Sat, 03 Apr 2004

Mega, Rachma accused of exploiting women

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A feminist has criticized the country's prominent female party leaders for exploiting women in their political campaign.

Salma Safitri of Solidarity for Women (SP), noted that Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is the leader of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle as well as the incumbent president, had recruited erotic dancers and dangdut (a blend of local genre with Indian and Arabic music) performers in her whirlwind campaign in numerous cities across the country.

Salma also lashed out at Megawati's sister Rachmawati Soekarnoputri, who heads the Pioneer Party, for the same reason.

"The two sisters are females but they have no sensitivity toward women and that's why their parties have nominated a scant number of women legislative candidates and have small programs for women's empowerment," she said on Thursday.

Hiring erotic dancers was irrelevant to elections, she said, and it was nothing less than exploitation of women.

Salma also lamented the fact that all election participants had nominated a small number of women legislators.

"Megawati nominated only 31 women legislative candidates and Rachmawati nominated only 26," she said.

A total of 678 legislators at the national level are to be elected in the April 5 elections and thousands of other legislators for provincial and regental/municipality levels.

Yulfa Chindosari, a woman legislative candidate for the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), called on women voters to elect women legislative candidates nominated by their preferred parties. Quality is more important than quantity, she said.

"We should have qualified women legislators to fight for women's political aspirations," she said, referring to 25 qualified women legislative candidates promoted by the Center for Electoral Reform (Cetro) and the Movement of Women Concerned about Indonesia (GPPI).

Maria Pakpahan, a legislative candidate for the National Awakening Party (PKB) from East Nusa Tenggara, pledged to pay more attention to education and health in the province if she were elected in the elections.

"And it is urgent that the high maternal mortality rate and rampant illiteracy among women are addressed in the province," she said.

Salma said the small number of women legislative candidates had a lot to do with political parties' discriminative internal rulings and traditional customs that gave preference to men in strategic positions.

Salma underlined the need for education and the elimination of gender discrimination to empower women in politics.