Lawmakers in Indonesia passed a long-awaited bill on Tuesday in an effort to better seek justice for sexual violence victims.
The landmark bill was first proposed and submitted in 2016 by the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and civil society groups. Earlier this year in January, President Joko Widodo had asked that the process be expedited to secure more convictions for sexual abuse victims.
Despite opposition from conservative groups, a majority of the lawmakers supported passing the bill at the parliamentary plenary session.
Indonesia has seen a rise in sexual violence complaints. In 2021, there were 338,496 reported cases, a 50 percent rise from 2020, according to Komnas Perempuan.
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However, many of these crimes are complicated to prosecute due to a lack of a legal framework. Victims are also often discouraged from speaking up out of fear of being shamed during questioning.
With the enactment of the new bill, lawmakers and activists hope that the new sentencing structure will provide more victims with opportunities to receive justice.
A law expert from the Jentera School of Law, Asfinawati, told Al Jazeera, “This is surely a step forward” while also calling for the criminal code’s definitions of rape to be made more explicit.
One victim, who chose not to report her abuser for fear of being mistreated by authorities, told Reuters, “If this bill had existed, I would’ve had more hope to find justice.”
The bill now includes punishments of up to 12 years in prison for crimes involving physical sexual abuse regardless of marital status and 15 years for sexual exploitation. Those who commit crimes of forced marriage and child marriage will receive nine years while circulation of non-consensual sexual content will warrant four years in prison.
Additionally, courts will now be compelled to provide victims with counseling, and convicted abusers will have to pay compensation.