Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – The University of Indonesia (UI) has found itself embroiled in a controversy for including sexual education, with an emphasis on consent, in this year's freshman orientation program (PKKMB UI) amid heightened concerns over sexual violence on campus.
This year's PKKMB UI was held online from Sept. 7 to 11 because of the ongoing COVID-19 emergency through the UI student affairs directorate's official YouTube channel, which uploaded a video titled "E-Class: Preventing Sexual Violence".
However, the video – which touches on the subject of consensual sex – has since been made private on the channel in light of public protests against the program.
Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker Almuzzamil Yusuf said in a video posted on his Instagram page that UI's "endorsement" of consensual sex could only lead to the prevalence of "free sex" among youth and, therefore, jeopardize the country's moral and religious principles.
"[UI] feels that the western notion of consensual sex is not a form of sexual violence. I don't think it's an appropriate subject to teach to students," he said in the video.
He claimed that the concept of consensual sex contradicted Article 31 of the 1945 Constitution, which stipulates that the education system should aim to bolster one's faith and piety.
"Our religious and cultural values are worlds apart from the [concept of] free sex in the West," Almuzzamil said.
A number of UI scholars and experts from various organizations responded to the criticism in a written statement issued on Monday, conveying their support for the university's emphasis on the importance of consent in ensuring a safe environment for students, given the recent spate of sexual violence cases on campuses across the country.
"As the number of sexual assault cases in [universities] has increased, antisexual-violence education becomes even more important than ever for new students to prevent them from committing or falling victim to sexual abuse," the statement read.
Saraswati Putri, a UI philosophy lecturer who is among those who signed the statement, told The Jakarta Post that the sexual education video was created in response to the lack of a legal framework that protects sexual abuse victims, such as the much-delayed sexual violence eradication bill.
"Students must realize that they are fully in charge of their own bodies, so they need to learn that they have absolute authority over themselves," Saraswati said.
She added that the program was an effort to break the taboo on sexual education, as well as to engage students in a mature conversation regarding respect for others and themselves.
"The claim that this is an effort to endorse free sex is just plain wrong," Saraswati told the Post. "Rather, this is an opportunity for students to learn how to behave rationally as adults in relation to their respective communities."
Stories of alleged sexual abuse on several campuses across Indonesia have emerged on social media platforms in recent months.
Dozens of students at the Indonesian Islamic University (UII) in Yogyakarta, for instance, accused former student Ibrahim Malik of sexual harassment earlier this year.
Ibrahim, who is currently studying for a master's degree at the University of Melbourne in Australia under a prestigious scholarship, has also been accused of similar offenses by two women in the neighboring country.
Through the #NamaBaikKampus (Campus Reputation) collaborative project last year the Post, Tirto.id and VICE Indonesia received 174 testimonies from survivors of sexual abuse from 79 state, private and religious-based universities in 29 cities across the country.