Reliyadi, Jember University
Why has the struggle for gender equality become a big issue nowadays? Well, the answer seems obvious. Socially, women are being discriminated against. There is pervasive evidence that women do not have equal rights in their roles in society, the bureaucracy, institutions, formal and informal jobs and many other settings.
Women here are being discriminated against in virtually all aspects of life. In education, for example, while enrollment has increased for both sexes, the number of girls going to school is still far below the number of boys. According to the 2003 National Census, there are also more boys going on to higher education than girls.
In economic activity, there are more men working than women. For example, only 44.81 percent of the female workforce across the country is employed, compared to men at 76.12 percent. The number of women workers in the informal sector, however, is slightly higher (63.3 percent) than men (59.9 percent). It's also common for women to get lower salaries than their male counterparts, even if they do the same job.
Even though the General Election Law of 2003 requires political parties to allocate 30 percent of their legislative candidate lists to women, the fact is only 11.9 percent of the 550-member House of Representatives (DPR) is female, and only 20.9 percent of the 135 members of the Regional Representatives Council (DPD). Nationwide, female legislative members account for only around 10 percent of the elected representatives.
Ideally, society should not treat men and women and women differently. Why does discrimination persist?
I would say that discrimination against women persists due to the fact that by nature they are superior to men. Biologically, for example, women have the advantage. What can men do that women can't? Women can do all the things that used to be exclusively male. Women have moved out their 'traditional roles' as housewives and secretaries to become doctors, drivers, soccer players, weight lifters and even professional boxers. On the other hand, not everything women do can be done by men. At this time, for example, only women can get pregnant, give birth, and breast-feed. And because of this, I would say, women are superior.
Because of this sexual superiority, our patriarchal society has created a system to subjugate women. Interestingly, society utilizes women's superior qualities to dominate them. Often we hear people saying that because women can get pregnant, give birth and feed babies they have be 'soft' and tender, traits they need in order to take care of their offspring. Slowly but surely, this mindset has been internalized by both men and women.
It is high time for us to eliminate discrimination against women here and around the world. To that end, the current feminist movements should be welcomed.
The writer is a student of international relations at Jember University in East Java http://www.thejakartapost.com/detailfeatures.asp?fileid=20060514.I02&irec=12