Indonesian activists slam latest draft of sexual violence bill for neglecting victims' rights

Mannequins are placed outside the Senayan legislative compound in Central Jakarta on Dec. 8, 2020 in a lobbying campaign pushing for the passage of the sexual violence eradication bill. - JP

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post): The latest draft of the sexual violence eradication bill (RUU PKS) has been met with criticism from activists, who said that the proposed changes in the new draft did not adequately protect the rights of victims of sexual violence.

The changes, proposed last week by the House of Representatives Legislation Body (Baleg), mark yet another chapter in the long-awaited bill, which has been on and off the table at the House since the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) lobbied the lawmakers to pass the bill in 2012.

The House, however, only took it seriously in 2016 after it included the bill in its National Legislation Programme (Prolegnas) priority list in 2016, but the bill's deliberation process has been marked with delays.

Among the changes made by the Baleg expert team tasked with drafting the bill’s latest iteration was renaming it the “sexual violence crime” bill.

Team member Sabari Barus said the team proposed the name change because the word eradication was “abstract”.

The new draft bill, a copy of which The Jakarta Post obtained, contains 11 chapters and 43 articles. Aside from the name change, the latest draft also removed 85 provisions and two sections on the bill’s regulatory scope and upholding victims’ rights.

The latest draft also narrowed the types of sexual violence that could be prosecuted to sexual harassment, forced contraception and sexual exploitation. It also covered “forced sexual relations”, a euphemism for rape that was included in the previous draft and which activists said would only diminish rape as a criminal act.

Naila Rizqi Zakiah, a spokeswoman for the Civil Society Coalition Against Sexual Violence (KOMPAKS), said the new draft bill focused only on punishing sexual offenders without emphasising protection for victims.

“Changing the title and removing key elements of the RUU PKS are a setback for upholding and protecting victims’ rights,” Naila said in a statement on Sept 2.

Among the key provisions in the bill’s previous draft were articles on forced marriage, forced prostitution, forced abortion, sexual torture and sexual slavery, all of which have been eliminated in the latest draft.

Activists also highlighted the absence of provisions regulating online gender-based violence as well as provisions on the rights of persons with disabilities who were victims of sexual violence.

“The absence of specific provisions that protect the rights of people with disabilities who were victims of sexual violence highlights policymakers’ lack of seriousness in protecting every citizen from sexual violence,” the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) said in a statement last week.

In response to criticisms of the new draft, Baleg deputy chairman Willy Aditya emphasised that the bill was not yet in its final form. He added that lawmakers welcomed any ideas or views from the public for including in future deliberations of the bill.

Willy said the expert team decided to eliminate several articles on the types of sexual violence because similar provisions were stipulated in existing laws or were under deliberation in connection with other draft bills.

“In principle, we will not deliberate [provisions] that are already outlined in [other] laws,” the NasDem Party politician said in a statement on Tuesday. He also called on all parties to actively participate in the bill’s deliberation to reach a consensus on the issue.

Komnas Perempuan commissioner Mariana Amirudin said it was urgent that lawmakers passed the bill quickly to prevent future victims of sexual violence.

“If we do nothing about sexual violence, it will become normalised. We cannot let this happen, the perpetrators need to be brought to justice,” Mariana said on Monday.

She highlighted the recent case surrounding MS, an employee at the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI), who came forward with public allegations of bullying and sexual violence against several KPI coworkers in a detailed social media post that went viral.

In the latest development in the case, two out of the five men MS identified and reported to the police have decided to countersue MS for defamation.

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