Jakarta (ANTARA) - Applause arose in the plenary hall, as House Speaker Puan Maharani stroked the gavel signifying the Sexual Violence Crime Bill's (RUU TPKS') passage into law, Apr 12, cheered by the visitors' gallery's legislators and spectators.

House of Representatives (DPR RI) Speaker Maharani, who stroked the gavel after legislators voiced their near-unanimous approval of the bill’s passing, then smiled and waved out to the audience. She had earlier noted that the bill’s passing would be a milestone for the people’s struggle to protect Indonesian women.

“Today’s plenary session is a historic moment that the public has been waiting for. Today, the Sexual Violence Crime Bill will be passed into law and become evidence of the struggles of sexual violence victims,” the DPR speaker remarked.

Outside the Parliament, the people were also seen in a similar euphoric mood to welcome the bill’s passage into law. Residents also expressed their joy on their social media accounts about the bill’s ratification after years of struggle and advocacy.

Nonetheless, after passing the bill into law, it is important to ensure that the law will be properly enforced.

According to actress Putri Ayudya, celebrating the ratification of the RUU TPKS is appropriate, as women’s rights activists and the public have fought for the law for almost a decade. The joy voiced by the public also demonstrates their concern for sexual violence victims, she stated.

“The promotion and publication of the Sexual Violence Crime Law must be done because for increasing awareness towards sexual violence victims and perpetrators, this kind of celebration is necessary,” Ayudya emphasized.

Ayudya, who was nominated for Best Actress in the Citra Awards' 2020 edition for her acting in “Mudik” (“Homecoming”, 2019), opined that the ratification of the Sexual Violence Crime Law demonstrated the government’s firm action to address sexual violence issues in Indonesia.

After the bill was passed by the Parliament, the next task is to implement the law.

The Sexual Violence Crime Law consists of eight sections and 93 articles, and the legislature had involved 120 civil groups in its deliberation.

The law recognises nine forms of sexual violence, those being non-physical and physical sexual harassment, forced contraception, forced sterilisation, forced marriage, electronic-based sexual violence, sexual torture, sexual exploitation, and sexual slavery.

Before the law is passed, victims of sexual violence often should face the second ordeal after law enforcers treated them improperly while they reported their case. In some sectors, such as the entertainment sector, acts that will be considered as sexual harassment in other places are also normalised.

“For us actresses, we are (often) demanded to expose ourselves and that makes us vulnerable (to harassment). Hence, during the shooting process, we need to firmly impose our limits. We often work together for a long time, and sometimes, we fail to maintain our emotions and behaviours,” the actress remarked.

She expressed hope that through the RUU TPKS, improvement in the entertainment sector to ensure a safe work environment for women would follow.

“Now, regulations about sexual violence and respect and conduct at shooting sites will not merely be the production house’s initiative, but (it will) have legal consequences,” Ayudya stated.

Meanwhile, singer and activist Melanie Subono lauded the government’s effort to create a legal basis to protect sexual violence victims after persistent campaigns from various public members advocating the bill for 10 years.

Now, Indonesian women must hold hands to protect each other and ensure that the law will be properly implemented by the government, she emphasized.

“Women have to monitor (implementation of the law), and they must also understand their rights because some women still fell prey as victims despite understanding that they have limits to follow,” Subono remarked.

She believes that in order to accomplish the next duty after the law’s ratification is not solely the government’s responsibility but also the responsibility of Indonesian women, who should stand up for themselves and fight against harassment.

In reality, the Sexual Violence Crime Law has not been universally welcomed by members of the public and also parliamentary parties. Some opponents of the law even believe that the law is overreaching in domestic affairs.

The Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) is one notable institution that consistently voices its opposition to the law since its drafting. They argued that the consensual factor that demarcates permissible sexual acts and sexual violence opens the door to premarital sex that they believe must also be prohibited.

Some members of the public also argued that a husband that coerces his wife to have sex must not be regarded as sexual violence, as they believe the wife should “serve” her husband anytime he wants.

“Those who see this issue in (a narrow) cultural or religious outlook will see (the Sexual Violence Crime Bill) as overreaching. However, as we see, sexual violence cases are rampant in society,” Subono remarked.

As the parliament’s decision to pass the RUU TPKS into law is the first victory of the Indonesian women’s struggle to fight sexual violence, the next grand quest for all members of society is to ensure that the law will be potent to address sexual violence cases and to protect its victims.

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Translator: Maria Cicilia, Nabil Ihsan
Editor: Sri Haryati
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