Jakarta. Minister of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology Nadiem Makarim has declared sexual violence on campuses in Indonesia a critical emergency, as the minister addresses the public on Friday to defend his latest ministerial decree about the issue.
The minister was facing a backlash from the conservative religious groups, which opposed the 2021 Ministerial Decree about Prevention and Treatment of Sexual Violence in Higher Education that became effective on Aug 30.
Minister Nadim said the decree was urgent to protect students from becoming victims of sexual violence on campuses, often ignored or suppressed after their traumatic experiences.
Nadiem cited a 2020 survey carried out by the Ministry that found 77 percent of Indonesian professors believed that sexual violence has previously occurred on campus. An alarming 63 percent of them did not report the cases they were aware of to campus officials.
"No learning can happen without a feeling of safety," Nadiem said. "We have to reach a higher ideal, from a protection standpoint," he said during a panel discussion event on Friday.
Indonesian law only defines sexual violence as a crime when intercourse without consent happens. It lets many forms of sexual harassment, from catcalling, requests for sexual favors to physical acts of sexual assault, go unpunished. Civil movements had made a great effort to propose a sexual violence bill but failed to pass it at the parliament.
With the regulation, Nadiem hoped to curb sexual violence and trauma rates on college campuses throughout Indonesia towards students and staff members, including professors.
The law outlines 20 acts under sexual violence, carefully extending the umbrella of 'sexual violence' to verbal, non-physically, and digital actions. That is is a huge step forward from previous regulation that only considers physical acts as sexual crimes.
Yaqut Cholil Quomas, the Minister of Religious Affairs, called the regulation "revolutionary" in the typically "stagnant" policies surrounding sexual crimes. He also affirms the Ministry's full support towards this law.
That may be particularly relevant, as the regulation has been the subject of heated controversy as of late, with multiple conservative religious groups such as the MUI, Muhammadiyah, and Majelis Ormas Islam opposing the law.
The groups believe that making non-consensual sex illegal encourages consensual sex. They also argued that the decree's phrase "without the victim's consent" inadvertently legalizes adultery and extramarital sex.
In Indonesia, extramarital sex is illegal if one is married and is punishable by up to two years in prison. Aside from this, the Indonesian criminal code also prohibits sex with underage girls and those who cannot give consent.
Faqihuddin Abdul Kodir , Kongres Ulama Perempuan Indonesia, touched on the controversy during the discussion panel. He commented on extramarital sex, saying, "It cannot happen under coercion… That does not mean that it can happen if it's not under coercion."
In other words, criminalizing non-consensual sex does not encourage extramarital consensual sex.
"[The ministerial decree] is a signal to the academic community that the government is here to protect you, to protect your children, and to protect the new generation of our nation," Makarim concluded in his talk.