Women and electoral justice

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Titi Anggraini Election and Democracy Forum (Perkumpulan Pemilu dan Demokrasi – “Perludem”) Counselor and Doctoral Student in the University of Indonesia’s Faculty of Law

IO – Democracy has become internalized in various aspects of our governance.Not only is it marked by an election every five years, but it is also part of a value chain to build a political system based on principles of freedom and equality for all.Therefore, democracy must be supported by a set of legal safeguards to protect it so that it does not degenerate and is confined to becoming a means of legitimizing the interests of the majority of voters, to avoid negating human dignity while protecting the rights of vulnerable groups.

However, democracy as a manifestationof power by the people and politicalegalitarianis, still faces continuouschallenges from a governmentriddled by corruption and genderequality issues. Based on 2019 datafrom the International Institute forDemocracy and Electoral Assistance(International IDEA) which publishesthe Global State of Democracy Index,with the pace of change in the lastdecade, it will take another 45 yearsto achieve gender parity in parliament.Currently, on average, only 24percent of parliamentary seats in the world are held by women.

Rising enthusiasm

Even though the representation ofwomen in the Indonesian parliamenthas increased and reached the highestnumber in our electoral history(118 women out of 575 members ofthe House of Representative or 20.52per cent), it is still below the averagerepresentation of women in SoutheastAsia. Women’s representationin the Indonesian parliament is evenlower than that of our neighboringcountry Timor Leste, which has alreadyexceeded 30%.

There is still much homework tobe done to pursue women’s politicalrepresentation in various public andgovernment positions. Moreover, weare currently preparing a full-scalepolitical agenda for the election ofgovernors, regents and mayors in 270regions on December 9, 2020. Datafrom the General Elections Commission(KPU) shows that of the 1,482candidates in the simultaneous regionalelections, 159 of them or 10.73per cent are women. They includetwo candidates for governor, threecandidates for deputy governor, 70candidates for regent, 58 candidatesfor deputy regent, 15 candidates formayor, and 11 candidates for deputymayor. Even though the election willbe carried out during the pandemic,there is an increasing numberof women trying their political luck.While still not ideal, this figure hasexceeded the number of female candidatesin previous regional elections(2015, 2017, and 2018).

Women’s increased political interestneeds to go hand in hand withthe state and all relevant stakeholders’effort to bring about fair, just anddemocratic competition. This must bereflected in the fair and equal supervisionand enforcement of electoral law by all election organisers and lawenforcement officers involved in theprocess.

KPU data also shows that ofthe100,359,152 registered votersin the 2020 regional election, morethan half (50.02 per cent) are female.This is good “capital” for the practiceof Indonesian electoral democracy,because based on previous nationaland regional elections, women aremore eager in exercising their votingrights than male. For example, in the2019 Presidential Election, out of158,012,499 voters, 51.17 per centwere women. So the challenge nowis how to ensure that women’s highpolitical participation is meaningfuland not to be manipulated by anypolitical party.

Electoral justice

Electoral justice is an importantinstrument for upholding the lawand ensuring the full application ofdemocratic principles through theimplementation of free, fair and justelections. It is designed to ensure thatevery action, procedure and decisionrelated to the electoral process conformsto the legal framework; protectsor restores suffrage; and enables citizenswho believe that their votingrights have been violated to submittheir complaint and receive a fairhearing.

The concept of electoral justiceis very crucial for women in politics(candidates, campaign teams, or volunteers),female election organizers,and female voters, because electoralfraud or violations can significantlyimpact women. For instance, femalecandidates often contest with limitedfinancial resources, relying moreon political ethics that conform withexisting regulations. Election fraudand manipulation can seriously hurtwomen’s access to fair and just politicalcontest.In addition, protecting female votersso they can remain independent,free from lies, intimidation, undue influence,and pressure in any form is anecessity that must be guaranteed bythe state. This will ensure that womenaspiration is genuine. The statemust ensure that electoral justice isenshrined in the law and its supervisionand enforcement.

Supervisors are expected to providea sense of security and protectionto women and law enforcementofficers are able to enforce the electionlaw without undermining women’spolitical participation. Electionsupervisors can provide affirmativeaction, for example, by providingwomen-friendly complaint and reportingservices. To date, there hasbeen a tendency for female candidatesand voters to be reluctant toreport election violations, becausethey feel that the report will disruptsocial cohesion and can adversely affecttheir personal and their family’srelations with the surrounding community.The current electoral law isdeemed to be lacking in providing asense of security against potentialinterference and intimidation fromsubmitting a complaint. Thus, familiarisationand affirmative action arenecessary to be inclusive for women,not as a form of discrimination, but astate presence to provide protectionfor vulnerable groups so they can getjust and equal treatment.

Thus, women can also have more faith that democracy exists and that they are an integral part of it. National advancement can be simply gauged from the extent to which women are able to access public and political spaces fairly, justly and equally. And the concept of electoral justice is the state’s effort to guarantee this access.