National Commission on Violence against Women chief, Azriana, center, speaks in Jakarta on Nov. 24 at the launch of a 16-day campaign on violence against women. (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari)
Indonesian authorities should institute a new law that severely punishes perpetrators of sexual violence in order to counter a troubling increase in violence against women, activists say.
Women's rights activists in the country began a 16-day campaign on Nov. 25 against gender-based violence by calling for a law that clamps down on sexual violence.
The National Commission on Violence against Women has conducted the campaign since 2001. This year, the group has chosen the theme "Sexual violence is a crime against humanity."
The campaign's start coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ends on Dec. 10 — Human Rights Day.
"The main effort in this year's campaign is to push the government into introducing a law aimed at combatting sexual violence in Indonesia," said Azriana, the commission chairwoman on Nov. 24.
She said the government currently has a draft bill on its legislation list. A decision on whether to include the draft bill in its legislative program could be made in early December.
"We hope the government will take concrete steps to ensuring that sexual violence in Indonesia is severely punished," she said.
Violence against women, particularly cases of sexual violence, increase every year, she told ucanews.com.
The commission says there were 293,220 cases of violence against women in 2014, up from 279,760 cases recorded in 2013.
This is probably the tip of the iceberg, Azriana said.
"This is because many victims and their families are not willing to report cases."
"On average, every year, about one-quarter of the cases concern sexual violence," Azriana said.
This is a serious and common problem and the government needs to make cracking down on violence against women a priority, she added.
During its 16-day campaign, the commission says it will provide students from five junior and senior high schools in Jakarta with sex education.
Seminars, dialogues and cultural performances will also be staged in association with several nongovernmental organizations and religious groups such as the Secretariat of Gender and Women Empowerment of the Indonesian bishops' conference.
Notre Dame Sister Maria Resa from the bishops' secretariat said a law providing a significant deterrent against violence against women is only part of the solution.
"Such a regulation can at least reduce the number of cases of violence against women," she told ucanews.com.
However, greater support needs to be provided for victims, she said.
"This is important. Not everyone has the courage to deal with the legal process. A counseling program should be provided to get them through this ordeal and help them recover," she said.