Fri, 12 Sep 2003

Women's rights activists criticize rape bill

Muninggar Sri Saraswati, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A number of women activists demanded the government revise several articles on rape in the criminal code bill, on Wednesday saying that they were insufficient to protect women and children from the crime.

They also called for the inclusion of marital rape in the bill.

The Legal Aid Institute of the Association of Indonesian Women for Justice (LBH APIK) criticized the bill for stipulating that is must only be proved whether or not penetration occurs and whether or not there is opposition from the victim.

"Rape is actually a forceful act against a weaker party. The legislation on rape is supposed to provide rulings on sexual acts that are opposed by one of the involved parties," said LBH APIK director Vonny Reynata.

At least 30 articles in the criminal code bill deal with rape, which is considered to be a moral crime.

"Sexual crimes are not about morality," Vonny said without elaboration.

According to the bill, rape is a sexual crime committed by a man against a woman without the woman's consent. A man who threatens or lures a woman into having sexual intercourse has committed rape.

The crime is punishable with a minimum sentence of three years in jail and a maximum of 12 years in jail. If the rape resulted in death, the crime is punishable with a jail sentence of between five and 15 years.

The bill also stipulates that rape includes the penetration of a woman's mouth or anus by the man's penis or an object that is not part of his body.

Vonny demanded the government also declare that, if a man uses his hands to penetrate the female's vagina, anus or mouth against her will, that too is rape.

"In most rape cases against children, the rapist uses their hands to penetrate the child's vagina or anus," she explained.

The fact that the bill stipulates that sexual harassment against children is an "act of obscenity" has also angered activists.

Meanwhile, Purniati of the Elimination of Violence against Women Foundation, criticized the bill for not stipulating articles on marital rape.

"The bill disqualifies a wife as a rape victim and it strengthens people's claims that a wife is only a sexual object," Purniati said.

The debate about the bill relating to sexual crimes has been running for years. In 1993, the Justice Ministry was actually ready to submit the bill -- which had been prepared since 1982 -- to the House for deliberation.

However, it was postponed until last year due to, among other things, the unfinished debate on the need to include marital rape in the bill.

The head of the Attorney General Office's human rights task force, B.R. Pangaribuan, said the bill needed to be discussed seriously.

"The bill could be used by irresponsible women to blackmail men. What if a woman agreed to have sex with a man but later told the police she did not consent? It will create difficulties for men," he said.