Indonesia Passes Landmark Sexual Assault Law, Overcomes Conservative Opposition

A majority of lawmakers supported the bill in the plenary session of parliament, overcoming opposition from some conservative groups in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country after six years of deliberation.

“We hope that the implementation of this law will resolve cases of sexual assault,” House Speaker Puan Maharani said.

The bill was widely welcomed by activists, although some objected to its limited scope, including only some sexual offenses and the lack of a specific rape clause, which the government says will be included in other laws.

“This is definitely a step forward,” said Asfinavati, an expert at the Jentera School of Law who has helped victims of sexual assault, while noting that the definitions of rape that currently fall under the penal code need to be clarified.

Complaints of sexual assault are on the rise in Indonesia, where the prosecution of sexual offenses is hampered by a lack of a specific legal framework, and victims’ fears of being embarrassed during interrogation deter many from speakaccording to the activists.

The final bill provides for up to 12 years in prison for offenses of physical sexual abuse, both within and outside of marriage, 15 years for sexual exploitation, nine years for forced marriage, including child marriage, and four years for illegal handling. – Consensual sexual content.

It provides that the court must oblige those convicted of violence to pay restitution, and the authorities – to provide victims with advice.

Under earlier proposals, the legislation also needed to cover abortion and provide a clearer definition of what constitutes rape.

The National Commission to Combat Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and civil society groups first proposed the idea of ​​a law ten years ago, and four years later the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives.

In January, President Joko Widodo instructed his government to expedite the passage of new legislation designed to make it easier to file cases and bring convictions.

One party in parliament, the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party, opposed the bill, saying it should regulate the ban on extramarital affairs and called for a ban on sexual relations based on what it called “deviant” sexual orientation.

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