Indonesia’s Parliament has on Tuesday, April 12, 2022, passed a long-awaited sexual violence bill to aimed at providing a legal framework for victims to secure justice in a country where sexual abuse has often been regarded as a private matter.
A majority of lawmakers backed the bill at the plenary session in parliament, overcoming opposition from some conservative groups in the world’s biggest Muslim majority country after six years of deliberation. Speaker of the House, Puan Maharani, said: “We hope that the implementation of this law will resolve sexual violence cases”.
The bill has been broadly welcomed by activists, though some have objected to its limited scope, with only some sex crimes included and the omission of a specific clause on rape which the government said will be included in other legislation. “This is surely a step forward”, says Asfinawati, a Law Expert at Jentera School of Law, who has assisted sexual violence victims, while noting definitions of rape currently covered under the criminal code. He has advised that the definitions should still be made clearer.
A Careful Look Into the Incoming Law
According to activists, sexual violence complaints are rising in Indonesia, where prosecuting sex crimes have been complicated by the absence of a dedicated legal framework. As a result, it has erupted victims’ concerns of being shamed during questioning, hence deterring many from speaking up.
The final draft of the law includes prison terms of up to 12 years for crimes of physical sexual abuse, both in marriage and outside, 15 years for sexual exploitation, nine years for forced marriage, which include child marriage, and four years for circulating non-consensual sexual content. It stipulated that a court must compel convicted abusers to pay restitution and authorities to provide counselling to victims.
Under earlier proposals, the legislation would have also covered abortion and provided a clearer definition of what constituted rape. The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and civil society groups first proposed the idea of legislation a decade ago and a bill was submitted to the house four years later.
In January 2022, President Joko Widodo told his government to expedite new legislation, which seeks to make it easier to build cases and secure convictions. One party in Parliament, the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), objected to the bill, saying it should regulate extramarital sex and called for a ban on sexual relations based on what it described as “deviant” sexual orientation.
An Earlier Event
Last week, an Indonesian Court handed down a death sentence to a teacher for raping 13 girls at an Islamic school, upholding an appeal by prosecutors for the death penalty after he initially received a sentence of life in prison.
The case of teacher Herry Wirawan shocked Indonesia and shone a spotlight on the need to protect children from sexual violence in the country’s religious boarding schools. After he was sentenced to life in jail by a court in the city of Bandung in February, prosecutors who called for the death penalty filed an appeal.