Thu, 18 Dec 2003

More rape victims willing to speak out

Tony Hotland, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The huge increase in the number of cases reported of rape and domestic violence against women and children is an indication of the growing level of willingness among the victims to speak to women's organizations about it.

Chairwoman of the Foundation for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Purnianti, perceives the increasing number of reported cases as a sign of the growing level of trust among victims toward women's centers and non-governmental organizations.

"The situation now is like an iceberg where there are more and more women who are starting to take actions to protect themselves, instead of keeping the abuse a secret," said Purnianti during a dialog held by the Mitra Perempuan crisis center and the Ford Foundation on Wednesday.

She added that this was definite progress remembering that such centers were new to people, especially in relation to private issues such as rape by a spouse and domestic violence.

"The extensive familiarization drives and the emergence of concerned non-governmental organizations have indeed played a major role here," said Purnianti.

She cited an example of the presence of a special crisis room (RPK) at police stations where female officers take reports and the integrated crisis center (PKT) for women and children.

This, she said, had been helpful in encouraging the victims to ask for help and counseling, both in terms of medical and legal assistance.

Mitra Perempuan executive director, Rita Serena Kolibonso, said that her organization had received 272 reports of abuse of women and children this year from Jakarta and its surrounding areas, a 20.35 percent increase from 226 cases in 2002.

"Most of the cases included multiple violence, meaning that the victims have endured two or more kinds of violence, which includes beating with or without weapons, and rape within marriage," said Rita.

She was quick to add that the figure was just a diminutive percentage of the overall picture considering that there were dozens of similar organizations collecting data, not to mention the data from the police and unreported cases.

Jakarta Police recently released their annual report on crimes for 2003, in which the number of rape cases showed a 25 percent increase to 134 cases from 107 last year.

Head of the Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital crisis center for women and children, Budi Sampurno, said that over 1,700 cases of rape and sexual abuse had been reported from June 2000 to June 2003, mostly toward women.

The dialog also urged the government to swiftly take further action on the draft of the bill on domestic violence and the revision of the law on rape.

"We urgently need those laws to be implemented on a national scale to provide better protection to all victims of sexual offenses or domestic abuse, whoever they may be," said Rita.

She added that the country's commitment to international declarations and the national agenda on stamping out violence against women had not been consistently fulfilled.