In an alternate universe, you are an
Indonesian woman who is sexually abused
by your husband.
You’ve had enough.
You want to run away and seek help. You decide to…
These scenario and answers are based on The Jakarta Post interviews with survivors and activists, who have persistently pushed for the enactment of the sexual violence bill (RUU PKS).
Police listen to your account before finally saying there is insufficient evidence to back your claim.
“Please come again if you have enough evidence,” he said.
Everything gets worse.
Your husband keeps abusing you, and in the end he kidnaps your son.
You report it to the women and child protection [PPA] unit at the police station. The officer only says, “It was his father, ma’am’.
It will take five years until your husband is finally sentenced to… 45 days in prison.
“Ma’am, the therapy sessions and anti-depressants will cost you up to Rp 3 million (US$ 212) a month”
The average monthly salary for Indonesians is about Rp 3 million
Indhira, the mother of a sexual violence victim, has sat many times on the cold floor tiles that pave the hallway in front of a lawmakers’ meeting room at the House of Representatives. She is there to make sure the lawmakers pass the most important bill of her life.
One Thursday in September, Indhira – not her real name – saw one politician take a break from the meeting room. She stood up and waited for Endang Maria, a Golkar Politician and a member of Commission VIII overseeing women and children’s protection, to leave the toilet.
Once the lawmaker came out, Indhira approached her, reached for her hand, held it with her two hands and looked Endang in the eyes. “Ibu [ma’am], you know me. You know my story. I trust you, bu. Please you have to pass this bill. I’m a victim. My daughter is a victim. Please help us,” Indhira said.
That day, like many other days, Indhira was not alone; several friends were with her, waiting for a closed-door meeting on the deliberation of the sexual violence elimination bill. These people, survivors and activists, had been on a three-year-long campaign to push the House of Representatives to pass the bill, which would end impunity for sexual violence perpetrators and give more help to survivors and their families.
A year after the bill was proposed by the House in 2016, it was included in the National Legislation Program. Since then, Indhira and her friends have fought relentlessly. Some worked on the public campaign, others lobbied lawmakers. Indhira was among dozens who dedicated their time and energy to push the House to pass the bill.
They wanted people and lawmakers to care about the bill like they did. In September, nearing the end of the term of the previous House lawmakers, they pitched in some money to buy large flower boards for lawmakers. One of the boards said, “Pak and Bu lawmakers, 10,000 people have fallen victim to sexual violence while the bill has been deliberated. Pass the bill.”
In the end, the lawmakers did not pass the bill as they ended their term on Sept. 30. Some did not agree to some of the articles and argued that the bill would encourage free sex and LGBT sex.
Indhira did not understand these arguments. To her, this bill is crucial to prevent other people from what she and her youngest daughter had suffered for years.
Indhira’s story: ‘This should not be our lonely fight’
“In 2016 my husband raped my youngest child. Since that day my daughter has never been the same again. Our life has never been the same again,” Indhira said.
Her husband was jailed but her in-laws and neighbors in their old home blamed them for what happened. She and her three children left the house after the crime.
Her daughter is now 18 years old, depressed and suicidal. She screams at night whenever she remembers what happened to her. For years she did not want to leave her room or even change her clothes.
“I’m here because I believe many women in Indonesia have been through what I have been through.”
“It breaks my heart to see her like that. I hug her every time she screams. I tell her that I’ll be there for her, no matter what, and that this is not her fault and that someday everything will get better,” she said.
Her daughter now depends on anti-depressant medicines to function. Indhira has to pay both the psychiatrists and the drugs out of her own pocket. It is extra hard for her because she decided to be a single mother. She left her job to stay at home to be with her daughter.
“Every month I have to spend at least Rp 3 million for her treatment,” Indhira said.
Under the current law, Indhira and her daughter are not entitled to any help from the government. From the legal proceedings to the rehabilitation, she has to shell out her own money.
If passed, the sexual violence bill would bring help to survivors and their families. Article 39, for example, says that the government will provide rehabilitation services for victims to overcome the physical, psychological and social effects of the crimes.
