Indonesia: a Model Country Where Islam and Democracy Become the Soul of Gender Equality

By: Yuni Suryati.

 “If you want to know if Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.” This statement delivered by US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, during her visit to Indonesia on February 2009. This statement provides recognition that Indonesia is a democratic country, the Muslim population as majority, and women get their rights equal to men.

Gender equality in Indonesia has been guaranteed under the preamble of the Constitution 1945 and Pancasila as an ideology. Indonesian people considered as a free individual and should not be getting any kind of discrimination including discrimination against gender. Women and men are equal and have the same rights to access justice in various fields of life and enjoy the development.

Comparing with the conservative Islamic country where women generally experienced a gender inequality, such as do not getting the same opportunities with men in education, cannot working in all positions, and do not having same rights in political life, Indonesian women who live in moderate Islam and secular democracy country have already gained equal rights with men. The principles of moderate Islam and democracy in Indonesia serve as guidelines for Indonesian leaders to achieve gender equality in all issues. For examples in education and employment.

As we know that in term of education, Indonesian Government guarantees that all citizens are entitled to education especially basic education of 9 years. As the fourth most populous in the world, the number of students in Indonesia is more than 55 million with 3 million of teachers and more than 236.000 schools (MoEC, 2013). The total number of male and female students is almost equal, which the comparison of male students (95.59 %) and female students (90.07 %).  These figures indicate that the Indonesian people have the same opportunity to pursue education and equal access to achieve the education according to their interest. There are no rules and cultural views that prevent every human being in Indonesia to achieve it.

In term of women employment, Indonesian government has always encouraged them to develop their careers accordingly to build a better society and implement self-actualization. In the past decade, Indonesia has progressed in the quantity and quality of female labour force participation. More than half Indonesian women now work and thus become decision makers. More women than ever are becoming entrepreneurs taking on multiple roles in the nuclear family. The number of female labour in Indonesia have reached 54.44 percent of the total female labour force. These numbers show the trend continues to increase from year to year. A recent report by the World Economic Forum showed that Indonesia ranked 95th out of 135 countries in terms of gender equality. The Global Gender Gap Index report found that approximately 31 percent of Indonesian firms have female top managers. Women make up 10 percent of the boards of the directors in listed companies, while approximately 43 firms have female participation in their ownership.

The progress achieved by women in Indonesia in education and employment at this time was inspired by Kartini, a pioneer for women’s right. Kartini fought for the emancipation of women in Indonesia in the 1900’s. At that moment, women had been caught in feudalism for a very long time. The patriarchal system that exists in the Javanese community at that time also affects the idea that a woman’s place should be at home. Kartini revolted to gain women rights. Kartini’s struggle was not in vain because since that time Indonesian women gradually began to get their rights.

With these examples, namely education, employment, and Kartini’s struggle for women emancipation, Indonesia could become an example for the international community as a country that moderate Islam and democracy can serve as a guidelines for achieving gender equality.

Jakarta, 1 September 2016



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