It’s a crime so horrible that it’s hard to imagine. On Thursday, a man in Canggu cut off his wife’s left foot and attempted to cleave off her right foot as well. The attack occurred in front of the couple’s young children, who have now been sent to their grandmother in Singaraja for care.
The woman, Putu (33), was attacked by her husband, identified as KAP (36) with a machete at their home. At some point, KAP started feeling remorse for his actions and took her to the local clinic for treatment. He has been detained by police and will undergo psychiatric testing. Putu, meanwhile, is in the hospital and her left leg has been operated on.
The Tribun Bali reports a family member saying that Putu was often physically abused by her husband; screenshots of WhatsApp conversations allege that he even put out cigarettes on her skin. Unfortunately, for people familiar with cases of domestic violence, this sort of incremental increase in violence is not uncommon. Domestic violence can begin mildly, through controlling behavior, but often escalates to physical trauma or even death.
Family friends have said that Putu had long wanted to divorce her husband, and would often show up with bruises covering her body. Jenny Jusuf, a writer who knows a relative of Putu’s, said that “Putu’s family constantly talked her out of [getting a divorce]. They asked her to stay. The last time she asked them permission to get a divorce was just last week, and again, they advised her not to,” says Jenny.
“Now, they regret it. Her mother cried, saying that if only they had let her get a divorce, she wouldn’t have become handicapped.” Worst of all, Jenny adds, “this is a very common issue here [in Bali]. Even if a woman wants to get a divorce, her family will talk her out of it. They tell her that ‘maybe he will change’.”
In 2016, according to data collected by the Menghitung Pembunuhan Perempuan (Counting Dead Women – Indonesia) project, there were media reports of 193 women being murdered across Indonesia. Only four women were killed by other women. Overall, 50% of women were killed by their husbands, boyfriends, former partners, or men who were attracted to them. This is in line with regional statistics; the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime claims that 55% of female homicide victims in Asia are killed by family members or intimate partners. For men, the same statistic is just 6%.
Statistics gathered by Komnas Perempuan (the National Commission on Violence against Women) showed there were 13,602 reported cases throughout all of 2016, which averages to around 37 each day. Of course, we can’t begin to know how many cases go unreported.
Jealousy is often a major motive for men who kill or hurt their wives. Putu’s husband, for example, apparently claimed that his wife was having an affair. And Putu is lucky in the terrible sense that she survived her horrific attack; many other women have seen their lives snuffed out by jealous husbands.
In February, a man cut his girlfriend’s throat when she refused to have sex with him. He had seen her a few days before on the back of another man’s motorbike; he decided he was cheating on her, and killed her.
In April, a 16-year-old girl was strangled to death by her 19-year-old boyfriend in a forest in Cilacap, Central Java; she received an SMS and he wanted to know who it was from. When she did not tell him, he jumped up, strangled her, then stamped on her head. Twice. Her body was found a week later.
In June, a man in Gresik, East Java, burnt his wife to death after he found messages on her mobile phone from another man and “kiss marks” on her body.
Unfortunately, what happened to Putu in Canggu is reflective of a wider patriarchal culture — one that, unfortunately, exists in many other countries besides Indonesia as well. It’s a culture that leads men to become so infuriated by the idea that their wife or girlfriend might be interested in someone else, that they become willing to do anything they can to stop her from leaving. It’s the same primitive ‘If I can’t have her, no-one can’ attitude that leads jealous men in countries ranging from Bangladesh to Cambodia to South Africa to throw acid in the faces of the women who spurned them.
“Jealousy is often used as an excuse by abusive husbands or intimate partners to justify their violent act,” explains Yenni Kwok, a freelance journalist who often writes about violence against women in Asia. “It is a weapon to control women, and it reflects a man’s sense of entitlement, that nobody but him can possess ‘his’ woman.”
Mariana Amiruddin, the chairperson of Komnas Perempuan, agrees. “Jealousy can make someone kill someone else because they feel as though their partner is their possession, their property,” says Mariana. “Women who cheat are especially thought of as deserving revenge, in comparison with men who cheat, because women are considered to be the property of their husbands. Men whose partners cheat on them feel that it reduces their value as men, because they are not needed any more.”
“This means that the problem isn’t jealousy, as such, but psychological and social,” Mariana concludes.
A 2012-2013 masculinity study carried out in Jakarta, Purworejo and Jayapura asked 2,577 about men questions about sexual violence. In Jakarta, 24.1% respondents said they had, in their lifetime, raped their spouse; in Purworejo the figure was 17.9%, while in Papua it was 43.8%.
Relatively few of the men surveyed cited inebriation as a primary motivator. But 75.7% of men in Jakarta said they had done so because they felt entitled and 29.7% because they had wanted to “have fun”. In total, 46.9% of the respondents in the three cities who had admitted to sexual violence said they had suffered no consequences for their actions. Only 21.5% said the consequences had been of a legal nature.
Women’s rights activists have long argued that Indonesia needs to amend its laws to take into account different forms of domestic abuse and sexual violence to end this culture of impunity for victimizers. A piece of legislation that would do just that, RUU Penghapusan Kekerasan Seksual (Bill on the Eradication of Sexual Violence) has been under considerations since 2014 but there has not yet been any major movement on it.
"A culture of sexual violence is pervasive across Indonesia and its institutions. Virginity testing for female recruits…
But that might change soon, as Minister of Women and Children of the Republic of Indonesia Yohanna Yembise said the bill will be discussed in the House of Representatives in mid-September.
So if you think the government needs to pass the bill to prevent more from suffering a fate like Putu’s, now is the time to make your voices heard.