Row of Tragedies: Sexual Violence in Indonesia

by Marrium Jameela

Jakarta has become one of the most insecure cities for women in the world Рa bad achievement for Indonesia which has 135 million female residents. The issue of sexual violence in Indonesia is one of the scary scourges. The high rate of sexual violence is also because of the reason that there are no laws which protect women from being the victim of such assaults.

This is supported by the annual data of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) according to which an average of 3,000 to 6,500 cases of sexual violence were reported annually from 2012-2017 in the personal, household and community domains. In 2016, Komnas Perempuan recorded 3,945 cases of sexual violence in the country. The data came from 358 religious courts and 23 Komnas Perempuan partner institutions which are present in 34 provinces of Indonesia.

If we look at the highest figure of reported cases from the year of 2016 – 6,500 cases of sexual violence – it means that on average 18 cases of sexual violence occurred every day in 2016. If it is shortened further, it roughly makes 3 cases of sexual violence per hour.

However, this data is limited. It is based on experiences of those who dared to report their cases to law enforcement and service provider forums. This data is like a mound of ice on the surface of the ocean, we never know how high the iceberg is behind it.

Of course, this report shows small numbers to the numbers of survivors who have never dared to reveal their experiences of sexual violence. this is due to a legal vacuum regarding violence against women.

The criminal law in Indonesia is unable to understand the brutality attached with sexual harassment. The criminal law only sees sexual violence in one form. According to this law, rape means forced intercourse. If there is no intercourse in a particular case, it ends with impunity.

For example, there were two major cases that occurred in Indonesia amid elections. Two women Agni and Baiq Nuril brought the attention of all Indonesian people towards this very important issue by reporting what had happened with them.

Agni was a student at Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta. She was raped by her colleague in her office where she was working as an intern. Agni reported the case to the university but she was the one who university punished for speaking up.

Baiq Nuril was not luckier than Agni. She had complained of getting lewd phone calls from the head teacher of the school she worked at in Mataram, a city on the island of Lombok. She was imprisoned and fired from her job as the case grew while her boss was promoted.

Recently, Indonesia’s top court jailed her for sharing the harassment calls of her boss.

The case of Agni and Baiq Nuril is one of the handfuls of cases that have attracted national attention. While there are millions of cases of sexual violence which were never reported.

The recent case was of a teacher who abused more than 30 students at the elementary school. This was not the first time he was accused of misconduct. He is a habitual accuser. The education ministry has transferred him to the Malang region three times on the same charges.

However, the regional ministry of education did not take the crime committed by the priest seriously. The accused kept working on his position. He was just transferred to another school where he kept doing the heinous crime with other children.

At a mediation meeting of the head of the Malang ministry of education, revealed to mothers of child victims that they were very emotional and were not patient because they brought the case to court. For Zubaidah this is not a serious problem considering there is no intercourse

Zubaidah is not the only civilian state apparatus that has a patriarchal perspective. There are a lot of law enforcers in Indonesia who still have the same perspective. Often victims are blamed when they try to report the crime that befell them.

The National Commission on Women has also tried to submit a law on the elimination of sexual violence against women. This law protects women and children from being the victim of sexual violence. Unfortunately, this law has been rejected by the conservative Islamic movement in Indonesia. According to them, this law supports LGBT rights and promotes sex outside marriage.

The movement was backed by an aggressive social media campaign calling for parliament to reject the draft law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence. It got almost 150,000 signatures in the first two weeks of its launch.

This situation creates a layered obstacle for law enforcement in Indonesia that tries to protect women from being the victim of sexual crimes. First, the absence of relevant laws in Indonesia made it difficult for law enforcement officials to punish perpetrators of such crimes. Whereas legal formulation efforts in Indonesia are actually considered as the promotion of LGBT and sex before marriage.

This is overall a terrible condition for the women living in Indonesia. They do not get the slightest support from either the law or the government who are responsible to provide them a safe environment. The survivors who try to speak up have to shut their voices after they get bullied which further strengthens the offenders.


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Marrium Jameela


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