Indonesia Shelves Anti-Sexual Violence Bill amidst Growing Numbers of Sexual Violence Cases

Trisha Dantiani H, 18 November 2020

When the Indonesian Parliament announced that they would be taking off the Anti-Sexual Violence Bill from the list of Prioritized Law Drafts of 2020, Indonesians voiced their disappointment on the government’s inability to curb the rising cases of sexual violence, though the matter itself proves to have become more of a political and religious issue than anything else.



Tunggal Pawestri is a women’s rights activist and gender consultant who has worked with various organizations to push for the prioritization of the anti-sexual violence bill.

“Right now, what is really terrible about the situation regarding RUU PKS are the few things that broaden the definition (of RUU PKS) in society, to the point where people misinterpret it,” she said.

The law itself has been in the works since early 2016, but has been delayed and debated over more times than a law of this scale should.

“We know that the numbers for sexual violence cases continue to rise. The data from Komnas Perempuan has stated that every year there is always a rise in the numbers of sexual violence cases and this is made worse by the fact there is even more gender violence that is based online,” she continues.

Reports from Komnas Perempuan (National Women’s Commission) has shown there are 892 sexual violence cases up until May 2020 alone, and along with the pandemic, comes a rise in cyber-sexual violence, reaching 22 times the amount in 2017 .

“Me and my fellow activists are trying to curb the issue and ensure that the bill gets passed. Whether or not it does get passed, I am still optimistic. The fact is that we also have allies within the board, especially the women,” Ms Pawestri said.

One of those women is legislation board member Selly Gantina, who said that in the previous period, the bill was only used as a campaign tool for the electability of certain parties.

“Some parties pretended to support it to get elected, even though they actually rejected it.”

Ms Gantina explained that other hurdles include the pandemic, an insufficient secondary budget and the period ending in October, leaving no choice but to push it back to the priority list for 2021 which starts in November.

“We cannot deny that Covid-19 has made it difficult for the Parliament to conduct discussions, even when there is a tug-of-war between us and Commission 8.” she said.

Ms Gantina has expressed optimism for the passing of the law in the upcoming period, but cannot deny that there is still strong opposition from religious-based parties in the parliament.

“It does not rule out the possibility that it will be passed this year. It is very possible.”

Member of the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) Mr. Iskan Lubis declined to be interviewed stating that the issue is “no longer relevant”.

Groups like the PKS party and AILA (Loving Family Alliance) Indonesia have vocally advocated against RUU PKS on the grounds of ‘threatening the morality and norms of the public’ and that it could lead to widespread human rights violations due to how easy it is to accuse someone of criminal wrongdoings.

These opposing parties have provided alternatives to the bill, such as revising the RKUHP (Criminal Law Bill) first before discussing the Anti-Sexual Violence bill and proposing a counter-bill titled the Family Resilience Bill.

One of the members of the working committee for RUU PKS, Rahayu Saraswati explained how difficult it was for the parliament to reach an agreement regarding the bill’s substance.

“It becomes an issue of perception towards the bill or the concept of consent, and that there are parties who disagree if it is said that women have rights over their own bodies.” Ms Saraswati said.

Ms Saraswati stated that PKS is just one of the opposing parties, as even members within the same factions have differing opinions regarding the bill. 

“They want to wait for the RKUHP to be completed, yet there are a lot of victims who will continue to fall in the sense that they cannot get justice.”

Siti Mazuma, from the Legal Aid Institute of Indonesian Women's Association for Justice (LBH APIK), has also contested to the defense that the bill should wait for the Criminal Code to be revised before passing it.

“In the Criminal Code we only have two types of rape and sexual molestation, meanwhile there are so many types of sexual violence in Indonesia and in the world. We don't have any articles to ensnare perpetrators or articles that can help victims who report.”

Ms Mazuma also addressed how stigmatization towards sexual violence victims in Indonesian society is still very high.

“People tend to blame victims who go out at night (or) who go wearing skirts. So, the revictimization of victims is still very high.”

Chair of the Sub-Commission for Law and Policy Reform of Komnas Perempuan, Siti Aminah Tardi says that the continued rejection is part of a larger issue pertaining Indonesian attitudes towards sex.

“In Indonesia, there is a real fear of sex, they don't want to discuss it openly.”

“It has an impact on the children being married before their time. They blame the internet, not the education on how we manage information, or how we are taught to manage sexual desire.”

At the time this article is written, the National Women’s Commission has issued a newly revised draft that includes wording that has been simplified to avoid misinterpretation and more emphasis placed on Cyber ​​Gender-Based Violence.

“Our demands remain the same, that the Bill on the Elimination of Sexual Violence must contain the key six elements.” Ms Tardi said

In the meantime, Tunggal Pawestri and other activists continue to hold out hope for the government to see how pressing this issue is.

“The problem always lies within the parliament (DPR) - how do we get the government who openly vowed to support the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill to distribute the right information and campaign to the public about what we can achieve with this bill.”


Teks: Trisha D. H.
Editor: M. I. Fadhil
Infografis: Trisha Dantiani H.

Pers Suara Mahasiswa UI 2020
Independen, Lugas, Berkualitas