The Role of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus in Promoting Women’s Participation and Representation: A Case Study in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Today, gender equality and justice have become global issues. Achieving these goals requires wide
support not only from governments, but also from international organizations in different parts of the
In Asia, women’s participation and representation is an issue that is much discussed and examined
by students, researchers and policy makers. It is interesting to analyze how women (of different ages
and from diverse backgrounds such as different ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, religions and
nationalities) strive for women’s participation and representation in politics and for participation in the
decision-making processes in their country.
Indonesia and Timor-Leste, as the focus of this study, have different institutional backgrounds that
shape the development of democracy in each country. In Indonesia, democratization and political
openness began earlier than in Timor-Leste. Since 1998, the democracy in Indonesia has brought about
opportunities, as well as challenges, in building democractic justice for the promotion of women’s
participation and representation in Indonesia.
In 1975, Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor), was integrated into Indonesia and became one of its
provinces. On October 25, 1999, it decided to secede from Indonesia and became known as East
Timor. A transitional administration,namely United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor
(UNTAET), was established under the United Nations (UN) and on May 20, 2002, Timor-Leste became
Within the framework of building a fair and equitable democracy, it is widely accepted that there are a
variety of mechanisms and initiatives, which are promoted at local and international levels, to accelerate
the achievement of gender equality. In her book The New Politics of Gender Equality (2007), Judith Squires
specifies three strategies that are generally put in place to promote women’s representation in politics:
women’s policy agency; gender-equitable policies that we know as gender mainstreaming; and quotas,
which are directed towards an increased number of women’s participation in a relatively short time, as
temporary special measures.
In other words, these three strategies are directed at “presence, voice and process”. Quotas are aimed
at increasing the number of women in different decision-making institutions. Gender mainstreaming
is a policy to ensure that the principle of gender equality is integrated at every stage of policy making.
Meanwhile, a women’s agency (a women’s caucus) is established as a means of conveying and urging the
fulfillment of women’s practical and strategic interests in the policy-making arena.2 The Role of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus in Promoting Women’s Participation and Representation
Both Indonesia and Timor-Leste have introduced and adopted various mechanisms to achieve these
goals. In Indonesia, the guarantee of equality between men and women is mandated in the Constitution
(Article 28 of the 1945 Constitution). Another regulation that encourages increased women’s participation
and representation in politics is the affirmative action policy in the form of electoral quotas for women
stipulated in the General Election Law No. 12/2002, which was then amended to General Election Law No.
10/2008 and now includes the zipper system. This provision stipulates that for every party participating
in the election, there must be one woman in every three candidates. Provisions concerning the electoral
quotas and 1:3 zipper are maintained in the latest General Election Law, Law no. 12/2012, which regulates
the 2014 election.
In addition to the election law, affirmative action policies are also found in the Law on Political Parties
governing party formation. This relates to the involvement of women in party management (Law no.
2/2008), which is retained in the amendment to the latest Law on Political Parties No. 2/2011.
In Timor-Leste, the guarantee of equality between men and women is mandated within the Constitution
of Timor-Leste. It stipulates that one in four party candidates must be a woman. The constitutional
amendment in 2011 goes further to ensure greater representation and participation of women, by
requiring one in every three candidates to be a woman.
There have been many studies discussing the strategic role of a women’s caucus. Caucuses usually
comprise a diverse group with a shared ideology to achieve a common goal. They can act as a ‘critical
mass’ with strategic pressure, though formally, they do not necessarily have to have a large number of