David Weiss, Associate
Paul Hastings (New York)

Gender Equality in Indonesia

Article 27 of the Indonesian Constitution mandates that all citizens must have equal status before the law.1  A constitutional amendment in 2000 enshrined freedom from discrimination as a constitutional right.  However, despite the constitutional mandate, in reality the traditional stereotypes of women as mothers and housewives still prevail in rural areas, and inequality in the labor force remains evident in Indonesia. 

According to the 2017 Global Gender Gap Report issued by the World Economic Forum,2 52.9% of Indonesian women participate in the labor force, yet women make up only about 38 percent of the country’s labor force.3  Women constitute 49.2% of professional and technical workers in Indonesia.4  However, women constitute only 22% of legislators, senior officials and managers.5  Indonesia has made strides since 2006 in closing the gender wage gap for equal work and in the realm of political empowerment, but the country has seen “declines on its previously fully closed gender gap in professional and technical workers for the second year running.”6  In addition, women make up the majority of Indonesian international migrant workers, and those women are more likely to emigrate independently than as dependents.7

Women’s Representation on Corporate Boards

Despite Indonesia’s high proportion of women in the workforce, they hold only 7.9% of board seats in Indonesia, and only 6.2% of board chairs are women.8  These numbers, however, are on the rise; women’s representation on boards increased 4.2% between 2015 and 2017, and women’s representation as board chairs increased by 3.2% in the same period.9  Women have the highest representation on corporate boards in the financial securities industry, where they hold 13% of board seats.10  Since Indonesian law does not set gender quotas for women’s participation on corporate boards, this increase has been driven by companies themselves.  According to Jose Sabater of Deloitte Southeast Asia, “Many Indonesian companies recognize the benefits of diversity; it is an open society that supports women in significant roles in politics, business, and other aspects.”11

According to “Women in Business,” a 2017 study by Grant Thornton, an independent audit, tax, and advisory firm, at 46% Indonesia has the second highest proportion of women in “senior management” roles at mid-market companies, behind only Russia.12  Though this study does not take into account female leadership at large companies, it shows a strong trend towards gender parity in corporate leadership.

Despite the overall underrepresentation of women in corporate positions of influence and power in Indonesia, there are certain notable exceptions.  For example, Forbes Asia recognized two Indonesian women in its “50 Women in the Mix” series celebrating women corporate leaders: Wendy Sui Cheng Yap and Shinta Widjaja Kamdani.13  Ms. Yap is the co-founder, President Director, and Chief Executive Officer of Nippon Indosari, the largest bread company in Indonesia.14  Ms. Kamdani is the Chief Executive Officer of Sintesa Group, an Indonesian company that partners with international brands to guide their entry into the Indonesian market.15 

Other female entrepreneurs, such as Shinta W. Dhanuwardoyo, are forging their own path in the Indonesian markets.  Ms. Dhanuwardoyo is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of, a pioneering web development company.16

Gender Parity Under Indonesian Law  

In addition to the constitutional mandate for gender parity, the government of Indonesia has passed several laws and promulgated a number of regulations related to gender equality, women’s rights, and women’s participation in Parliament and political parties.  Appendix A includes a list of the primary statutes that address the issue of women’s rights in Indonesia.

            Representation of Women in Politics

Presidential Instruction No.9/2000 provides guidelines to the executive branch of the government (including ministers, governors, regents, and mayors) to include gender parity as a goal in formulating and implementing development programs at the national and regional levels.  The regional regulations are passed by governors (the heads of regional governments).  For example, in 2009 the Governor of South Kalimantan passed the Regulation of the Regional Government of South Kalimantan No.5/2009 on Gender Parity in Regional Development.17

In 2011, then-Minister for Women Empowerment and Children Protection Linda Agum Gumelar announced that the Indonesian Parliament would be introducing a gender equality bill that was developed in cooperation with the Ministry.18  However, “due to the strong opposition from many institutions, mostly religious ones,” the bill was stalled in Parliament and was never passed into law.19

Under Law No.2/2008 (as amended) and Law No.10/2008 (as amended) there must be at least 30% female representation in a political party and each party must have at least 30% female candidates for Parliament. The National Mid-Term Development Plan 2010-2014 elaborated on the vision, mission, and program of the former Indonesian President Sisilo Bambang Yudhoyono, which includes adopting principles of gender parity.20

Indonesia’s Law on Political Parties/Law on General Election of Members of Parliament stipulates that women should represent at least 30% of members of, and/or candidates for, the national Parliament (DPR) and regional parliaments (DPRD) and at least 30% of commissioners of the Election Committee (KPU).

