Interview with Prameswari Puspa Dewi, National Coordinator of Aliansi Independen Remaja (ARI), a youth-run organization based in Indonesia, and APA member. ARI collaborated with APA in the production of the Indonesia country policy brief “Advancing Sexual Rights Through the Sustainable Development Goals."
ARI has also just collaborated with partners in the production of a shadow report for Indonesia’s review through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process. The Shadow Report’s message is education can shapes culture, hence legislation, therefore building strong state protection for young people and diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.
The report looks like a clear success for championing Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE), how do you feel?
Since the beginning of 2016, young people in Indonesia have felt worried about our future. Conservative groups are growing stronger and stronger now. So ARI, as a representative of young people, got involved in writing this UPR shadow report together with our partners.
I feel really satisfied with the results of what we wrote. We worked in collaboration and strengthened youth-adult partnership within our alliance. As this was the first time to engage with the UPR, it was a challenge, especially to find the right language when writing the report.
How was ARI selected to shadow report?
At first we were not familiar with the UPR or who usually wrote shadow reports, but ARI got involved in an alliance called One Vision Alliance and was invited to contribute to the UPR report from a youth rights perspective.
Why did ARI choose to engage with this process of working on UPR Shadow Report?
What are the advantages of the UPR Shadow reporting process?
As young people, and a volunteer-based organization, we learnt a lot from the many experts that shared their knowledge. For instance, we learnt that we should have a security system in place when we are advocating on sensitive issues in Indonesia such as sexuality.
Are there any lessons learned from the process that they could share with others?
We learnt that it’s really important to document any events that harm/support our issues and always follow up on the event. Previously, when events have happened we have protested, but lost the “moment” for documentation and follow up.
CSE was mentioned a lot in the report, but the position of the teachers seems to be stagnant (i.e. the teachers are generally not interested in teaching the CSE). This is not new for young activist globally. Culturally there are adverse feelings about sexuality education, how does ARI envision meaningful changes to the educational environment and the attitude of the teaching staff?
We would like teaching staff to be more youth friendly and sensitive to diversity, not only as a teacher but the entire education system needs to be improved. Teachers need to be our allies, to be involved and ensure that young people in schools can get comprehensive and accurate education about sexuality. Similarly, we need to engage with the Ministry of Education so that they take the decision to have CSE integrated in our curriculum.
Meaningful change for us is about how the education environment can ensure behaviour changes on young people’s SRHR.
Currently our partners, Rutgers WPF Indonesia and IPPA, are trying to test CSE in schools from kindergarten onwards.
What’s the public’s opinion of CSE for young people?
There is still some stigma regarding CSE, that the word ‘sexuality’ isn’t appropriate for teaching. On the other hand, after many cases of sexual abuse, rape, and other forms of violence, communities are beginning to agree that young people and children need reproductive health subjects.
Based your shadow report, and the news reports such as this one from the TIMES. Is there a particular piece of legislation that you would like to see the state work on immediately?
We want legislators to focus on making gender equality legislation, and protection for access to sexual and reproductive health services and CSE for young people. But I think we need to work harder now with the current political situation.
How open is the President and the parliamentarians to the changes of the SRHR community? Do you think you have more official allies that those who are against the provision of these rights?
After the backlash against LGBT since the beginning of 2016, many negative statements have come from parliamentarians and ministries. Psychiatrists also made statements which make life more difficult for LGBT people. And this is the updated news from our country.
Let’s grade the Government! A B C D and F- Fail for the different categories below:
What are the next steps for ARI and what do you expect the response to be from the state?
Our next step is to collaborate with our partners and alliances to increase awareness within society about SRHR. We want the voices from society and young people to be heard by government through our advocacy. We expect the government to be supportive and more progressive after hearing about the needs of young people.
This blog was originally published as part of a series organized by the Action for Sustainable Development platform, for the occasion of the global High Level Political Forum in July 2016, at the UN in New York.
Governments from around the world are discussing how to ensure the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be truly transformative. One of the key tenets to this comprehensive, far-reaching and people-centred global agenda is ‘accountability’ for the commitments – a word long avoided by many Member States. True accountability embodies the human rights principles of participation, equality and non-discrimination.
The role of civil society is crucial to building accountability and in the achievement of Agenda 2030. Civil society has transformative power and proven positive effects on development towards building peaceful and prosperous societies. Civil society plays a vital role in reaching out to, and defending the human rights of marginalised groups such as sex workers, people of diverse sexualities and gender orientations, migrants and others, and must be seen as enablers in helping governments achieve their promise of “reaching the furthest behind first”.
But, at a time when civil society engagement and participation is most needed, civil society is experiencing increasing pressure, reduced funding, and shrinking space. The recently passed UN Human Rights Council resolution on the protection of civil society space recognises the deepening challenges facing civil society globally, emphasizing the need for an enabling environment. A new essay published by Civicus identifies the specific threats faced by women human rights defenders, in particular, due to the nature of their work which includes challenging norms relating to reproductive rights, sexuality, freedom of expression, or the right to dress a certain way.
Civil society needs safe space to mobilize and generate new ideas. Regional platforms can provide space for activists to support the work that is being done at national level, and to jointly strategise based on sharing of successes, gaps and challenges. For example, at a recent South East Asia and the Pacific regional caucus “SDGS and the Fulfillment of Sexual Rights for Women and Girls” civil society activists shared priorities for accountability to SDGS and ensuring that vulnerable groups are not excluded, pinpointing key recommendations for the HLPF. This shows how working together on through different platforms can have key results.
Another regional space where civil society engagement must be promoted and supported are the regional inter-governmental review processes. In Asia Pacific, a Regional Civil Society Engagement Mechanism is gaining momentum as the primary interface for engagement with the ESCAP and governments in the fulfillment of Agenda 2030. Yet, at the Forum on Sustainable Development in April 2016, civil society were marginalized and their presence and contributions challenged.
While Agenda 2030 is unprecedented in its ambition, there are still gaps in Agenda 2030; civil society will need to be strategic about ensuring the fulfillment of certain rights. For example, for the sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) community, sexual rights are notably absent. However aspects of sexual rights can be clearly linked to specific targets, for instance:
Although Agenda 2030 offers a renewed opportunity to ensure the fulfilment of human rights and achieve sustainable development, it’s success is contingent on the commitment of governments to support the building of vibrant and tolerant societies, and the will and support for civil society to collectively sustain the momentum to be heard and recognised.