A New Law for Equality
The political parties that still oppose the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill do not understand the new values of public morality. They are also opposing the will of the majority.
IF the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill fails once again to be passed by the House of Representatives (DPR) this year, it seems that it would be appropriate to refer to Indonesia as a misogynist society that is still stuck in the past. Proposed as a DPR initiative five years ago, the bill failed to pass at the end of 2019. Now it has once again been included in the 2021 Priority National Legislation Program.
DPR Speaker Puan Maharani said the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill was included in the priority legislation agenda as proof of the nation being on the side of sexual violence victims. This is a slightly premature statement that will have to be proven with action. Two years ago, the DPR stopped deliberations of the bill claiming there was insufficient time. Last year the bill was not even included on the legislative agenda because it was seen as “too difficult.” This reason was nothing more than an excuse because the DPR managed to pass the far more complex Job Creation Law in an extraordinarily short time.
In 2019, the DPR Social and Women’s Affairs Commission deliberated the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill only as far as the first stage. Although only the Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) explicitly opposed it, the failure of the government coalition of parties to pass the bill shows the lack of unanimous support. Everybody knows that the government coalition controls the majority of seats in the DPR.
We also know that the majority of politicians in Senayan opposed the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill because their way of thinking is overly conservative and patriarchal. This is reflected in comments they made regarding the proposed articles relating to rape in marriage and the wording of different types of sexual harassment. Women, in their minds, have no right to be protected from sexual violence in the home and are not allowed to report to the police if they are forced to have sex without consent.
Despite this, in public, DPR members claim that their opposition represents the will of their constituents. This is clearly contrived. In a poll carried out by the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development and the Indonesian Judicial Research Society in the middle of 2020, 70.5 percent of 2,210 respondents in 34 provinces supported the passing of the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill. The latest poll by the Indonesian public opinion study and discussion group carried out on March 6-8 found that 87.8 percent of 400 respondents in five major cities supported the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill.
The size of public support is a sign of the increasing urgency for this law. There are no more reasons to delay passing the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill, especially since the Women and Children Protection Online Information System of the ministry of women’s affairs and child protection shows that cases of sexual violence continue to increase. Of 2,465 incidents reported last year, almost 80 percent of the victims were women. The number of unreported incidents is bound to be far higher.
The endeavor to end sexual violence is now a global issue. In many nations, there is a new awareness, especially among the young, of the importance of gender equality and of the need to end all forms of violence against women. These are the moral values and ethical standards of today. It is no longer the age when rapes are dealt with by asking the rapist to marry his victim, or to blame women for the way they dress when they become victims of sexual harassment. This all belongs to the past.
Although a law is not a miracle cure that can end all these problems at once, the existence of a law to protect women from sexual violence is important as a sign that times are changing. Without this, the question of how civilized this nation is will be open to question.