Women Research Institute

Promoting women leadership and inclusive,
gender-based, and sustainable natural resource governance

People‘s settlement area and access to forests has been narrowed by the expansion of palm oil companies, impacting communities which have collectively managed forests for generations who indicate that these lands in effect have been “taken without sufficient compensation or communication with local communities”.

Regarding this, an abundance of national and local rules in Indonesia mandate public involvement or community engagement in the granting of forest concession. In a review of 57 regulations governing land, forest use and local governance of forest, 20 referenced these requirements. However, in practice, these regulations have not been implemented in the interest of the public and local communities, leading to land disputes and conflict.  Land disputes and conflicts are only two of the many problems that occur as a consequence of the absence of public participation in the granting of forest concession. Other problems are concerned with food security, people’s welfare, and the environment.

By Amy Wooster

In Indonesia, despite laws and regulations to combat gender rights issues as well as efforts to spread awareness, girls and women still face many problems. The issues that currently effect girls and young women in Indonesia regard education and health, particularly reproductive health, child marriage, violence against women and child labor.

 

One of the most significant issues girls and young women face in Indonesia is accessibility to education. The Indonesian government has been committed to expanding access to education and released a number of policies and education programs such as aid for students who struggle financially.  Yet poverty is still one of the biggest contributors to school drop out rates, although there are also issues of geographical accessibility and infrastructure. Accessibility to education is an issue that affects both boys and girls, but affects girls in particular in terms of the issues of child marriage and child labor. The problem of early marriage is another reason that girls do not get sufficient education, as what often happens is that teenage girls who get pregnant and/or get married do not continue their education, which also links to the issue of sexual health education in Indonesia.

 

Sexual health education in Indonesia is limited. Due to religious and cultural contexts, talking about sexual activity is still considered taboo and in some rural areas teaching about it is still forbidden. Many students have reported that that not enough information is given, and this then leads to students turning to the Internet or their peers to find out about sexual health, and they often end up receiving false information. The problem remains that students are not getting adequate information about sexual health, as giving more information about sex is traditionally viewed as encouraging teenage sexual activity. But this view is detrimental as they are not well-educated on the subject and this especially affects girls as if they get pregnant they are forced to drop out of school and get married due to societal pressure.  Therefore, this lack of education leads into harmful practices towards girls and women.

 

According to UNICEF Indonesia ranks 7th highest globally in terms of child marriage rates and this is largely linked to the issue of premarital sex and the cultural idea that early marriage is preferable to having illegitimate children. There is also the problem that there are differing laws and regulations about the age threshold between minors and adults all around Indonesia, enabling loopholes to be found and allowing girls to marry as early as 13. Child marriage is therefore a serious national concern due to its prevalence and not only is it unethical but goes on to cause problems of unfinished education, allowing no escape from the cycle of poverty.

 

Violence against girls and women is another severe issue in Indonesia. The most frequent form of violence committed is violence by spouse, namely physical and/or sexual violence. It is also important to note that this is more prevalent in densely populated, impoverished areas, especially in poor residential areas where families have to live in one room, exposing children to sexual activity and violence. There is also the issue of the low reporting of violence and while there are many associations dedicated to help victims of sexual violence, prevention of violence is still a problem. Additionally, Female Genital Circumcision (FGC) is prevalent in Indonesia, and although there are many different definitions of it, girls are still being cut. There are no medical benefits to FGC and in 2010 the Head of the Indonesian Midwives Association stated that medical professionals are not taught how to perform FGC, thus it should not be performed. However this remains a serious problem as FGC is rooted in tradition and culture and continues to be performed despite being unnecessary.

 

Finally, the other prominent issue affecting girls and young women in Indonesia is the problem of child workers. As previously mentioned, girls often drop out of school if they become pregnant or because their families want them to pursue domestic work. In fact, one of the biggest trends is impoverished families sending their daughters to work overseas in order to provide more money. However, they often send girls who are under-aged even though there is an age limit of 18 or 21, as many practice document forgery. Domestic work also makes girls vulnerable, as it is informal work, so they are more susceptible to abuse, overtime exploitation and receiving little to no payment. Under-age girls are also more susceptible to become sex workers, becoming victims of human trafficking for prostitution. It is also proving difficult to tackle the problems of trafficking as most often syndicates and mafias are involved, making it hard to help victims. There is therefore a need for more straightforward and specific laws, as well as campaigns to spread awareness, particularly directed towards children, in order to prevent these problems. 

Pesisir Selatan District, Sumatera Barat Province, consists of 15 subdistricts with a hilly landscape and 18 rivers flowing within its boundary. Its area is dominated by forest areas which amount to 83,91% of the total area while the rest of the area is formed of rice fields, plantations, and residential area. This indicates that community areas are located in potential location for sustainable development. IV Jurai Subdistrict in Pesisir Selatan District is among the locations with the largest designated forest areas of 37,83%. These areas are designated as a nagari (village) forest while at the same time; companies have converted parts of this forest into an area for natural resource management.    

Solok Selatan District consists of 7 subdistricts with varied topography, ranging from undulating valley to hilly areas as part of Bukit Barisan. As much as 60% of Solok Selatan’s total area lies in the slope gradient of more than 40%. Solok Selatan is also the home of 13 watersheds, making it one among the four districts that are located in the upstream area of Batang Hari river.

Most of Solok Selatan’s areas is constituted of forest area which makes up 72,70% of its total area. The rest of Solok Selatan’s area is formed of rice fields, plantations, and residential areas. Its protected forest is as much as 83.404 hectares, or 23% of the total area of Solok. From 2010 to 2014, Global Forest Watch (GFW) recorded tree cover loss in Solok Selatan’s protected forest. This condition is described by GFW as fluctuating in trend but is likely to increase every year.

The total area of Siak Regency is 811,848 hectares. According to the Global Forest Watch (GFW) data, during the period of 2001-2014, Siak Regency lost 363,398 hectares of 45% of its total forest covers. In the span of 14 years, Siak Regency has lost a total of 25,957 hectares of forest covers each year. The biggest loss of forest covers during that period occurred in 2007, where the loss of forest covers reached 46,142 hectares.

The deforestation rate, which accelerates every year, is triggered by the significant number of concession permits granted to corporates in plantation and forestry sectors, limiting the local people’s access to the forests and natural resources.

The pollution of the water source makes it difficult for the locals to live and farm. The water is brackish, colored (brownish yellow) and reeks of iron, thus ineligible for cooking purposes.

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