Sat, 22 Feb 2003

No obligation to field women: Amien

Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) chairman Amien Rais urged women on Friday to work hard to achieve 30 percent representation in the House of Representatives, saying the new election bill would not automatically give them seats.

Amien said provisions in the bill opened the door for greater female representation in the House but did not automatically mean political parties had to comply with it.

Article 65 of the bill stipulates that political parties can propose legislative candidates with regards to female representation of at least 30 percent.

"The word 'can' is very tricky. It means that you may or you may not. It might be a slippery tactic of the male activists in the House," Amien said during a two-day seminar titled "Women and Democratic Political Process" organized by Aisyiyah, Muhammadiyah's women's wing, in Yogyakarta on Friday.

Amien called on Indonesian women not to be complacent with the newly-endorsed election bill as women would still be required to fight for their seats.

"We have to thank God because the legislative, executive and judiciary institutions are now open to women. But the realization depends on the political parties," Amien said.

Aisyiyah chairwoman Chamamah Soeratno urged women to start working to realize adequate female representation.

"We have to start it right now. We cannot delay it," said Chamamah, adding Aisyiyah's aim in holding the seminar was an initial step towards responding to the bill.

"Starting from now, we have to actively collect data on who among the women we know are suitable for the positions. Then we inform the public. That's what the Aisyiyah executive board is going to do after finishing the meeting here."

Some 200 participants from a number of women's organizations in Indonesia attended the seminar.

Aisyiyah executive Chusnul Mar'iyah said the seminar was intended as an effort to enlighten women.

"Aisyiyah organized the seminar not because it will establish a political party. No. We are preparing cadres and strategies for the 2004 elections. And this is very important for Indonesian women, especially because it is attended by participants from throughout the country," Chusnul said.