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Indonesia: Discrimination law may not be effective

Human rights groups have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the newly enacted law against racial and ethnic discrimination, citing its narrow coverage.

Human rights groups have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the newly enacted law against racial and ethnic discrimination, citing its narrow coverage.

Human rights groups have cast doubt on the effectiveness of the newly enacted law against racial and ethnic discrimination, citing its narrow coverage.

"The law will not settle all problems related to discrimination because it only regulates discrimination against races and ethnicities, whereas the causes of discrimination are far more widespread than that," Wahyu Effendi, chairman of the Movement Against Discrimination (Gandi), told The Jakarta Post.

The anti-discrimination law was officially enacted on 28 October 2008 to coincide with the Youth Pledge anniversary.

Wahyu said Gandi and several other NGOs had earlier proposed the law also deal with discrimination against women, the disabled, and homosexual, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) groups.

"But the proposal turned into a long debate at the House of Representatives. It held up the deliberation of the bill for a while," he said.

He added Islamic parties were strongly opposed to recognising religious and sex orientation discrimination in the bill, forcing the House to revert to its old draft.

"The old draft was based on the 1999 convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and focuses more on racial and ethnic discrimination," Wahyu said.

Besides, he went on, the law only covered discrimination committed by individuals or discrimination in workplaces. He pointed out discrimination by government officials or institutions were not dealt with in the law.

"There are many omissions that make me pessimistic about the effectiveness of the law," he said.

Ahmad Baso, a member of the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), said the commission welcomed the new law despite its perceived shortcomings. He said Komnas HAM had asked why legislators had only dealt with racial and ethnic discrimination in the law.

"According to lawmakers, religion is part of ethnicity," he said.

The legislators, Ahmad continued, claimed the need to not recognize gender discrimination was regulated in the 1984 law on the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

He added the commission would continue discussing the law with representatives of community groups and bring their opinions to the House.

"We will soon discuss the implication of the law with religious organization figures and NGOs," he said. Asked if he would likely file a judicial review, Ahmad said there was no such plan as yet.

"The law was deliberated over just a few days and many people were not aware of it," he said.

Date: 5 November 2008

Source: The Jakarta Post

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