Wed, 17 Dec 2003

Rape cases soar by 25 percent over past year amid legal limbo

Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Despite a declining trend among most recorded crimes in the city, the number of rape cases has significantly soared -- by 25 percent -- this year. Women's rights activists, as well as police, blame legal limbo as one of the main factors behind such an astounding rise.

Year-end data at the Jakarta Police Headquarters made available to The Jakarta Post show that the number of reported rape cases has been increasing significantly during the past three years.

There have been 134 reported cases this year as compared to 107 in 2002 and 89 in 2001.

The rising trend is in contrast to the overall criminal activity in the city, like robbery, auto theft, drug-related crimes and extortion, which all show a declining tendency.

An activist of non-governmental organization Mitra Perempuan, Rita Serena Kolibonso, blamed the government for its failure in taking significant measures to improve the existing laws and regulations to provide better protection of women and children from rape and other sexual offenses and to impose heavier sentences on rapists.

"So far, the government has done nothing significant to revise the law on rape. The crime will surely continue to increase as a result," she told the Post on Tuesday.

She lamented legal loopholes, which were abound in the existing law, that opens up greater opportunities for rapists to evade rape charges or other sexual molestation charges.

"Take for instance, a lower sentence sought for those who have committed sexual harassment of underaged children than to those who have committed rape, show that the law is a failure, does not protect children and to does not impose heavy sentences on the offenders," she said.

According to Criminal Code's article 285 on rape, a rapist can face a maximum sentence of just 12 years in jail if convicted. The sentence is nonetheless heavier than sentences sought for those who have sexually molested underage children. According to the code's article 282, sexual offenses of underage children are only subject to a maximum sentence of between three months and nine months in prison.

"The government is in dire need to review the existing law on rape. Otherwise, every effort to enforce the law (on the rapists) and to protect women and children will be to no avail as the offenders can walk free owing to weak charges," she asserted.

Sharing Rita's concern, a senior police investigator, who is in charge of handling sexual offenses and rape cases with Jakarta Police Headquarters, said that in many rape cases, the police found it difficult to build charges against suspected rapists.

"We will welcome any revisions to the law, which cover broader sexual offenses to women and children and impose heavier sentences on the culprits. Such revisions will help us build strong charges against the offenders," said the policewoman, who requested anonymity.

Number of most recorded crimes in Jakarta 2001-2003

Crimes 2001 2002 2003

Rape 89 107 134

Burglary 5,093 4,567 5,524

Auto theft 6,466 6,180 5,788

Extortion 524 594 547

Robbery 2,647 2,546 1,822

Aggravated assault 1,225 1,372 1,134

Homicide 73 65 65

Source: Jakarta Police Yearend Report 2003