Indonesia passes new sexual violence law amid rising cases

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday approved a sweeping law setting out penalties for sexual violence after being spurred into action by a recent case in which an Islamic boarding school director raped and impregnated several students.

The legislation has languished for years amid arguments that it has a liberal feminist ideology that contravenes the religious and cultural values ​​of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

The law recognizes that men and children can be victims of sexual violence. Indonesian penal code, legacy of the Dutch colonial era. recognizes only rape and lewd crimes committed by men against women and does not provide for restitution or other remedies for victims and survivors.

Nine forms of sexual violence are recognized in the law: physical and non-physical sexual harassment, sexual torture, forced contraception, forced sterilization, forced marriage, sexual slavery, sexual exploitation and sexual cyber-harassment.

In addition to recognizing sexual violence as a punishable criminal act, the law contains provisions for the protection and recovery of victims.

Of the nine political parties in the House, only the prosperous Muslim-based Justice Party, known as the PKS, rejected it as they wanted the bill to ban extramarital sex and same-sex relationships.

“Our rejection is part of our fight for the prohibition and punishment of perpetrators of adultery and sexual deviations who are ultimately not included in the bill,” said Al Muzzamil Yusuf, a PKS lawmaker.

The law was passed a week after an Indonesian high court sentenced an Islamic boarding school director to death for raping at least 13 female students in five years and impregnating some of them. Several girls were 11 and 14 and were raped for several years, sparking public outcry that he had not been caught sooner.

In January, Speaker Joko Widodo called on the House of Representatives to expedite deliberations on the sexual violence bill, as it has languished in the legislature since 2016 as critics blast lawmakers as having “no sense of crisis”.

“The protection of victims of sexual violence should be our common concern and must be addressed urgently,” Widodo said.

Under the new law, perpetrators of electronic sexual violence could face up to 4 years in prison and a fine of 200 million rupees ($13,920), and up to 6 years and 300 million rupees ($20,880) if committed for the purpose of extorting, coercing and even deceiving the victims. Perpetrators of sexual exploitation risk up to 15 years in prison and a fine of 1 billion rupees ($69,600).

The law also requires that a trust fund and recovery services to help victims recover be established and regulated by the government.

The bill was initiated by the National Commission on Violence Against Women in 2012 and calls for it to be expedited following the shocking gang rape and murder of a 13-year-old schoolgirl by 14 drunken men in Bengkulu in 2016. stalled due to resistance from the PKS and Islamic groups.

The latest draft won majority support when provisions on rape and forced abortions were removed from the bill to avoid overlap with proposed changes to the Penal Code.

Government data showed that at least 797 children were victims of sexual violence in January alone, representing 9.13% of the total number of child victims in 2021, which reached 8,730, up 25% compared to 2020. In 2020, it recorded 45,069 cases of sexual violence against girls and women. since the drafting of the bill in 2012.

Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan contributed to this report.