On International Women’s Day women say stop paying the debt

On March 8, no less than 400 mostly women activists
from Perempuan Mahardhika, which is made up of urban
poor, worker and student organisations along with
other women’s groups, marched to demand government of
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stop paying the
foreign debt and use the budget to improve welfare for
the poor. They also opposed planned increases to basic
electricity rates and the enactment of the draft law
on pornography.

The group said that no less than 20,000 women die
during childbirth every year, or 307 for each 100,000
pregnancies. This is the highest rate in Asia and far
worse than Singapore, Malaysia and even Vietnam which
has a rate of 160 deaths for each 100,000 births. The
highest mortality rates are among poor women in rural
areas and urban slums. Forty percent of these deaths
are caused by malnutrition, haemorrhaging, infection
and complications during abortions, not to mention the
poor quality and high cost of health services.

The recent debate on the pornography bill, which is to
be ratified by the Regional House of Representatives,
is evidence of the fact that the government cannot
resolve the fundamental problems confronting women.
Problems that have their basis in the capitalism
system of imperialist domination and militarism which
has created a culture of state and domestic violence
and patriarchy as a remnant of feudalism.

The domination of Indonesia’s economy by foreign
capital requires that almost of our national assets be
privatized. Caught in the debt trap Indonesia is
forced to cut subsidies for the poor and liberalise
markets. This is neo-liberalism. And workers, the
peasantry, the urban poor and women with children are
the most effected.

Around 27 percent of national budget goes to pay the
foreign debt and its interest while less than 7
percent goes to development (infrastructure,
education, healthcare etc). Simultaneously, along with
other neoliberal packages, it is no wonder that this
worsens the lives of the poor. Since the fuel price
hikes last October the total number of people living
under the poverty line based on monthly income of
125,000-175,000 rupiah per month (about US$13-18)
increased to 118 million from the total population 230
million. Most are women particularly after the massive
wave of layoffs over the last year. This does not yet
include those living on US$2 a day, surely more than a
half of Indonesian population.

Under these conditions, women are facing a greater
economic burden and this will hamper attempts to
achieve gender equity. It is these factors that lie
behind our march today to the National Development
Planning Board and the State Palace, two institutions
that along with the cabinet are the architects of
Indonesian economic policies.

Demands opposing the planned electricity hikes are
based on the government’s “hands off” policy of
failing to take responsibility for subsidising basic
services for the people. Electricity costs have
already increase following the fuel price hikes and
this cost is being borne by the ordinary people. The
State Electricity Company PLN is no longer owned and
supervised by the government — even though it is
still called a “state-owned enterprise” — but each
local supplier has largely been sub-contracted to
private companies. Corruption in many of PLN projects
also adds to the costs and loss of revenue but this is
then used to justify increasing electricity rates.

Perempuan Mahardhika declares therefore that the
Yudhoyono government has failed to improve the
people’s welfare and under their governance the people
of Indonesia have only fallen deeper in to poverty. We
demand that:

1. The government stop paying the debt — abolish the
debt through the unity of the people

2. That the government abandons the planned
electricity rate increases — nationalise the domestic
energy industry

Perempuan Mahardhika

Perempuan Mahardhika is made up of the National
Student League for Democracy (LMND), the women’s
section of the Urban Poor Union (SRMK), the women’s
section of the People’s Democratic Party (PRD), the
women’s committee of the Indonesian National Front for
Labour Struggles (FNPBI) and the women’s section of
the National Peasants Union (STN)

[Reported by Zely Ariane.]

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