As of July 2017, Indonesia had nine female ministers in the President’s Working Cabinet.21  Thus, at 26%, Indonesia had the highest representation of women ministers among the 10 most populous countries.22  Presently, women in Indonesia hold high-profile positions in the government, including the Finance Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Deputy Governor of Bank Indonesia.23

Indonesia’s efforts to increase female representation in the Indonesian National Parliament have also shown results.  As of 2017, women held 20% of seats in the Indonesian National Parliament, up from 12% in 1990 and only 8% during a slump in 2003.24 

However, strict compliance with the “quota” laws remains a challenge, in part due to “[p]atriarchal attitudes about gender roles and the suitability of women for public office.”25  The legal provisions have been described as weak because they do not include sanctions for non-compliance, and because they merely urge political parties to “consider” the 30 percent target for women candidates.26

            Law on Human Rights

Articles 45 through 51 of Law 39/1999 provide specific protection for women’s rights.  Article 45 emphasizes the protection and acknowledgement of women’s rights by categorizing women’s rights as human rights.  The law also specifies minimum representation of women in the general election system, political parties, and elected members of legislative and executive bodies; women’s right to an education; and women’s equal right to vote and to be elected to or appointed to any job, post, or profession.

The country has established a number of entities tasked with the protection of women’s rights. For example, Presidential Decree No.181 of 1998 officially created the National Commission on Women (Komisi Nasional (Komnas) Perempuan), the purpose of which is to develop a more conducive environment for the elimination of all kinds of abuse of women in Indonesia and to protect and enforce women’s rights.

Ministry for Women’s Empowerment

In 1978, the Indonesian government established the State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment as the entity responsible for the national implementation of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  The Ministry has since been renamed the State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (SMWC).  The functions of the SMWC include policy formulation on women’s empowerment and welfare and child protection issues; implementation of such programs at the local level; monitoring and evaluation of the Ministry’s initiatives; and collaboration with other ministries, the private sector, and community organizations on issues relating to gender equality and child protection.  One example of a recent SMWC initiative is a 2017 partnership with the Millennium Challenge Account, a trustee institution created by the Indonesian government, to advance a program that “aims to end the injustice suffered by women seeking economic access” through “policy dialogue about gender equality and community empowerment.”27

Corporate Governance Code

Indonesia’s National Committee on Governance adopted the Code of Good Corporate Governance in 2001, and the Code was revised in 2006.28  The Code is a voluntary set of guidelines for Indonesian companies with the goal of encouraging “fair competition and [a] conducive business climate leading to sustainable economic growth and stability.”29  Although the Code does not include specific guidelines for achieving gender equity on corporate boards, the Code affirms the principle of non-discrimination on the bases of gender, ethnicity, race, and religion, and promotes the development of all employees in accordance with their respective competencies, capabilities, experience and skills.30


Greater gender equality can enhance productivity, improve development outcomes for the next generation, and make institutions more representative of the populations they serve.  Compared to other emerging countries in its region, Indonesia has passed significant legislation promoting gender parity and women’s rights in the political sphere.  Although the country has yet to pass sanction-backed legislation stipulating gender quotas for corporate representation, women’s board representation is on the rise, and women currently hold 7.9% of board seats in Indonesia.  However, more progress is needed to fully implement the goals of such legislation. 

1           Indonesia Const. art. 27, § 1 (“All citizens shall be equal before the law and the government and shall be required to respect the law and the government, with no exceptions.”).

