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Jakarta Post

Teenage gang rape case at forefront of Indonesia's battle against sexual violence

  • Liza Yosephine
    Liza Yosephine

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, May 5, 2016   /  02:47 pm
Teenage gang rape case at forefront of Indonesia's battle against sexual violence Speaking up – 118 civil society groups, including Perempuan Mahardhika, Simponi and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), urged the government to pass the sexual violence bill on Tuesday.They made the call in the wake of the recent Bengkulu gang rape and murder case. (thejakartapost.com/Viriya Paramita Singgih)

The recent case of the gang rape and murder of a junior high schoolgirl in a remote village in Bengkulu has gathered hundreds of people in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, to speak up against violence against women.

Kate Walton, a Jakarta-based Australian activist, said the gruesome case of 14-year old Yuyun, who was brutally raped and murdered by 14 young men in Bengkulu last month was only one of many other similar cases happening across the country.

Currently working on a project that documents the cases of women who have been killed by men in Indonesia, Walton said 44 cases of violence against women had been recorded in the first four months of this year alone. Seven of the victims were teenage girls, including Yuyun, she added.

"I think this indicates that Indonesia is experiencing a much broader crisis of violence against women," Walton told thejakartapost.com on Wednesday. She was speaking during a candlelight vigil in memory of Yuyun, which was held in front of the State Palace.  People gathered at the event to call for an end to violence against women.

Walton said the vast majority of the victims were killed by their intimate partners, adding that these women were murdered in violently dramatic circumstances and their killings were often related to sex-related matters.

"The punishment and prosecution of these men is quite limited and part of that is due to the absence of necessary laws," Walton said.

Although she was not involved in organizing the protest, Walton was one of first activists to raise the issue of sexual violence against women on social media. It was triggered by her concern over the lack of awareness in society of the need to fight the crime.

"Frankly, we need to talk about it at all levels," she said. She further said there was a need to provide better education on sex and respectful relationships between men and women for the public. Adequate laws that protect women who become victims and survivors of sexual violence are critical as well.

Martha Veronica, a recent college graduate from Bengkulu, expressed her concern over delayed public attention, which often happens in cases of violence against women, including Yuyun’s case, and this was something that needed to be questioned.

She regretted the slow public reaction toward Yuyun’s case although she was also aware that such a delay was due to the remoteness of the incident site, leading to less attention from society at large. The government also tends to overlook violence against women cases, she added.

"I think the government needs to be more assertive in laws on violence against women and children," Martha said.

Lynda Mills, an Englishwoman who has been living in Indonesia for eight years, said Yuyun's case reminded her of the major rape case in India in 2012. Mills commended the public's efforts at raising awareness and also called for the government to strengthen laws against brutal acts of violence.

"It doesn't matter where these atrocities are committed, no matter how remote, we need to raise our voices and say, 'your stories will be told and there will be consequences'," Mills said.

National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) vice chairwoman Budi Wahyuni, who was also at the rally, said there was an urgent need to fight against sexual violence against women because the number of cases of violence against women had continued to grow.

Komnas Perempuan recorded 16,217 cases of violence against women in 2015, a rise from 11,207 in the previous year, with 1,657 of those cases being sexual-violence cases.

Budi said the commission continued to push for the sexual violence bill, which was currently included in the additional 2017 National Legislation Program (additional Prolegnas). "Hopefully, it can be moved forward and fast-tracked," Budi said.   (ebf)

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