A recent crime story — about a woman in West Java who allegedly attacked her husband with an axe after his constant demands for sex caused her to snap — has helped shine a light on the taboo topic of marital rape in Indonesia. Police handling the case now say that the woman, who had just given birth to her third child less than two months previously, is suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and therefore they have decided to try and mediate between the couple instead of prosecuting the wife for the attack.
The chief of the Sukabumi Regional Police, Nasriadi, said that their investigation found that the wife in the case, identified as 43-year-old Aminah, had PPD and was therefore not in full control of her actions.
“We will try to mediate with the victim. The perpetrator in this case, the wife of the victim, committed the act without realizing it. This condition was also supported by the results of a medical examination of the perpetrator,” Nasriadi said today as quoted by Detik.
PPD is sometimes referred to as “baby blues” in Indonesia, a term which unfortunately doesn’t convey how serious the mood disorder can be. Symptoms of PPD may include extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, crying episodes, irritability, and changes in sleeping and eating patterns. Although the exact causes of PPD are not fully understood, research shows that it occurs in nearly 15% of all births.
Nasriadi said that the police would coordinate with the Sukabumi District Health Office to get Aminah therapy from a psychiatrist. He also said that police would inform people living in Aminah’s neighborhood about her condition to give them a better understanding of the couple’s situation.
“We will provide an understanding of postpartum depression to residents of the area, the medical results will be revealed by involving the health department. Hopefully, this married couple can return to harmony and be accepted again by the community,” Nasriadi said.
According to police, Aminah said she attacked her husband, 47-year-old Maman, on Sunday because he constantly forced her to have sex, despite the fact that she had just given birth to their third child less than two months ago.
“According to her, she had just given birth and was not yet on birth control, while her husband kept asking for jatah ‘emen’ (which could be roughly translated as “sex quota”). She served her husband but finally she became so stressed because of her fatigue that she finally stabbed him,” Cikidang Police Chief Sunarto said yesterday as quoted by Detik.
Maman was reportedly severely injured in the attack, but police say he was in stable condition at a hospital.
In a somewhat similar case that gained attention last week, a resident of North Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok neighborhood was arrested for violently assaulting his wife. According to the police, the attack came after she refused to have sex with him.
Marital rape is not illegal under Indonesia’s Criminal Code but it is criminalized by the Domestic Violence Protection Act. However, marital rape carries a higher burden of proof and a lower maximum punishment than rape outside of marriage.
Women’s rights activists have been pushing the government to pass the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill, which would enforce harsher punishments for perpetrators of gender-based violence and provides greater protections for victims of crimes such as marital rape. However, conservative activists and politicians have fought to block the bill by framing it as being permissive towards sex outside of marriage and supporting LGBT rights.