Wed, 09 Mar 2005

Women fall victims in all circumstances

Hera Diani The Jakarta Post/Jakarta

What a parrot says can tell you something about its master.

A parrot kept at former president Soeharto's home reportedly still greets its owner with "Good morning, Mr. President" every single day.

Meanwhile, a certain parrot kept at a house in Bekasi, West Java, portrays a sad reality that sometimes occurs between a husband and a wife.

"Stupid! You pig!" the parrot shrieked, repeating the words of his master "Adi", 46, who frequently yells the words to his 43- year old wife, "Lisa", while also beating her.

Lisa said she had often considered divorce, but always relented whenever her husband begged for forgiveness.

The beatings have become less frequent now that the couple are planning to go on the haj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, this year, although the verbal abuse has continued.

"I have become frigid and numb," said Lisa, adding that she only stayed because of her two teenage children.

Lisa's case is just another example of violence against women in Indonesia, which the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) said continues to increase every year, with the highest prevalence being domestic violence.

Released on Monday, Komnas Perempuan's report shows that at least 3,160 cases of violence against women were recorded across the country in 2001. The number increased to 5,163 cases a year later, and 7,787 cases in 2003.

In 2004, the number of cases almost doubled to 14,020 cases.

Of the 14,020 cases, 4,310 were acts of domestic violence, 2,470 occurred within the community, 6,634 in households, 562 were female trafficking cases, and the remaining 302 were acts of violence by state personnel.

The report was supported by data gathered by 43 women's organizations in 14 provinces, 70 district courts in 20 provinces, two religious courts in two provinces, 28 women's desks (RPK) at Police headquarters in 28 provinces, 11 hospitals in nine provinces and the Attorney General's Office.

Komnas Perempuan activist Myra Diarsi said the institutions dealing with cases of violence against women had shown some improvement in the way that they handled them.

Their filing systems have also improved and they have been more willing to share data to establish a more comprehensive and nation-wide database, she added.

"The fact that these institutions function better is heartening. Other victims are then encouraged to report their cases," Myra said.

However, she added, the reported cases still represented the tip of the iceberg, with many more cases not being reported.

Aside from domestic violence, women continue to fall victim in wider circumstances, politically, socially and financially.

The deadly clashes between the local administration and farmers in Manggarai, East Nusa Tenggara, for instance, caused many women to lose their husbands. However, as widows are not recognized as breadwinners, they also lost rights to their lands, leaving them penniless.

Other prominent cases involved violence against migrant workers, trafficking and abuse of women in conflict areas, such as Aceh, Maluku and Poso in Central Sulawesi, as well as the environmental destruction as occurred in Buyat Bay, North Sulawesi, and the Bojong dump site in West Java.

Komnas Perempuan chairwoman Kamala Chandrakirana said that as violence against women increased, demand for government action also increased.

Progress was achieved in 2004 when the House of Representatives passed Law No. 23/2004 on the elimination of domestic violence. However, too many law enforcers are still not familiar with this law.

"The government should ensure the implementation of the laws at each level of law enforcement. They should also push for the passing of an anti-trafficking law, and provide shelters, crisis centers and hospitals for migrant workers," Kamala said.

Other recommendations from her commission included: Reevaluating policies on migrant workers with a human rights and gender equity approach Making sure that migrants are recognized legally as workers, with the right to organize Reopening discussions on an alternative draft for an Islamic code of law that could help reduce violence against women Monitoring the implementation of women's rights in conflict regions Developing a national database on violence against women