Jakarta. The National Commission for Women's commissioner Siti Aminah Tardi said last week that home is not always a safe place for women and children during large-scale social restriction imposed in urban centers across Indonesia to try to limit the spread of Covid-19.
According to the commission's 2019 Annual Report, violence in the private sphere was the most reported incident in 2019 with a total of 11,105 cases, 59 percent of which happened to wives and 21 percent to daughters.
"Under [large-scale] social restriction, many wives and daughters are trapped in the same house with the perpetrators of the violence," Siti said during an online seminar on Friday.
However, Siti could not say if the domestic violence rate has actually increased during the large-scale social restriction due to the difficulties of reporting the cases.
"Women might find it difficult to report a case because their husbands are always around. The commission can only provide an online complaint service, not face-to-face," she said.
A survey by the International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (Infid) found a total of 86 domestic violence cases involving women and children as victims in 15 provinces during the recent periods of social restriction.
The cases involved mental abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse and sexual abuse.
The chairwoman of Infid's board of management, Dian Kartikasari, said most cases of domestic violence are caused by unequal power relations, aka it's committed by a more powerful person against one with less or no power.
"In the survey, we found the violence was not committed just by men against women and children. Women can also be violent against children due to the high stress-level they're put under during this pandemic," Dian said.
Out of the 86 domestic violence cases included in Infid's survey, 32 of them involved violence against children.
Dian said the government's study-from-home policy might also trigger more violence against children.
"It adds to the domestic burden and stress for working mothers. Aside from working from home, mothers often have to take on the role of teachers as well," she said.
According to her, domestic violence during extended periods of social restriction can be caused by changes in people's way of life not being followed by changes in family values.
"Everyone now stays at home during the social restriction, but if all the household chores are still done only by the wife, that would put a lot of extra stress on them," she said.
Dian recommended that household chores should be divided evenly among family members regardless of gender. Every family member ought to contribute to creating a safe and comfortable environment at home.
She warned that social restriction increases interaction between family members and may trigger more conflicts.
"If they can't manage these conflicts, domestic violence may ensue," Dian said.
Accommodating Women's Rights in Pandemic Mitigation
Siti criticized the government's Covid-19 mitigation protocols for not accommodating more protection for women, especially victims of domestic violence.
"The Covid-19 Task Force has not done enough to protect women's rights and interests. The protocols they've issued are very masculine. The government must keep providing social service for domestic violence victims during the pandemic," she said.
Siti regretted that government safe houses for domestic violence victims have been closed down during the pandemic. Now those victims don't have any safe space they can turn to.
Aside from reopening the safe houses, Siti also demanded that the government provide an online complaint hotline with a free pick-up service for victims who need it.
The Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry's assistant deputy for women's rights and human trafficking, Destri Handayani, admitted the coronavirus mitigation protocols issued by the Covid-19 Task Force are not ideal for protecting women and children.
"We've been trying to integrate [the Task Force's] guidelines with our women and children protection protocols. One of them by running the #Berjarak or Bersama Jaga Keluarga Kita [Together Protecting Our Families] campaign to ensure women and children are kept safe during the pandemic," Destri said.