestowed a special mention to:
- “Women Human Rights Defenders in Papua”, created by the Women and Children Team, LBH Papua.
- “Challenges of Women Human Rights Defenders in the digital era”, by Luh Made Kristianti, Shevierra Damadiyah and Irfan Marzuki.
In general, all these films and videos contribute to cast a light on the threats experienced by WHRDs in Indonesia. Previously, the situation of threats and violence from WHRDs was also confirmed by the findings of Komnas Perempuan. 436 cases of human rights violations (occurred in 19 forms of violence) were recorder by its 2017 Study of Women Human Rights Defenders, based on the testimony of 58 WHRDs.
According to the records of the YPII, in 2019 35 women human rights defenders were criminalised, however there were six WHRDs who got the clemency, including Baiq Nuril who got it from the Indonesian President himself. The threats and violence above could threaten and target everyone speaking about human rights, especially on gender equality. Thus, the issue of human rights and including women’s human rights will become meaningless symbols and will become normative texts without implementation. Justice and equality, which are the ideals for all humankind, will become increasingly difficult to achieve.
On International Women’s Day, we want to share hopes and recommendations for the advancement, through equality and gender awareness, of human civilisation towards justice. We urge the cooperation of all stakeholders to:
- Increase regulations on the protection of women victims and health insurance guarantee, especially of WHRDs, to be more mechanical and operational and provide health insurance.
- Conduct outreach and hold educational activities for all elements of government agencies as well as for the public regarding the urgency of health protection and insurance.
- Providing legal, physical and psychological assistance, on an ongoing basis, to women victims, including women human rights defenders, to help them to overcome their challenges.
Institut for Women Empowerment (IWE) – Yayasan Perlindungan Insani Indonesia – www.Konde.co
Contact: Kristina – +62.812.8798.9690
2 Such as the Constitution Article 28 C paragraph (2), the guarantee of protection for human rights defenders is not explicit; Articles 100 – 103 of the Human Rights Law Number 39/1999 on community participation, and others.