Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 September 2009
For both Indonesian women and the state, motherhood has been a concept of crucial importance. Governments have wanted responsible modern mothers, who can raise healthy children of good moral character. In the late twentieth century, the main concern of the state in relation to women was that they should have fewer children. Most of the research commissioned by the New Order Government on the subject of women related to fertility and how to limit it, and the largest single area of state expenditure on women has been devoted to birth control. Unlike other issues studied in this book, this one was largely initiated and pursued by the state.
For organised Indonesian women, on the other hand, it is striking how seldom they advanced any needs or rights that they had as mothers. More frequently, they fell in with the dominant state ideology concerning the responsibilities of mothers. Motherhood in the service of the nation-state was the prevailing theme of their activities and rhetoric. Only occasionally in modern Indonesian history have women taken a prominent political stand to demand that the needs of mothers be met.
Most notably, the issue of the health needs of mothers received little attention from either women's organisations or the state. It was not until the late twentieth century, as a result of external pressure, that the state began to address the high level of maternal mortality in Indonesia, and some women's groups took up the international call for reproductive health rights.