Issues of Ethics and Equity in Cervical Cancer Prevention, Screening and Treatment in Indonesia

Associate Professor Linda Bennett1 & Dr Belinda Spagnoletti1,2

1Nossal Institute For Global Health, 2Center for Reproductive Health

With cervical cancer causing the death of 50 Indonesian women each day, the imperative of upscaling the nations’ efforts in preventing, screening for and treating cervical cancer is crystal clear. What is less clear, however, is how women’s and girls’ rights are considered, contested and neglected in recent cervical cancer interventions. This paper draws on findings from a current four-year study on human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, and screening and treatment for cervical cancer in Indonesia that has revealed a quagmire of issues related to ethics and equity. Specifically, we problematise issues of informed consent in relation to HPV vaccination, outreach screening events, and the contested requirement of husband approval for women to receive cancer-related health care. We also discuss challenges in ensuring equity in HPV vaccination access, discrimination in screening access for unmarried women, and differential access to prevention, screening and treatment for women living outside of major urban centres and for the urban poor. The paper draws on data collected with women affected by cervical cancer, health professionals engaged in cervical cancer prevention, screening and treatment, and members of community-based advocacy organisations in Yogyakarta and Jakarta.


Linda Rae Bennett is a medical anthropologist and Associate Professor at the Nossal Institute for Global Health, the University of Melbourne. She has over 20 years of experience in Indonesia, particularly in the areas of gender and sexuality, sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence and health equity.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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