Conservative Muslims in Indonesia reject antirape bill over 'pro-adultery, LGBT' concerns

JAKARTA (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Conservative critics have opposed the passing of a bill on sexual violence.

The passing of a bill on sexual violence, which has been deliberated on by the House of Representatives since 2016, is at risk of being delayed again, this time by those who consider it to be "pro-adultery" and “pro-LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender]” by omission.

The bill was first proposed after the gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Bengkulu in 2016 and gained traction again at the end of last year as the case of Baiq Nuril, a sexual harassment victim in West Nusa Nusa Tenggara (NTB) who was convicted for defaming her alleged harassed, came to light.

Public calls for the House to quickly pass the bill gained lawmakers’ attention and House Speaker Bambang Soesatyo said in his speech opening the current legislative session earlier this month that the House would prioritize passing the bill.

“We still have a lot of work to do to complete the bill and [eradicate] sexual violence, which has recently been in the public spotlight,” he said at the time.

But while concerns have been raised over whether lawmakers can work effectively in the lead-up to the 2019 General Elections, the bill has met another possible hurdle to its enactment into law: conservative criticism.

Maimon Herawati, a Padjajaran University lecturer who previously gained attention by starting an online petition demanding the ban of an ad featuring South Korean girl-band BLACKPINK, started another petition on change.org on Friday, calling on the House to reject the “pro-adultery” bill.

“The idea that women should be given the legal power to protect themselves is good, but there is a gap that was deliberately made to allow [loopholes],” the petition said. “There is no regulation on sexual crimes, such as sexual relations that violate moral and religious norms.”

In her petition, which has been signed by 120,000 people, Maimon further argues that the bill was incompatible with local norms as it allowed consensual sexual relations outside of marriage and criminalized marital rape.

“Consequently, a husband could be prosecuted if he touches his wife when the wife does not want to be touched,” she warns.

Euis Sunarti, a Bogor Agricultural Institute (IPB) professor who, along with the Family Love Alliance (AILA), previously petitioned the Constitutional Court (MK) to criminalize homosexual relationships, has expressed similar sentiments to the House’s Commission VIII, which is deliberating the bill.

“Most Indonesians do not want to separate a criminal act from the social norms that govern it,” she told The Jakarta Post on Thursday. “For example, the bill criminalizes forced prostitution but doesn’t say anything about prostitution itself, when our social norms are clearly against prostitution.”

The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), which helped compose the bill, said it welcomed opinions from all members of the public but argued that critics did not understand the intention of the bill.

“We hope that we can meet with them to discuss the bill because I’m sure that no woman would be against eradicating sexual violence,” commissioner Mariana Amiruddin told the Post.

She said the bill was crafted to protect the interests of victims of sexual violence and provide them with a legal instrument to enforce their rights.

“Issues like adultery and sexual morality are already included in the KUHP [Criminal Code] bill,” she said. “This bill is the only one that looks out for the victims.”

Veni Siregar of Forum Pengada Layanan (FPL), a non-governmental organization that provides advocacy for victims of sexual violence across the country, echoed Mariana’s sentiments.

“The articles in the bill are consistent with our experience in accompanying and advocating for victims,” she said, adding that she hoped the recent criticism would not affect the House’s commitment to pass the bill.

“Our recent conversations and meetings with the bill’s working committee have been productive,” she said. “Hopefully, the petition will not change that.”

Maimon’s petition highlights the ongoing culture war between conservative Indonesians and their relatively more liberal fellow countrymen over the issue of sexuality and individual freedom.

Komnas PA and AILA, for instance, are at odds over whether the state should criminalize any types of sexual relations outside of marriage.

Gerindra Party lawmaker and Commission VIII member Sodik Mudjahid said deliberations on the anti-rape bill were still on course and would intensify after the elections in April.

“The protests occur because of a lack of clarity in the process and details of the draft bill,” he told the Post. “We will invite more members of civil society to gather more suggestions later.”

He added that the bill focused on protecting and rehabilitating victims of violence and did not discuss matters such as adultery and LGBT relations.

“But if there are articles that leave room for the legalization of adultery, of course, we will change that and close the gap,” he said.

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