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New anti-sexual violence bill in Indonesia is a landmark ruling but not a silver bullet

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14 April 2022 Tags: anti-sexual violence, Bill, Indonesia

In a long-awaited moment, the Indonesian parliament finally passed the landmark anti-sexual violence bill, overcoming resistance from opposition groups. While not a silver bullet for ending sexual and gender-based violence, when it comes to full force, the law can deter individuals from committing sexual violence, and it would provide a stronger legal standing to build cases and secure convictions.

Since its’ first proposal was submitted many years ago, Indonesian women’s rights organisations, civil society, feminist activists, women crisis centres, academicians, and youth groups have worked tirelessly on its’ campaign and advocacy. The bill provides a legal framework for victims of sexual and gender-based violence to access justice. This comes at a time when sexual violence has been on the rise; The Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice reported a spike in reports of violence against women and children in 2020, and it continues to dramatically increase in 2021.

The bill has a victim-centred approach by mentioning imbalances in power relations that causes someone to be more vulnerable in sexual and gender-based violence cases – guaranteeing a victim’s rights for case handling, protection, and rehabilitation. These rights include access to restitution from a victims’ trust fund, integrated services to handle cases, accessibility to justice for people with disabilities, and victim recovery during and after the legal proceedings. It also instructs the provision of medical rehabilitation, psychological and social rehabilitation, and social integration.

An expanded definition of sexual violence is also included, such as physical and non-physical sexual harassment, sexual torture, forced contraception, forced sterilisation, forced marriage, sexual slavery, sexual exploitation, and online-based harassment. Despite the setback that rape and coerced abortion were left out – with parliament explaining that it would be covered in the draft of penal code revision – this is the first legislation that specifically tackles sexual violence in Indonesia.

“A lot needs to be done to make this new law become effective. We also need to gear ourselves up to be involved in revising the draft penal code again- where tensions on the issue of rape (marital rape, consensual sex) and forced abortion will again be relived”
Nancy Sunarno, Head of Programmes Rutgers WPF

The next step for civil society organisations and the government in Indonesia is to translate this bill into implementing regulations and to monitor and demand accountability for its implementation at all levels. As important as this much-awaited law is to continue challenging deeply rooted harmful gender and social norms in a quest to instil gender equality and end sexual violence in all forms in Indonesia.

Since 2021, partners in the Rutgers programmes Generation G, Right Here Right Now and Power to You(th) have promoted the bill through social media campaigns, studies, policy advocacy and formal hearings before the parliamentary members’ sessions and relevant government agencies. The Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice in Jakarta and Koalisi Perempuan Indonesia have been leading the advocacy together with the two nationwide networks dedicated to advocating this bill called Civil Society Coalition (Jaringan Masyarakat Sipil) and Service Provider Forum for Women Victims of Violence (Forum Pengada Layanan untuk Perempuan Korban Kekerasan) accross provinces in Indonesia.

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