Indonesia's Food Policy and Women's Rights
Sastra, Tini, Women & Environments International Magazine
Recognizing Women's Roles in Food Production, Distribution, Processing, and Consumption
Despite the implementation of Food Act No.7/1996 in Indonesia fifteen years ago, concerns remain respecting women's food insecurity in regions such as Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Papua and Kupang.
In order to address these concerns, the Women's Solidarity for Human Rights (Solidaritas Perempuan), an Indonesian civil society organization working to promote gender equality, non-violence, nondiscrimination and ecological justice for groups of marginalized women, worked with the Indonesian Human Rights Committee for Social Justice and with the Civil Society Coalition to pressure the goverment to amend the Act so as to ensure that the rights of women to food were protected and accommodated. A draft of the bill to amend the Act is currently being considered by the Indonesian parliament.
Background - Achieving Food Self-Sufficiency
In Indonesia, about half of the population makes a living in the agricultural sector. In the 1980s, during the Suharto era, Indonesia achieved self-sufficiency in rice as part of the Green Revolution which led to the implementation of agricultural intensification such as the use of crop varieties with increased yield, fertilizers, pesticides and irrigation expansion.
However, this self-sufficiency did not last long. By 1995 there were rice shortages.
This was also the year when Indonesia joined the WTO. Three important points in the agreement with the WTO were market access, reduction of domestic subsidies and the reduction of export subsidies. Instead of seeing the rice shortages as an impetus to invest in the increase of food production, by improving farming systems and empowering farmers, the government focused on the shortages as an opportunity to promote rice-importing companies.
This focus on trade liberalization and an increasing number of bilateral free trade agreements with countries in the region led to a fast pace of industrialization in large cities, requiring a lot of labour. As a result of this, many villagers no longer see a bright future working as farmers, and many farming families have migrated to the cities in order to work as factory workers, construction workers, retail workers, and domestic workers.
The Food Act No. 7/1996
The Food Act No. 7/1996 was enacted in November 1996, two months after the World Food Summit held in Rome that same year. The Act came about in response to the food crisis that occurred in Indonesia in 1994. In order to deal with the 1994 crisis, the government imported food (rice) to stabilize domestic food reserves and from 1994 onwards food imports continued to rise reaching a peak in 1999 with annual imports of 4.7 million tons of rice. The government's primary reason for importing rice was to secure food stocks and to stabilize food prices. These policies benefited the import-export companies and were a direct result of Indonesia's entry into the WTO and of the free trade agreements.
The substance of the Act did not address the right to food but supported the food industry. The majority of the provisions in the Act related to technical aspects such as packaging, food safety certification and licensing and did not address the right to food, or the obligations of the government to fulfill protect and respect food security as a right. In addition, the Act did not provide for the protection of the sources of production owned by the people and, therefore, land could be converted for development purposes.
The Act and the Role of Women in the Agricultural Sector Role of Women
In Indonesia, women play an important role in the agricultural sector. Women in families of rice farmers are usually involved in the nursery, caring, harvesting, storage, and marketing of rice. Women in sharecropper families work in planting, weeding, harvesting, and threshing of the rice paddy until it is ready to be stored or milled. …