“I’m here because I believe many women in Indonesia have been through what I have been through. What happened to us is horrifying. And this tragedy did not end when they sent that man to prison for 15 years.”
“My daughter and I must bear these wounds for the rest of our lives. This road, this should not be a lonely fight for us,” she said.
Fadiyah’s story: ‘I fought for five years to get him in jail for 45 days’
Some of the survivors of sexual violence reported what had happened to them to the police. But it was not easy to seek justice. Data from Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice (LBH APIK) found that, of all the recorded sexual violence cases, less than five percent were legally processed.
It is even harder to proceed when the perpetrator is your own spouse. And when he was one of the most influential people in the area, it becomes almost impossible.
For Fadiyah – not her real name – she had to fight and wait for years before she finally see her abusive husband in jail. Her husband raped and abused her mentally and physically for 15 years.
“I think the sentence was not that significant. He only got 45 days in jail. But I have to wait for five years to finally see him doing his time,” Fadiyah told the Post recently.
Reporting the abuse was not easy. Many people still think that Fadiyah, as the wife of such an important person, should be more grateful and should not jeopardize his career.
“One day he hit me so bad that I told myself, ‘That’s enough.’ I went to a doctor to get the medical record of the wounds and bruises from the abuse, but the doctor asked me what I was doing. He said I must not do that since my husband had bright career,” Fadiyah said.
After Fadiyah reported her husband, the community made her a pariah.
“People see what happens in one’s own household as a private matter. So although our government already has a law on the elimination of domestic violence, not all of the people understand that domestic abuse is a crime.”
“The bill will improve sexual harassment prevention, the handling of the sexual violence cases and the rehabilitation of the survivors.”
“So what happens is that survivors continue to fight with the law. But law enforcement authorities and society frequently respond to our struggles by preaching to us, telling us that women must not dishonor their family if they want to enter heaven,” she said.
Fadiyah has shared her story with lawmakers, hoping that it will encourage them to pass the sexual violence eradication bill. She often engages in meetings with activists and survivors to discuss the strategy to push for the bill.
“I’m a notetaker now. I’m only a high-school graduate, and this is what I do for a living so I can save myself and my children.
“Being a notetaker makes me understand what we are all fighting for. And from all the meetings that I’ve been to, that I listen to and write down, not once have I heard that the bill was pro-LGBT or pro adultery. The bill only talks about how to accommodate the survivors’ interests,” she said. Some conservative Muslim groups oppose the bill, claiming that it would pave way for the legalization of LGBT and non-marital sexual relationships.
As a survivor, Fadiyah knows what the bill will mean for victims and society. The bill will improve sexual harassment prevention, the handling of the sexual violence cases and the rehabilitation of the survivors. “Aside from the legal process, we also need counseling. I hope the government can provide that to us. Don’t let us fight by ourselves. We will not be able to do that,” she said.
Despite suffering trauma from years of abuse, Fadiyah has never sought psychological treatment simply because she cannot afford it.
“As I don’t have money, I once asked a post-trauma counselor whether she could give me a guidebook on how I can do healing therapy for myself and for my children at home,” she said.
Gayatri’s story: ‘It took two years to finally see my baby again’
The National Commission for Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded 406,178 cases of violence against women in 2018, a 16 percent increase from 348,446 in 2017.
In its 2018 report, Komnas Perempuan said society and authorities often turned a blind eye to marital rape, and as a result, many victims opted to stay silent. Fadiyah and Gayatri – not their real names – were only a few of them.
For Gayatri, even though she was sexually and mentally abused for years by her then-husband, she kept silent and endured everything.
“He forced me to have sexual intercourse with him. One time, I refused because I just gave birth to our first child through c-section surgery. The doctor told me to give at least two years before we plan to have the second child because the c-section adds risks to the second pregnancy. But he insisted that we had sex and I got pregnant immediately,” she told the Post.
When Gayatri’s first son was only four-months-old, she was already pregnant with their second child. Her husband left the family but came back when Gayatri was about to give birth to their second child.
After staying for two days in the hospital, they went home and had lunch together.
