Commentary: Sexuality, Victimization and the Elimination of Sexual Violence

On Oct. 24-26, the National Commission on Violence against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, along with the Gender Studies Program of the University of Indonesia hosted the third annual 'Knowledge From Women' conference. (Photo courtesy of Komnas Perempuan)

By : Jack Britton | on 5:15 PM October 30, 2017
Category : Opinion, Commentary

On Oct. 24-26, the National Commission on Violence against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, along with the Gender Studies Program of the University of Indonesia hosted the third annual "Knowledge From Women" conference.

Over the three days of the conference panelists presented research on various topics relating to this year's conference theme of "Sexuality, Victimization and the Elimination of Sexual Violence."

Panelists and conference attendees hailed from all corners of the archipelago, with a number of international guests also taking part in the proceedings. The conference concluded with a seminar held at the House of Representatives (DPR), where commissioners from Komnas Perempuan presented the recommendations of the conference urging the DPR to ratify the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill without changing any of the critical articles it contains.

The Komnas Perempuan vice chairwoman Yuniyanti Chuzaifah explained that "this conference is not just a three day process but rather the realization of a long term accumulation and documentation of the lived experiences of victims and women human rights defenders. This conference is a form of acknowledging and disseminating women's knowledge, which derives from their roles as grassroots activists, practitioners, academics and human rights advocates. Their knowledge is therefore incredibly rich and must become the foundation for measures to prevent violence and increase protections for victims in the future." The issue of women's roles in terrorism and countering violent extremism was a prominent discussion point with Malaysian Dr. Hendun binti Abd Rahman Shah talking about the conceptual framework of radicalism and gender-based violence in the context of Southeast Asia.

National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) director for deradicalization Prof. Irfan Idris spoke about the agency's experience in deradicalization of Indonesian nationals who have been deported from Islamic State-held territories in the Middle East. Irfan explained that hundreds of Indonesian nationals have been deported from Syria and half of them are women and children. Discussing the challenges in deradicalizing individuals within the country's prison system and in the community, Irfan highlighted the need for gender perspectives in the handling of convicted terrorists and deportees.

Female genital mutilation, child marriage, sexual violence in the context of armed conflict, polygamy and the role of women in terrorism and countering violent extremism, as well as the development of technology and cybercrimes against women became central topics discussed. These critical issues were presented through lenses of human rights, state law, religious discourse and globalization, with many recommendations being put forward regarding the need for greater protection for victims of violence, as well as regional cooperation to curb the scourge that is sexual violence.

The Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat) was present at the event campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty, the right to life and clemency for Merri Utami, a former migrant worker who has been on death row for 15 years, after being used as an unknowing mule by an international drug smuggling syndicate.

This year's conference was conceptualized to support the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill currently discussed at the House.

The ratification of the bill, as it was drafted, would act to update the current archaic laws on sexual violence (made over 100 years ago) and bring about more comprehensive legal protection and recovery mechanisms for victims.

The new bill introduces new protection for victims of sexual violence, provides for new sentencing options for offenders and clearly defines the state's responsibilities in handling cases of sexual violence. It will act to give victims greater access to justice and freedom from stigmatization and criminalization.

National law is an important foundation for the protection of human rights, however it is not sufficient on its own. The increasing interconnectedness that nation states are experiencing through rapid globalization means Indonesia must now, more than ever, work with its neighbors to develop effective regional human rights mechanisms to fight against gender-based violence.

The conference demonstrated that in a society as diverse and complex as Indonesia, issues of sexual violence should be looked at through multiple lenses and tackled through various approaches. Human rights frameworks, national law, policy  frameworks and religious theory must all be utilized simultaneously to increase awareness and build human rights perspectives in communities, whilst the consolidation of grass roots movements to educate and empower needs to become a priority for the strengthening of the civil society movement.

Jack Britton is a volunteer with Komnas Perempuan in Jakarta. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Komnas Perempuan and the Jakarta Globe. Reproduction is authorized provided the source is acknowledged. The author can be reached via email jackbritton@live.com.au or jackbritton@support.komnasperempuan.go.id

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