Founder of Yayasan Bhinneka Nusantara foundation
Several high-ranking officials and public figures have quickly expressed outrage and proposed solutions following belated reports of the gang-rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by 14 young men and boys in Bengkulu.
Among many others, member of the Regional Representatives Council ( DPD ) Fahira Idris, who has a large online following, blamed alcohol as the cause of the crime. However, such arguments unwittingly support the patriarchal excuse that protects men who abuse women. It is not men’s fault if they become abusive, it is alcohol. Yes, alcohol may trigger aggression by changing normal brain functions.
However, many people who drink are never violent and some men tend to use drinking to justify their behavior. If, as people claim, the perpetrators of the gang-rape of Yuyun, were “blinded” by tuak ( palm wine ) and thus their behavior was unconscious, they were definitely “conscious” enough to try to eliminate the traces of their crime. Her body was only found two days after she went missing.
Moreover, Fahira may not be aware that South Africa, where consuming alcohol is legal for people over 18 years old, has never been a country in the world’s top 20 for alcohol consumption, but very often is at the very top of lists of countries in terms of incidence of rape and sexual crimes.
We should also not use the countries that are very strict on alcohol and seem to have low reported rape rates such as Saudi Arabia as an example. Rape incidents there often go unreported because of extreme inequality between men and women.
Rape victims often get blamed and even punished. Last year a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a 19 year-old woman who was gang-raped by seven men, to 200 lashes and a jail term just because she was found guilty of speaking about the crime to the media. Our migrant workers have too often been reported to have suffered from sexual harassment and rape in Saudi Arabia, a country that strictly bans alcohol.
Fahira seems to be supported by the Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa, who claims that alcohol and pornography caused the crime against Yuyun.
Both Fahira and Khofifah, however, cannot be bothered to discuss the dominant patriarchal system that supports abundant limitations on women but not on men — such as their clothing and careers. The system that promotes women as objects of beauty or sex by continually commenting on parts of their bodies or faces while demanding that females guard their virginity.
Other reports have emerged including the rape of an 8-year-old in Nagan Raya, Aceh province. Several of these news articles comment on the physical appearance of the child as having a beautiful face — again placing the victim as an object to be viewed.
Nevertheless, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohana Yembise also agrees that alcohol was the cause of this rape. Angered by the low penalties given to rapists, she suggested that the Bengkulu rapists face the death penalty.
Yet, she does not realize that by killing the rapists, the perpetrators of the crime may seem to be “eradicated”, but not the crime itself. Rape is often related to social problems as a whole, especially since the age of the criminals are still young.
Indeed, Yohana’s support for a bill on sexual violence needs to be appreciated. Nevertheless, she has not mentioned other horrific rape cases that have not yet been resolved. The rapes of so many women in the 1965 political conflict are still ignored; similarly the rapes against women in Aceh and Papua seem to be forgotten as well.
And soon, we will have the 18th commemoration of the May 1998 riots, in which hundreds of ethnic Chinese women were raped. Will these people who have been so loud in commenting on Yuyun’s case also draw attention to these unresolved atrocities?
Will Yohana suggest heavy punishment for the perpetrators of all these horrific crimes? Will the other high officials do something? Or will it be like the previous years, when we only witness complete silence from high officials and our President — because they would rather protect themselves by pleasing the still powerful New Order cronies than think about the wellbeing and safety of their own people.
The writer is the founder of Yayasan Bhinneka Nusantara foundation and the British Coordinator of the International People’s Tribunal for1965 in London.
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