Outrage over the six-month jail sentence recently given to a teacher who recorded her school’s principal sexually harassing her has once again put the way the Indonesian legal system handles cases of sexual harassment and abuse under scrutiny. A bill that could rectify many of the problems that plague these cases was drafted long ago, but its recognition of violence between same-sex partners has become one of its main barriers to passage.
That’s according to Komnas Perempuan (National Commission on Violence Against Women) member Sri Nurherwati, who said that the country’s current moral panic over LGBT rights was making legislators hesitant to push RUU Penghapusan Kekerasan Seksual (the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence) into law.
“In the DPR (House of Representatives), the Bill on Sexual Violence is being held back because of its recognition of LGBT. I think we have to be firm, the DPR should discuss it immediately,” Sri said at her office in Jakarta yesterday as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
Sri urged the lawmakers in DPR Commission IX (in which the draft bill currently sits) to look past the LGBT controversy to pass legislation that was incredibly important to protect all victims of sexual violence in all of its forms.
She also noted that the bill’s recognition that sexual violence could take place between same-sex individuals did not need to imply support or “legalization” of LGBT.
Homosexuality and LGBT behavior is not illegal in Indonesia, except in the province of Aceh that has special autonomy to enact sharia-based law. However, anti-LGBT sentiment is strong in many parts of the country and many regional governments are now trying to pass discriminatory legislation targeting the vilified minority. When the Constitutional Court struck down a judicial review last year that would have effectively made homosexual acts illegal, they were strongly criticized by many for “legalizing” LGBT (even though, again, it was already legal before).
But even if there’s a chance that politicians could face similar criticism for passing RUU Penghapusan Kekerasan Seksual, hopefully there are enough who have the courage to recognize that the bill’s importance far outweighs that.
The bill, which was drafted in part by Komnas Perempuan, clearly defines the different forms of sexual violence and sets out the responsibilities of the State in dealing with those cases. Crucially, it provides for the protection of victims and witnesses, increases their access to legal solutions, recovery and reparation mechanisms for the victim and rehabilitation of the offender.
While the coverage of and attention paid to cases of sexual violence is improving in Indonesia to some degree, a culture of stigmatization and victim blaming still keeps the country’s epidemic of sexual violence largely hidden from the public. If legislators are really serious about tackling these issues and protecting victims, than they need to put identity politics aside and do what is right by passing it immediately.