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Domestic violence on the rise in Aceh

Jakarta Post - June 5, 2013

Nadya Natahadibrata, Jakarta – A coalition of women's rights groups report that cases of violence against women have been on the rise in Aceh in the past two years.

The coalition, Jaringan Pemantauan 231 (231 Monitoring Network), of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) monitors the implementation of Article 231 of Law No. 11/2006 on female empowerment and child protection in Aceh.

In its survey found 1,060 reported cases of violence against women in the province in 2011 and 2012, of which they were able to fully verify 561. Of these cases 73.6 percent were domestic, 224 cases in 2012 up from 189 in the previous year.

Samsidar, an activist from LBH Apik Aceh, one of NGOs in Jaringan Pemantauan 231, claims the large number of cases is a legacy from violent conflict in the region.

"In Aceh, violence often takes place in public places and no sanction is handed down to the perpetrators. It is then internalized within society without any concrete solution by the government," Samsidar said on Tuesday.

Suraiya Khamaruzaman of women's rights organization Flower Aceh put the blame on the Sharia-inspired ordinances in the region.

Suraiya is convinced that the Sharia-inspired bylaws, which have been adopted by the Aceh administration since 2001 as part of special autonomy, gave no specifics on protection for women, and instead only focus on trivial matters.

"The very first order from the Sharia law was for people to read Arabic scriptures and for women to wear the hijab, which are not substantial matters for the community," Suraiya said.

Earlier this year, the local administration in Lhokseumawe raised a fuss about issuing a bylaw that would ban women from straddling motorcycles, arguing that it is an improper conduct under Islamic tradition.

Last month, the North Aceh Regent Muhammad Thaib suggested that women must not perform traditional dances in public.

"The impact of those qanun [provincial by law] is actually more severe than that which the local administration initially visualized," Suraiya told The Jakarta Post.

"The planned bylaw that ban women from straddling on motorcycles specifically targeted underprivileged women who ride motorcycles. Women who have cars are not affected by the plan."

Separately, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) commissioner Andi Yentriyani said that while the number of domestic violence cases recorded in Aceh may not be as high as those of other provinces, it could mask the true magnitude of the problem in the region.

Nationwide, Komnas Perempuan's analysis indicated that domestic violence comprised 95 percent of almost 120,000 cases of violence against women in 2011.

"The highest number of domestic violence cases is recorded in Java but that is mainly because the counseling infrastructure here is much better than that of other provinces so more cases are actually reported," Andi said.

"The budget allocated for female empowerment in Aceh was only 0.02 percent of the provincial budget and the amount was not evenly distributed to NGOs that specifically target women."