INDONESIA: WOMEN’S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS…AREN’T THEY?

SIANY GUNAWAN WRITES – In Indonesia, the debate on women’s rights has accelerated in response to political and social challenges. More and more women are being sexually abused and, according to women’s legal counselors, the alleged violence had continued for years. The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded 431,471 such acts in 2019.

For three years, since January 2016, women in Indonesia have proposed Rancangan Undang-Undang Penghapusan Kekerasan Seksual (RUU PKS – Law for Elimination of Sexual Violence). The definition of sexual violence, as stated in Article 1 of the RUU PKS,  is :“Sexual violence is any act of degrading, insulting, attacking, and / or other acts against one’s body, sexual desire, and / or reproductive function, forcibly, contrary to someone’s will, which causes that person to be unable to give consent. in a free state, due to imbalance in power relations and / or gender relations, which results in or can result in suffering or suffering physically, psychologically, sexually, economic, social, cultural and / or political losses .” In later articles it further states that  sexual violence includes: : a. sexual harassment; b. sexual exploitation; c. forced contraception; d. forced abortion; e. rape; f. forced marriage; g. forced prostitution; h. sexual slavery; and i. sexual torture. And Article 11 clarifies  that sexual violence may occur in the scope of personal, household, work relations, public relations, including those that occur in situations of conflict, natural disasters and other special situations.”

At the National Commission on Violence against Women’s meeting (Komnas Perempuan) (25 October 2016) to the 13th (3 September 2019), various women’s issues- sexual violence, child protection, criminal provisions, LGBT rights and religious rights -were  discussed. . And yet,  RUU PKS was revoked. It is unclear  why. There has not been a single discussion about the RUU PKS in the new Regional People’s Representative Assembly’s (DPR) term.

This has encouraged many women and girls in Indonesia to form a movement of their own. And so, the  Indonesian women’s congress, generally known as Ulama, has been fighting against the oppression of  women. In addition, the group has pioneered  supporting for social change on the basis of  humane as well as  national interests, and is working to cultivate a moderate understanding of Islam  so as to build a mutuality between men and women. As Ulama puts forth:  “The law on the elimination of sexual violence will fill the legal vacuum in Indonesia regarding the protection of society from sexual violence. This will make it easier for law enforcement officials to ensnare perpetrators of sexual violence.”

Progressive laws could certainly help; unfortunately, sexual violence  cases are too often resolved on “family” grounds,  without legal process, without justice for the victims and without punishment for the perpetrators.

It seems that the Regional People’s Representative Assembly has purposely prolonged this drama. It has been 4 years since the RUU PKS became Prolegnas (National Priority Legislation Program), yet they have not been ratified. In some  cases involving sexual harassment,  victims have been murdered.

The Regional People’s Representative Assembly (DPR) must no longer close its eyes to this urgent matter.  Let’s hope those in power, especially the honorable ladies in government, speak out for justice!

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