Women ‘More Vulnerable’ to Vote-Buying
Lenny Tristia Tambun
Women are a prime target of vote-buying efforts in the Jakarta gubernatorial election but stand to be swiftly disregarded once their votes are in, a women’s empowerment group warned on Thursday.
Wahidah Rustam, chairwoman of the group Women’s Solidarity, said that women across the city, and particularly those from low-income families, were “soft targets” for campaigners handing out food parcels, cash and other gifts designed to secure their votes.
“In the political scheme of things, women are simply a target for the candidates, political parties and campaign teams,” she said.
Women’s Solidarity says some 52 percent of women in Jakarta have been targeted through some form of vote-buying exercise this election year, based on a poll of 1,500 women, but that the courtship is mounted purely to get their votes.
“If you study the platforms and programs of all the candidates from the first round of the election, none of them gave a special focus or serious attention to women’s issues,” Wahidah said.
“Some programs even tended to marginalize women, such as community health care programs that are designed to keep women relegated to a domestic role.”
She said most respondents in the poll said the candidates had failed to address concerns about equal access to education and employment, and the availability of reproductive health care, public safety and transportation geared toward women.
“These are all factors that women need to be looking out for when studying each candidate’s vision, mission and programs,” Wahidah said.
“They are also things that we need to evaluate later on, to see if the winning candidate is implementing them properly.”
She said it was important for people from all parts of society to scrutinize the campaigning ahead of the runoff vote next Thursday to see how the final two candidates were addressing issues that related to women.
However, she said, part of the problem underlying the general disenfranchisement of the female electorate was that women tended to be less political than male voters about the key issues in a campaign and the programs being promoted by the candidates.
“A large number of them are poor. They include domestic workers, washerwomen, even prostitutes,” Wahidah said.
“If we really want to stop them becoming vote-buying targets, we need to do it through a forum where they can truly understand what vote-buying is.”
The warning sounded by Women’s Solidarity dovetails with findings from a recent poll indicating that women will be the prime target of vote-buying efforts.
The results of the poll released last weekend by the University of Indonesia’s Center for Political Studies showed that showed 42 percent of the 600 respondents believed the rival camps would offer cash or other gifts in exchange for votes ahead of election day.
Irwansyah, a UI researcher, said the demographic most likely to be targeted through such a campaign was women between the ages of 26 and 40, with only a high school education.