2           The Global Gender Gap Report 2017,World Economic Forum 8 (2017),  In its 2017 report, the World Economic Forum includes data from 144 countries. 

3           Indonesia: Labor force: percent female, Global Economy, (last visited Sept. 3, 2018).

4           World Economic Forum, supra note 2, at 178-79. 

5           Id.

6           Id. at 16.

7           World Immigration Report 2018, Int’l Org. Migration 185 (2017),

8           Women in the boardroom: A global perspective, Deloitte 25 (2017),

9           Id.

10          Id.

11          Id.

12          Women in business: New perspectives on risk and reward, Grant Thornton (Mar. 2017),

13          Forbes Asia’s 50 Women in the Mix, Forbes, (last visited Apr. 10, 2018).

14          Investor Relations: Corporate Governance, Sari Roti, (last visited Apr. 10, 2018).

15          Board, Sintesa Group, (last visited Apr. 10, 2018).

16          Empowering Female Business Leaders, ‘Telstra Business Woman in Asia Award’ Opens for Nominations in Indonesia, Telkom Telstra (Apr. 21, 2017),,-%E2%80%98telstra-business-woman-in-asia-award%E2%80%99-opens-for-nominations-in-indonesia.html; Bubu, (last visited Sept. 13, 2018).

17          See Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, U.N. CEDAW Report 14 (Nov. 22, 2010),

18          Indonesia to introduce gender equality law: minister, People’s Daily Online (Mar. 9, 2011),

19          Khoiriyah Helanita, Aceh’s curfew for women and the urgency of gender equality law, Jakarta Post (June 13, 2015),

20          Country Gender Profile: Indonesia, Japan Int’l Cooperation Agency (Jan. 2011), (last visited Feb. 3, 2012).

21          Indonesia, world’s biggest Muslim country, puts more women into senior roles, The Straits Times (July 25, 2017),

22          Id.

23          Id.

24          Id.; Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments (%), World Bank, (last visited Sept. 13, 2018).

25          Ben Hillman, Increasing Women’s Parliamentary Representation in Asia and the Pacific: The Indonesian Experience, 4 Asia & the Pac. Pol’y Stud. (2017),

26          Id.

27          MOWECP and MCA-Indonesia Committed to Increase Economic Access for Women, Millennium Challenge Account – Indonesia (Mar. 21, 2017),

28          Indonesia’s Code of Good Corporate Governance (2006), Nat’l Comm. on Governance,

29          Id. at i.

30          Id. at 23.

Appendix A

Set forth below is an overview of Indonesia’s gender parity related laws:

Law or Regulation Year Gender Parity / Women's Rights Provisions
Indonesian Constitution, as amended 1945, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 All citizens have equal status before the law and the right to be free from discrimination.
Marriage law 1974 Women and men have an equal duty to maintain the household and care for children.
Labour Law (Law no.13/2003) and related regulations 2003 Equal opportunity to secure work, equal treatment by employers, maternal leave, menstrual leave.
Law on Political Parties (Law no.2/2008, as amended by Law no.2/2011) 2008, 2011 Every political party should have at least 30 percent female representation on its management board and recruitment of candidates.
Law on General Elections of members of Parliament (Law No.8/2012) 2012 In an election of the Parliament members, there should be at least 30 percent female candidates. This is in line with the requirement set out in the above Law on Political Parties.
Compilation of Islamic Law 1991 Women’s right to custody of their children in the event of divorce, similar to marriage Law.
Law on Human Rights (Law no. 39/1999) 1999 The right to equal work opportunities, fair terms and conditions of work and salaries. Women’s rights are specifically regulated (in Articles 45- 51), e.g., the right to education at all levels and to choose, be chosen and be appointed to any job, position or profession.
Indonesian Criminal Code and Law on Elimination of Human Trafficking (Law no. 21/2007) 2007 Women’s right to protection from human trafficking.
Law on the Implementation of General Elections (Law no. 15/2011) 2011 At least 30 percent of the Election Committee should be female.