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Gender Equality & Religious Freedom in Indonesia

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Canadian Ambassador to Indonesia, Donald Bobiash, presents opening remarks.

Guest speakers address issues on freedom of religion and women’s rights in Indonesia.

The race towards gender equality has seen great lengths in progress, yet the journey is far from accomplished. Often the most vulnerable simply due to their gender, Canada has worked fervently to empower women globally so they may access all opportunities and rights.

This year, the Embassy of Canada in Indonesia showed their support for the international movement by hosting the Conference on Religion, Tradition, and Women’s Rights and Status; a rare platform for women and moderate Muslims to promote their views against the backdrop of rising conservatism in Indonesia.

Canada was proud to partner with  Jurnal Perempuan, a local women’s rights NGO in hosting the conference.

Strong Women. Strong World.

Held in Jakarta, the Conference on Religion, Tradition, and Women’s Rights and Status attracted over 150 participants from different parts of Indonesia. Advocates, leaders, policymakers, and researchers from both Indonesia and Canada gathered to share experience and discuss strategies on how to improve women’s rights and religious freedom in Indonesia.

Ambassador Donald Bobiash opened the conference by emphasizing that women’s rights and freedom of religion go hand-in-hand. He presented Canada’s theme for this year’s International Women’s Day: “Strong Women. Strong World. Improving Economic Opportunities for All,” which highlights the vital contribution women make every day to both the domestic and global economy.

Mrs. Sri Danti Anwar, the Secretary of the Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, represented the Indonesian government and discussed its effort to implement gender equality in the country and the adverse impact of religious traditions on the status of women.

The Indonesian Constitution recognizes and supports the six major recognized religions. In an effort to protect the rights of all religious communities, Professor H. Abdurrahman Mas’ud from the Ministry of Religious Affairs indicated that his Ministry is currently preparing a draft Law on Protection of Religious Communities.

Women’s rights and religion in Indonesia

While real progress has been made towards equality for women and their full participation in all aspects of society, many barriers still exist for women in Indonesia and around the world.

In Canada’s view, freedom of religion or belief, including the ability to worship in peace and security, is a universal human right. 

During the conference, speakers discussed the increasing religious conservatism that has challenged the empowerment of women in Indonesian society. Intensive religious campaigns have broken down fundamental and deep-rooted traditions that used to be favourable towards women. Participants also heard that in the Indonesian province of Aceh, which follows Islamic Law, women are often taught that they belong at home. Despite the numerous great female leaders in Acehnese history, empowerment of women is now heatedly opposed by religious conservatives who wish to see laws re-written. 

By opening a dialogue on these issues, the conference served as an important platform to help advance and widen understandings of religious freedom and women’s rights in Indonesia. Canada will continue to work with Indonesia to help advance universal human rights for all, where inequality on any grounds – be it gender or religion – is finally overcome.


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