Balinese women still face gender discrimination

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Denpasar (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - A wide gender gap continues to hamper various women's empowerment programmes in Bali, a recent seminar concluded.

Ni Nyoman Murtini, head of the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection agency, told an audience at a seminar on "Balinese Women - Then and Now" that gender discrimination still occurred in many aspects of government-sponsored development programmes.

"Balinese women are still far from having adequate access to healthcare services, education and employment opportunities," Murtini said.

She went further, saying that in the field of education, girls who had access to the nine-year mandatory education were still limited in number when compared to their male counterparts.

"Illiteracy rates among girls and women remain high, with inadequate educational facilities for these groups in society," she said.

Gender issues had to be included in every development programme, she added.

"Up to the present, the Balinese provincial and regional administrations have failed to improve women's living conditions and to create justice for women," said Murtini.

Meanwhile, in the economic field, female participation in the employment world remains relatively low. Women's job participation rates reach only 70 per cent, while male participation rates are 85 per cent.

According to data from the Bali Statistics Agency, women also receive lower salaries than men.

Citing an example, in Denpasar, the average salary for men is 2 million rupiah (US$210) per month, while for women it is only 1.4 million rupiah.

In Bangli, female workers earn an average 900,000 rupiah per month, while male workers receive rupiah 1.3 million.

Local women have no, or very limited, access to bank loans if they want to set up businesses.

"If they want to get a bank loan, they have to use their husbands' identities," Murtini said.

In government offices, only a small number of women hold important positions. "There are only five women in the 49 highest ranks in various government agencies," she added.

The number of female government employees is 2,671, while there are 4,227 men.

The agency also revealed that domestic violence and discrimination against women were still rife.

Luh Rintii Rahayu, director of Bali Sruti, stated that a lack of female representatives in the legislative council had resulted in many policies that did not support women.

During the 2004 election, female representatives at regional, provincial and national levels reached only 4.5 per cent. In 2009, female representation had increased to 7.5 per cent.

Historically, Balinese women have been involved in the women's movement since 1923, when a number of women established the Shanti women's group, which established the first school for girls.

In 1936, Poetri Bali Sadar, established by I Gusti Ayu Rapeg, promoted women's rights, especially for education and in relation to polygamy.

US$1 = 9,490 Indonesian rupiah

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