Putu Indah S, Nabil Ihsan – For GH, a sexual violence survivor, the trauma of further harassment after reporting the assault has been unimaginably intense.
She said that after she reported the assault, several individuals related and even not related to her insulted and intimidated her, and exhibited a dismissive attitude as if to show her attacker's intentions towards her were, somehow, justifiable.
GH's experience is not singular. Sexual abuse victims often face victim-blaming, denial, and even lawsuits from their perpetrators after they approach the authorities to make a formal complaint. This has, unfortunately, been the case for thousands of sexual abuse victims who have come forward to officially reveal or report their assault.
According to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), such inappropriate responses are the result of several factors. One of them is the lack of a proper legal basis for justice and protection assurance for sexual assault victims, it said.
Committed to women's rights, particularly the rights of sexual violence victims, the Women's Commission is currently fighting for the passage of the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill (PKS Bill), which has been pending since 2012.
Despite its importance, the proposed bill is yet to be passed by the House of Representatives (DPR RI), it said.
It is normal for any proposed bill to attract support and opposition from the public.
Supporters of the RUU PKS have called for its immediate passing, while those opposing it have called for a more cautious approach, arguing the proposed bill should not "liberate free sex". The ensuing debate has been the main cause behind the bill failing to be passed by the assembly.
Sexual violence emergency
In 2014, two years after the start of the fight for the PKS Bill, the commission declared a sexual violence emergency in Indonesia. Unfortunately, the emergency has remained unresolved even after seven years.
According to commission chief, Maria Ulfah Anshor, more than 46,689 sexual violence cases have been recorded by the commission in the 8 years from 2011 to 2019.
She added that the recorded number of cases do not cover all such cases in the country, as sexual violence victims often decided to hide their experience, instead of making a formal report to the commission or the police.
One of the factors that demotivate victims from reporting their assault is the inadequacy of the Indonesian Criminal Code (KUHP) to attend to the victim's rights, she said. The current Criminal Code regulates only persecution against sexual violence perpetrators, but does not provide deficient protection, recovery, and compensation assurance for victims, she explained.
According to the commission, the scope of sexual violence regulated in the Criminal Code is too narrow as only rape, molestation, and penetrative sexual assault are defined by the code.
Other forms of sexual violence often reported by victims, such as forced marriage, sexual exploitation, forced sterilization, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, and sexual torture are exempted from the scope of the code, Anshor said. This demonstrates the Criminal Code's inadequacy in regulating sexual violence, she added.
She then stressed the importance of the passage of the RUU PKS as a way for the government to show its commitment to providing a path to justice for sexual violence victims and to protect their constitutionally endowed rights.
New hope for sexual violence victims
After failing to pass the law during the previous legislative period, the House's Legislative Committee proposed that the PKS Bill be included in the 2021 annual National Legislative Programme.
Three parliamentary factions proposed the inclusion of the PKS Bill to the annual programme – the National Democratic Party (Nasdem), the Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P), and the National Awakening Party (PKB) factions.
The motion was passed with unanimous support, which Anshor has lauded as the right step that exhibits the parliament and the government's commitment to eradicate sexual violence in the country.
After the motion received unanimous support from MPs, the Legislative Committee formed a working committee for the PKS Bill. The working committee is headed by legislator of the Nasdem Party, Willy Aditya, who has said he is optimistic the bill would pass this year.
Dialogue and discussion are important to pass the law, as lack of dialogue among opposing sides has caused the proposed bill to stall in the assembly for years, Aditya stated.
A dialogue is also necessary to defuse concern from religious conservatives that the PKS Bill will legalize free sex or liberate the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) movement, he added.
Recently, the working committee has held four public hearings involving multiple parties on PKS Bill. Support groups, opposing groups, legal experts, gender experts, psychologists, and religious figures are among those who have been invited to such public hearings, he said.
Aditya also noted that three contentious points have stalled deliberations on the bill in the parliament. They comprise the concept of sexual consent, which has been decried by conservatives who have held it means "allowing free sex", social control, and boundary between public-private affairs that the proposed bill must accommodate, he elaborated.
Continuous dialogue among parties could help the bill drafters to draft a proper regulation while avoiding ambiguous rulings, and also resolve the three contentious points, he said.
With support from all sides for the urgently-needed PKS Bill, a new hope for justice for sexual violence victims is expected to emerge in the future.