“I always tell them, ‘What if it happened to your own children, yourself or your sister? What if the victims were your closest family members? What would you do? what would you feel?’”
“I suddenly heard my mom scream ‘my grandchild!’ I was shocked. I thought one of my children fell down. But when I went to the living room, I saw my husband carrying my first child out the door,” she recalled.
He rushed out of the house to where his car was idling. Gayatri tried to hold him back as his husband put her 13-month-old son on the chair next to the driver’s seat.
“It hurt me to see my son in a dangerous situation but I couldn’t help him. I stood in front of the car but he didn’t care; he stepped on the gas pedal. If I waited another second to jump out of the way, he would have hit me.”
Gayatri then immediately went to the police station, and reported the case to the women and child protection [PPA] unit.
“What hurt me more was the male staff member who was in charge at that time. Without empathy, he casually told me, ‘but it was his father, ma’am.’ He hadn’t even heard my story.”
Gayatri struggled for two years to finally reunite with her son again.
“Every mother knows how it hurts to be separated from her children,” she said.
Gayatri shared her story to some of the lawmakers when she, alongside activists, lobbied the House to pass the bill.
“I always tell them, ‘What if it happened to your own children, yourself or your sister? What if the victims were your closest family members? What would you do? what would you feel?’”
“I always tell them that because they need the victim’s perspective to understand,” she said.
It’s always the darkest before the dawn: Story of the activists
Only five days before the lawmakers’ tenure ended, then-House speaker Bambang Soesatyo, said the sexual violence bill would not be passed in his term.
The decision dealt a huge blow to activists and sexual violence survivors who had been fighting for the bill.
Veni Siregar – the coordinator for the Service Provider Forum (FPL) for female victims of violence – said she was devastated upon hearing the news. She stayed home for a week to regain her spirit.
Veni began supporting the bill after witnessing the difficulties faced by sexual violence victims in reporting their cases.
“It’s difficult for many sexual violence victims, especially adult women, to proceed with their cases because of lack of evidence. They must find evidence by themselves,” she said, adding that some victims faced threats of criminalization if they pursued the cases.
“Patriarchy is palpable on Commission VIII. The sexual violence bill is seen as a pro-feminist bill instead of a pro-people or pro-victims bill”
For Veni, the past three years have been filled with countless of long meetings, debates and rallies to fight for the bill. She was among those who relentlessly approached each lawmaker on Commission VIII overseeing religious and social affairs, including the commission’s chairman, Ace Syadzily, and deputy chairman Marwan Dasopang.
“We met with Marwan dozens of times, so many times that I think we might have worn him down,” Veni said last month.
Service Provider Forum (FPL) coordinator Veni Siregar
The activists and survivors went above and beyond for the bill to be passed. They met with each lawmaker numerous times, and sent them text messages every Monday and Thursday as a reminder to fight for the bill.
Veni and her friends helped the House draft the bill. They also organized an online petition, as well as discussions and rallies across the country.
“The problem is perspective. Patriarchy is palpable on Commission VIII. The sexual violence bill is seen as a pro-feminist bill instead of a pro-people or pro-victims bill,” Veni suggested.
“They don’t see it as a bill that will promote justice. That’s why the deliberation has been difficult, because even though parties support the bill, party members have their own assumptions about the bill, so it is difficult to draw their empathy toward the victims,” she said.
“The House must side with the people that they must save and protect”
The women behind the bill said they were shocked by developments in the deliberation as the House initiated the bill in 2016 after Yuyun, a 14-year-old girl in Bengkulu, died after being raped by 14 teenage boys on her way home from school.
The sun had set when Sri Nurherwati, National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) commissioner, talked with the Post in October, a week after the new members of the House began their term.
While most of the office workers had gone home, Sri and dozens of activists gathered at Komnas Perempuan’s office to once again prepare for their battle to pass the bill in the new term. It was her third meeting that afternoon.
Komnas Perempuan’s struggle on the matter started long before the tragedy of Yuyun. It started 21 years ago after the rape of Chinese-Indonesian women in the 1998 May riots. But for Sri, her fight started in 1992.
