Indonesian minister urges men to help push down maternal mortality rates

Indonesian Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi.
PHOTO: Indonesian minister urges men to help push down maternal mortality rates

Boyfriends, husbands and male elders should play a larger role in preventing deaths related to pregnancy and birth, a minister has said.

Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said the role of men should be central in pregnancy and childbirth-related death prevention, as data has shown Indonesia's maternal mortality rate was increasing despite fairly high economic growth.

"Have we made enough efforts to promote men's role in the protection and respect paid to women's needs regarding, for instance, the timing between pregnancies and determining the number of wanted pregnancies?" Nafsiah said in her remarks at a public dialogue on ending poverty on Monday.

In 1994, Indonesia joined a world commitment to ensure male and female reproductive rights at a population conference in Cairo.

However, health experts have noted that among the country's 359 deaths for every 100,000 live births, several come from complications in pregnancy among women who may be too young or too old to be pregnant, or have had too many children, or were pregnant following a recent delivery.

Men should also make a public stand that sexual relations with minors under 18 is a crime, the minister said, given that teenage pregnancy among married and unmarried girls still occurred.

Activists are pushing for the judicial review of the 1974 Marriage Law, so as to increase the legal marriage age for females from 16 to 19.

Monday's talks were held by Kapal Perempuan or the Women's Ship Institute, which focuses on empowering women, and involved local female leaders mainly from eastern Indonesia.

Kapal's executive director, Missiyah, said attempts to overcome poverty had yet to improve conditions for millions of women.

Loans to assist poor women "have been exhausted for consumption and other basic needs like education and health," Missiyah said.

Her assessment was based on monitoring of government loans for women in 16 villages across South Sulawesi, West Sulawesi and West and East Nusa Tenggara by women recruited for Kapal's community-based gender audit programme over the past three years.