Concluding Observations from UN Reveal Grave Reproductive Rights Concerns in Indonesia

In July, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) held its review of Indonesia. The Concluding Observations from the session have just been released, highlighting recommendations made by the Center in a shadow letter on maternal mortality, female genital mutilation, early marriage, marital rape, abortion, and contraceptives. The letter also includes a discussion on barriers in access to reproductive health care faced by rural and unmarried women.

The CEDAW Committee's Concluding Observations included recommendations on every issue the Center raised in its shadow letter, indicating their concern about significant reproductive rights issues in Indonesia that persist and need to be addressed.

The CEDAW Committee criticized the state or expressed concern in the following areas:

  • Legally permitting marriage of girls as young as 16
  • Failure to recognize health and incest as legal grounds for abortion
  • Failure to criminalize marital rape
  • The government's recent issuance of a circular authorizing "female circumcision" by medical practitioners
  • The six-week gestational limit for legal abortion in the case of fetal impairment or rape
  • Spousal consent requirements for legal abortion and denial of the provision of contraceptives to women without the consent of their husbands
  • Inadequate provision of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health education to unmarried women and women domestic workers
  • The difficulty that rural women have in accessing health services

The CEDAW Committee issued the following recommendations relating to these concerns:

  • Fix the minimum age of marriage for women and girls at 18 and raise awareness about the harmful effects of early marriage for girls
  • Consider amending the criminal code to criminalize marital rape
  • Decriminalize and extend the gestational limit for legal abortion in cases of incest and to preserve the health of the woman
  • Withdraw the circular authorizing "female circumcision" by medical practitioners, restore the circular banning the practice, and enact legislation that criminalizes female genital mutilation
  • Increase awareness with religious groups and leaders that female genital mutilation is a violation of women's human rights and teach them about the harms it causes
  • Remove spousal consent requirements for abortion and ensure access to contraceptives for women without the consent of their husbands
  • Broadly implement sexual and reproductive health and rights education and ensure that it is available to unmarried women and women domestic workers
  • Ensure that rural women have access to health services
  • Implement a "comprehensive strategy" to eradicate harmful traditional practices that discriminate against women
  • Increase efforts to reduce maternal mortality and its causes
  • Gather information on the prevalence of unsafe abortion by age and areas of origin
  • Provide safe abortion services and post-abortion care

The Center applauds the CEDAW Committee for adopting recommendations that offer guidance to Indonesia's government to address a number of reproductive health and rights issues, and strongly encourages Indonesia to implement them.