Feminists demand that the House of Representatives ratify the bill on the elimination of sexual violence, during a recent protest at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak A)

House Puts Sexual Violence Bill on Hold Until Next Term


SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

Jakarta. The House of Representatives has decided to postpone a vote on the elimination of sexual violence bill and leave it to the new national legislature that will be sworn in next month. 

"I have coordinated with the head of the bill task force. Due to the limited time left and the many other issues that have yet to be discussed, we decided to halt the bill," House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo said on Thursday.

The bill has been a source of controversy among conservative religious groups in Indonesia, which see it as a pathway to normalizing promiscuity and same-sex relationships in the country.

On the other hand, women's rights activists see the bill as critical to improving the protection of women across the country. For example, Indonesia's current law only recognizes forcible penile penetration of a vagina as rape. The law also does not recognize verbal sexual abuse, of which the public only recently became aware, following the high-profile case early this year involving Baiq Nuril Maknun – a victim of sexual harassment who was convicted of slander for shaming her abuser.  

Bambang said the House could carry over the unfinished bill to the next term, instead of starting over with a blank slate, because it has revised the 2011 Law on Law Formation.

The House and the government have formed a team to formulate the sexual violence bill and start working on it in the next term, Bambang said. 

The bill recognizes nine types of sexual violence: sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, contraception coercion, abortion coercion, rape, forced marriage, forced prostitution, sexual slavery and sexual torture.

The bill defines sexual abuse as "any physical and non-physical activity related to someone's body parts or related to sexual desire, that intimidates, insults, degrades, or humiliates someone."

Thus, should the bill become law, it would be a criminal offence to touch someone else's genitalia or any body part associated with sex or sexuality, including the chest, breasts, buttocks and hair.

Non-physical activity includes, but is not limited to whistling or winking at someone, showing pornographic material to them, taking a photograph of them without their consent, or peeping at them, catcalling or making a sexually suggestive remark, or making a gesture that simulates genitalia.

The bill is a response to the ever-increasing rate of sexual violence in Indonesia. According to data compiled by the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), at least 35 women and girls were sexually abused every day between 2001 and 2011.

The bill entered the national legislative program in 2012, but has yet to be approved. The House promised to pass it after the 2019 legislative election, after several activists pushed for its approval last year.

However, several parties, including the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), regard the bill as contrary to religious values because they believe it would provide a loophole for sexual intercourse outside of marriage.

Jazuli Juwaini, who heads the PKS faction in the House, expressed his party's relief that the bill had been put on hold.

"The PKS faction feels obligated to protect people from sexual violence, but we also have a moral responsibility to guard the nation's morality in accordance with Pancasila and the Constitution," he said, referring to Indonesia's official state ideology.