“I’ve been working [around the issues of sexual violence] since 1992, and until now there have been no improvements in our legal system for victims. Nothing has changed.
“I want this to be the motivation for fellow activists and supporters of the bill. This has to be our reason to fight for this bill. This fight is for the victims,” she said.
Komnas Perempuan commissioner Sri Nurherwati
“The House has met with victims many times. They should take the victim’s side and not just stand in the middle of the pros and cons debate. The House must side with the people that they must save and protect,” Sri said.
She suggested that deliberation of the bill be limited to issues surrounding consent and whether elements of violence were involved because the Criminal Code bill only recognized three types of sexual violence; molestation, rape and adultery.
A Komnas Perempuan study conducted from 1998 to 2013 found 15 types of sexual violence.
"We found that not all of them needed to be resolved by punishment. Six of them could be prevented,” she said.
Komnas Perempuan suggests that nine types of sexual violence not been included in the Criminal Code, and therefore should be regulated in the sexual violence bill
Types of sexual violence
Komnas Perempuan’s comprehensive study and recommendations have apparently fallen on deaf ears.
“When I give them input, they say ‘Ma’am, your job is not to negotiate, you just have to give us your input,’” Sri recounted.
“I told them that we were not negotiating. We are a human rights body and our statements must be heard because our job is to speak up against unconstitutional views.”
Ratna Batara Munti, the coordinator of the Network of Pro-Women's National Legislation Program (JKP3), felt that the House was not taking the bill deliberation seriously.
She attended the first deliberation of the bill at the House on Aug. 21.
“We had been waiting for that day for two years since February 2017 when it was included in the National Legislation Program. It was so late.
“And on the day of the first deliberation, only three members of the House attended the meeting. It was very painful for us because it showed poor political commitment to pass the bill,” Ratna told the Post.
Network of Pro-Women's National Legislation Program coordinator Ratna Batara Munti
The road was lonely and windy for the women’s right activists to push the bill, however most of them are still giving their best for the bill to be passed.
“I think my own experience as a survivor of sexual harassment is also one the reasons why I continue to push for the passing of this bill. Our involvement in this movement is also a form of healing for us. Like therapy that makes us realize that we are not alone,” Mutiara Ika Pratiwi of the Perempuan Mahardhika human rights organization.
Mutiara has organized dozens of rallies and discussions in support of the bill and to raise awareness about sexual violence, especially among women working in factories.
According to a Perempuan Mahardika survey conducted in 2017, 56.5 percent of women garment workers in Berikat Nusantara, Cakung, North Jakarta, faced sexual harassment.
More than 90 percent of them did not report their cases for numerous reasons, including fear of losing their job.
Perempuan Mahardhika coordinator Mutiara Ika Pratiwi
Over the years, during rallies to push the House to pass the bill, Mutiara said her team often had to face people who were against the bill.
“We yelled at them, ‘those against the bill are evil’. We kept yelling that. I didn’t care about how they reacted but at least they would see our determination,” she said.
Mutiara was irritated by the lawmakers’ indecisiveness in regard to such an important matter.
“Sexual violence can no longer be denied. That is the victory that we have achieved”
“One of the reasons why the House postponed passing the bill was because they wanted to consider the people’s aspirations. When we talk about sexual violence, people are divided into two groups: the survivors and the perpetrators. So which side the House wants to take?” she said.
Her heart sank when the House did not pass the bill. Nevertheless, Mutiara saw a glimmer of hope in the fight for the bill.
“Sexual violence can no longer be denied. That is the victory that we have achieved. The public and the House can no longer deny it.
“They can keep looking for reasons to postpone or slow down the bill deliberation but we have the data on sexual violence and they can't deny those facts.”
If you have experienced sexual abuse and need crisis support,
please seek help from the available institutions and emergency contacts
for domestic violence and sexual assault in your area.
Komnas Perempuan: 0213903963
LBH APIK Jakarta: 081285552430 or 081388822669
Yayasan Pulih: 02178842580
Rumah Aman UTAMA:
Monday to Tuesday: 085881856478
Wednesday to Friday: 0818965063
Saturday to Sunday: 08158074778