JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - For three years, dozens of women, activists and survivors of sexual violence have fought relentlessly to make Indonesia a safer place.
They have campaigned and lobbied lawmakers to pass the bill on the elimination of sexual violence.
In late September, they received devastating news: the lawmakers serving between 2014 and 2019 would not pass the bill. However, there is a glimmer of hope from the new members of the House of Representatives.
The new, first female House speaker, Puan Maharani, confirmed on her second day of duty, on Oct 2, that the bill was among eight priority bills carried over from the previous House.
We remind lawmakers of this commitment, particularly through our special report published on Nov 28 and 29, coinciding with the global movement of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, held from Nov 25 to the Dec 10 International Human Rights Day.
The women who have fought for the passage of the bill say the House, which initiated the bill, had seemingly withdrawn support for the bill after a group of conservative Muslims rallied against it.
The activists said the House should have acted on principle, especially since it ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women 35 years ago in 1984.
But instead the lawmakers followed the tug of war of public opinion, in which loud conservatives alleged that the bill legitimatised lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs) and condoned adultery.
Activists and survivors, including Muslims, have refuted the allegation, saying the bill focuses on helping victims and families and providing counselling for perpetrators.
The data says it all. Many women, and girls, have been and are victims of sexual harassment and violence. Data show that in 2018, the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) received 406,178 reports on sexual violence from its partners all over Indonesia.
The bill itself was prioritised in the House following the gang rape and killing of a girl in Bengkulu by 14 teenagers in 2016.
The case caused a national uproar - for a while. Later reports, even of the rape of children, seemed "normal".
Recently, the media reported that a 9-year-old girl had allegedly been repeatedly raped by her stepfather in South Jakarta. The police said the stepfather had been sexually abusing the girl for two years every time the child's mother was away working.
No one asked how the child and her mother would cope with the devastating effect of the heinous crime.
One of our sources, Indhira (not her real name), had to shell out Rp 3 million (S$289) a month to medicate her daughter, raped by her own father.
Indhira fought for the House to pass the bill because once passed, the state would be responsible for caring for victims of sexual violence.
A survivor of marital rape told us that she often urged people to support the bill by telling them: "What if this happens to your daughter? To your sisters?"
This bill needs our rage. Be angry at sexual violence, and don't let these women fight by themselves.
The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.