Abuse Against Women Shows No Sign of Abating

Women participate in a rally marking International Women's Day outside the Presidential Palace in Central Jakarta in this 2013 file photo. (JG Photo/Safir Makki)

By : Jakarta Globe | on 12:45 PM April 30, 2014
Category : News, Crime

Islam does not forbid a wife from reporting her husband to the authorities for committing domestic violence (KDRT) and therefore such an act is not sinful, a member of the country’s top Islamic organization said.

“KDRT is a violation. It is against the law of the land and it is against the teachings of Islam,” Abidin Wakano, Nadhlatul Ulama’s Maluku deputy chairman, said on Tuesday. “It is perfectly permissible for a woman to report her husband to the police if she feels she has been a victim of domestic violence.”

Abidin, who is also a lecturer at Ambon’s State Islamic University and a director of the Inter-Faith Institution (LAIM), said that Islam regulates clearly the functions and responsibilities of a husband and wife in a household with the stress on love.

Husbands and wives should respect each other’s rights and obligations and encourage each other to carry out their roles and responsibilities as well as they can.

“Islam teaches people to form harmonious and blessed families and therefore KDRT, whether it is committed by a husband to his wife or vice versa, or by parents to their children, is an act of sin that violates religious teachings,” said Abidin.

Abidin said that in Islam, there are several stages that husbands and wives can take in settling a conflict.

First by sitting together to talk about the problem and if that doesn’t work then turning to a third party as a mediator to offer a solution. If that still failed to produce a solution and the domestic violence continues, the victim can report it to the police and take legal action, he said.

“Reporting spousal abuse is not about humiliating a family. The peaceful process has failed to bring results so the problems must be taken to the next level because at the end of the day there has been sin committed,” he said.

Discriminatory bylaws

Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said that cases of violence against women continue to rise with an estimated 279,000 cases since the era of reformation until this March.

Yuniyanti pointed out that 342 bylaws issued since Reformation also had the potential to discriminate women.

Speaking at a discussion on women’s issues at the House of Representatives on Monday, Yuniyanti said there had been little progress from “Kartini’s struggles and the gender equality in the early 21st century,” referring to the Indonesian women’s rights pioneer.

“Komnas Perempuan knows of 342 bylaws that have the potential to criminalize women,” she added.

Yuniyanti also said that Kartini Day, celebrated annually, was mostly about substance and paid little attention to the struggle many women face in education, the workplace, the family or politics

“Kartini’s message was an intellectual one. It was about improving the minds of women, not just parading in a kebaya once a year,” she pointed out.

Yuniyanti went on to bemoan the lack of state support for victims of spousal abuse across the country.

“What makes it painful is that the state does not provide services for the recovery of victims of domestic violence. It’s no surprise to see women eventually become sex workers because of the way they are treated. They feel helpless and alone and are prone to manipulation,” she said.

Yuniyanti also cited the forms of violence endured by female migrant workers working far from home. The case of Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, for example, the maid who was badly beaten while working in Hong Kong, is currently going through the courts in the territory.

Returning to the general theme of spousal abuse, Yuniyanti claimed Indonesia wasn’t doing enough.

“All this violence can happen and offenders can get away with it because the state condones violence towards women as there is a lack of harsh punishment against the perpetrators,” she said.

Divorce rates

At the same discussion, a government official said domestic violence was a contributing factor in many divorce cases.

West Jakarta recorded the highest divorce rates in Jakarta with around 600 cases over the past four months with domestic violence contributing the most to the divorce.

“Seventy percent of couples [who wanted to break up their relationship] filed for divorce because of KDRT,” said Rizal, a spokesman for the West Jakarta Religious Court.

Rizal said that 420 of the divorce cases were caused by KDRT in which 5 percent to 10 percent of the violence was directed against men.

“So far only 30 percent have been settled while the rest are still being processed,” he said.

Rizal said that the divorce process becomes complicated when it involves child custody and assets to be divided.

Financial reasons were another common factor in divorce cases and Rizal revealed it was usually women who started the divorce process.

State violence against women

Arimbi Heroepoetri of Komnas Perempuan said that around 100,000 cases of violence against wives were reported last year, while 3,530 violent incidents against women occurred in public spaces in the form of rape, harassment and molestation.

Violence against women by the state was reported in 445 cases — up eightfold from 2009 — of which 395 were victims of evictions in Jakarta.

But there were also several cases reported of women suffering at the hands of the state in the name of religion and morality.

This included the burning of places of worship, forcibly preventing women from engaging in religious activities and even trafficking of people who had been charged under the controversial anti-pornography law.

Arimbi said that domestic violence makes up almost 96 percent of all the violence cases against women and attributed it to power gap between men and women and weak laws to protect women from violence.

Ninik Rahayu, a Komnas Perempuan commissioner, criticized the government for its lack of commitment to provide support for victims of violence.

“The structure, facilities and infrastructure to ensure victims can get the justice and support they deserve have not been met as promised.”

The Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry’s deputy assistant on matters related to violence against women, Retno Adji Prasetiaju, said that the ministry is currently coordinating with the National Police chief, Gen. Sutarman, to have a women and child protection unit in every station at subdistrict and ward levels in order to provide maximum service for the victims of violence.

Easy targets

Earlier this year a retired police general and his wife allegedly held 16 domestic workers in captivity and tortured them in their Bogor, West Java mansion. Such captivity is a form of modern-day slavery and is believed to be the tip of the ice-berg. What makes the case remarkable is that the victims went public. It is widely believed many more women are scared to go down that path.

Anis Hidayah, executive director of Jakarta-based Migrant Care, told the Jakarta Globe that such practices are physically concealed but occur all around us, stripping those silent victims of their most basic of human rights: freedom.

Mutiara Situmorang and her husband, retired police general Mangisi Situmorang, were reported to the police after one of their 16 domestic workers — half of whom were under the legal working age of 17 — fled the mansion, claiming she had suffered from physical abuse.

Anis said this case was far from unique in Indonesia.

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