A viral video showing a woman being carried by force by a group of men in a practice known as kawin tangkap (capture and wed) has angered Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Bintang Puspayoga.
In the video, said to have been taken on Sumba Island, East Nusa Tenggara, a group of men can be seen carrying a distressed-looking woman to a black pickup truck in a public space. Another woman comes to hug the woman through the open window while trying to open the car door to get the kidnapped woman out.
Dozens of people can be seen crowding the car, cheering and taking videos, while the kidnapped woman cries.
The video later changes scene to what appears to be a house. A woman, seemingly the same one, is seen crying and screaming while being carried by several shirtless men.
Bintang said kawin tangkap was a form of violence against women and an infringement of human rights.
"This case in Sumba is a [form of] violence and harassment against women. Don't let culture and tradition be used as an excuse to harass women and children," Bintang said during an online meeting about forced marriage on Friday.
She explained that there was similar bride kidnapping practice in Bali, but as time went by, the tradition was left behind because it did not align with current norms. "Culture or tradition is not static but dynamic."
Presidential Office undersecretary V. Jaleswari Pramodhawardani said kawin tangkap should not be considered part of Sumba culture as it ignored humanitarian values.
"Acknowledging the practice of kawin tangkap as part of [Sumba] culture is clearly ignoring humanitarian values and harming our dignity as humans. This is a serious matter that needs attention from all parties [...] and an active response from the police," she said.
Ratu Ngadu Bonu Wulla, a member of House of Representatives Commission IX representing Sumba, also slammed kawin tangkap, claiming it had “negatively affected Sumba women”.
"As a Sumba woman I don't want [locals] to continue practicing this tradition because it has negatively affected Sumba women and robbed them of their rights" Ratu said.
Bintang expressed hope to cooperate with the police force on the island and local NGOs to stop the practice and protect women from violence and exploitation.
Jaleswari said she had cooperated with activists to collect data of women who were victims of this practice.
"We've never heard victims report this practice to the police, I'm worried the victims are under the threat of violence so they could not report the case. So, we've collected data of victims from four regions, namely Central Sumba, East Sumba, West Sumba and Southwest Sumba. The victims’ ages range from 16 to 26. I hope police officers don’t hesitate to process reports about kawin tangkap because it's a crime against humanity," she said.
Human rights activist Valentina Sagala said people who were involved in kawin tangkap could be charged under articles 328 and 333 of the Criminal Code on abduction and forcible confinement, which carry a penalty of more than five years in prison.
“The practice of kawin tangkap violates the 1945 Constitution, which states that every citizen deserves to feel safe, and the Marriage Law, which prohibits the use of force in marriage. It is also possible that the practice involves kidnapping and forcible confinement, so the perpetrators could be criminally charged,” Valentina told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
She said the Criminal Procedure law said the police did not have to wait for reports from victims but could initiate the investigation themselves.
Valentina said kawin tangkap underlined the importance of passing the much anticipated sexual violence bill, which has been stalled yet again.
“As of now, someone cannot be criminally charged for forced marriage, but the sexual violence bill regulates forced marriage as a criminal offence. So it’s very important to pass the bill as soon as possible,” she said.