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Islamists attack Indonesian sexual violence bill

Opponents of proposed law to protect women say it helps promote casual sex and homosexuality

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Islamists attack Indonesian sexual violence bill

Religious conservatives in Indonesia are opposing a sexual violence bill aimed at protecting women, saying it goes against Islamic norms and promotes adultery and homosexuality. (Photo by Bay Ismoyo/AFP)

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Religious conservatives in Indonesia are looking to shoot down a groundbreaking sexual violence bill.

They claim the move to provide better legal protection for women conflicts with Islamic values, and promotes adultery and even homosexuality.

The Ministry of Empowerment of Women and Children and the House of Representatives are looking to see the bill become law before presidential elections in April.

The bill looks to outlaw forms of sexual violence not covered by existing legislation and encourage women to report crimes.

They include sexual harassment, forced prostitution and forced marriage.

However opponents claim the bill is badly worded and too liberal as it implies that any form of consensual sex is acceptable, including gay sex.

It does not stipulate that sexual relations should only take place between married couples, critics say.

Jazuli Juwaini, a lawmaker with the Prosperous Justice Party, said the bill is not in line with religious norms.

“As an Islamic party, we reject it. It even implies casual sex and that deviant sexual behavior is okay," he said in a statement.

An online petition calling on Muslims to reject the bill has gained more than 150,000 supporters.

Maimon Herawati, the petition’s initiator said the bill advocated adultery.

"This bill clearly violates the value of truth, and disrupts justice for Indonesian families who believe that adultery seen from any aspect is a cruel act," Herawati said.

However, women activists said opponents of the bill misunderstand it.

According to Mariana Amiruddin, from National Commission on Violence Against Women, the bill is a legal breakthrough that will provide maximum protection for women, including the victims of sexual violence.

The commission played a key role in drafting the legislation,

“With the existing law, there are no ways, for example, for rape victims to access rehabilitative measures,” Amiruddin said.

According to the commission, there were 13,384 cases of violence against women reported in 2017. Of that number, one-third involved sexual violence.

Amiruddin said the bill focuses more on targeting violent actions, such as coercion, intimidation and not on things like sexual orientation, referring to criticism the bill promotes homosexuality.

Sister Maria Yosephina Pahlawati of the Congregation of Servants of the Holy Spirit, who runs an advisory service for female victims of violence in Flores, supports the bill.

“We do need more detailed and explicit rules because when we report cases of sexual violence, police are often confused as to what legal redress they can use against perpetrators,” she said.

“There are many limitations to the current laws. This bill fills the gaps,” she added.

Women's and Children's Empowerment Minister, Yohana Susana Yembise, said she would look to clarify matters with the bill’s opponents.

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