Fri, 03 Jan 2003

One women raped every five hours: Activist

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Women, beware. Every five hours, a woman is raped in Indonesia. Every day, at least one rape case in Jakarta is reported by the media, not to mention the unreported ones, which may be triple the number.

"Our circumstances are simply unsafe ... We can see that almost every day the media carries reports on rapes and sexual violence," Rita Serena Kolibonso of the non-governmental organization Mitra Perempuan told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Rita said that the number of unreported cases could be three times of the number of reported ones.

By contrast, the Jakarta Police revealed in their year-end report that there were only 107 rape cases last year. In 2001, only 89 rape cases were reported to the police.

The National Police's annual report showed, however, that the number of rape cases rose by 11.93 percent in 2002, although a exact number was not given.

Rita said that sexual violence, including rape, mostly against women and children, could take place anywhere and involve anyone regardless of walk of life, education or age.

"Sexual violence can happen in public places, in the workplace, at school, in prison, even in the private sphere like at home with the perpetrators are known to the victims, like their parents or relatives," Rita explained.

Rita revealed that her NGO had handled 226 cases of violence in 2002, of which 85 percent involved domestic violence.

The National Commission on Children's Protection (Komnas PA) reported earlier that during the January-November period last year, 481 cases of violence had been reported to it, 60 percent of which involved sexual abuse. The 2002 figure was over 20 percent higher than 2001's 391 cases.

Rita blasted the police and law enforcers for their failure to be proactive in investigating sexual violence despite the obvious reluctance of the victims as well the public to report such incidents to the police.

"Many people are reluctant (to report rape cases) as only a few rape cases are brought to court. Besides, in most cases, the courts only give rapists light sentences," explained Rita.

Legal considerations such as the fact that the culprit has a clean record should not be used as mitigating factors, Rita contended. She underlined that judges should consider the life- long psychological trauma suffered by the victims, not to mention possible physical damage to the victims' reproductive organs.

"It's not fair for the victims to pay the full cost of the medical examinations required to legally prove that rape has occurred," said Rita.

The light sentences handed down, often as little as one or two years in jail, made a mockery of the deterrent effect, Rita contended

According to the article 285 of the Criminal Code, rape carries a maximum sentence of 12 years in prison. Rapes of underage children carry a maximum of nine years in prison.

Meanwhile, the Jakarta Police's chief of detectives, Sr. Comr. Andi Chaeruddin, played down allegations that the police were not working proactively in tackling rape cases.

"We have assigned a special team of detectives to investigate sensitive cases related to children, teenager, and women's issues," Andi said.

In light of the psychological shock suffered by the victims, detectives from the team, Andi claimed, would visit victims to take their statements instead of summoning them to the police station.

He failed to elaborate further.