CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Conservatives attack sexual violence bill

JAKARTA (UCAN): “We do need more detailed and explicit rules because when we report cases of sexual violence, police are often confused as to what legal redress they can use against perpetrators,” Sister Maria Yosephina Pahlawati of the Congregation of Servants of the Holy Spirit,  said, commenting on a groundbreaking sexual violence bill before Indonesia’s legislature.
 
Sister Pahlwati, who runs an advisory service for female victims of violence in Flores, observed, “There are many limitations to the current laws. This bill fills the gaps.”
 
The bill seeks to outlaw forms of sexual violence not covered by existing legislation—including sexual harassment, forced prostitution and forced marriage—and encourages women to report crimes.
 
However, opponents are looking to shoot it down claiming that it is badly worded, conflicts with Islamic values and is too liberal as it implies that any form of consensual sex is acceptable, including adultery and gay sex, as it does not stipulate that sexual relations should only take place between married couples.
 
Jazuli Juwaini, a lawmaker with the Prosperous Justice Party, said, “As an Islamic party, we reject it. It even implies casual sex and that deviant sexual behaviour is okay.” 
 
An online petition calling on Muslims to reject the bill has gained more than 150,000 supporters. 
 
Maimon Herawati, who initiated the petition, claimed, “This bill clearly violates the value of truth, and disrupts justice for Indonesian families who believe that adultery seen from any aspect is a cruel act.” 
 
However, women’s rights advocates said opponents of the bill misunderstand it.
 
Mariana Amiruddin, from National Commission on Violence Against Women, which played a key role in drafting the legislation, noted that the bill is a legal breakthrough that will provide maximum protection for women, including the victims of sexual violence.
 
“With the existing law, there are no ways, for example, for rape victims to access rehabilitative measures,” Amiruddin explained.
 
According to the commission, there were 13,384 cases of violence against women reported in 2017. Of that number, one-third involved sexual violence.
 
Alluding to criticism that the bill promotes homosexuality, Amiruddin stressed that the bill focuses more on targeting violent actions, such as coercion, intimidation and not on things like sexual orientation.
 
The Ministry of Empowerment of Women and Children and the House of Representatives wants the bill become law before presidential elections in April, and the minister, Yohana Susana Yembise, said she would look to clarify matters with the bill’s opponents.

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