After stalling for almost a decade, Indonesia's House of Representatives is expected to debate a bill on sexual violence next Tuesday.
WARNING: This story discusses suicide and alleged sexual violence.
- Novia Widyasari Rahayu died by suicide after alleged sexual violence
- She reported her case to the National Women's Commission but services are overwhelmed
- Women's rights activists say consent is widely misunderstood and the anti-sexual violence bill should be ratified
Last week, President Joko Widodo called for the bill to be ratified immediately so that there would be maximum protection for victims of sexual violence.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
- Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- ReachOut at au.reachout.com
Renewed public pressure to pass the bill arose following the suicide of a 23-year-old woman, an alleged victim of sexual assault.
"I have also asked the government task force that handles the sexual violence bill to immediately prepare an inventory list of problems against the draft bill that is being prepared by the [Indonesian House of Representatives]," Mr Jokowi said.
The bill proposes the prohibition and prevention of sexual violence against Indonesian men, women and children, and contains detailed provisions for the protection and support of victims of sexual violence, including health services and legal assistance.
It aims to prevent sexual violence including rape, forced prostitution, sexual slavery and sexual torture in the household, workplace and in public.
The bill has been languishing for years and faces opposition from the conservative Islamic party, despite being watered down.
Although Indonesia's #MeToo movement never quite took off, high-profile cases have put the bill in the spotlight.
The latest political pressure was triggered by the death of Novia Widyasari Rahayu last month.
'Because they are dating, logically, it's consensual'
The 23-year-old woman's body was found next to her father's grave in a public cemetery in Mojokerto, about 40 kilometres from the capital city of East Java, Indonesia.
Novia Widyasari Rahayu wrote about the alleged violence she suffered and lodged a complaint. Her photo is published with permission.(Supplied)
Ms Rahayu's family refused an autopsy of her body, but authorities suspect she took her own life.
For Indonesian users of the social media platform Quora, Ms Rahayu's name is not a foreign one.
Sexual assault and family violence support lines:
- 1800 Respect National Helpline: 1800 737 732
- Sexual Assault Crisis Line Victoria: 1800 806 292
- Safe Steps Crisis Line (Vic): 1800 015 188
- Men's Referral Service: 1300 766 491
- Lifeline (24-hour Crisis Line): 131 114
There, she had written about how she was depressed and alleged that she was raped by her boyfriend Randy Bagus Hary Sasongko — a policeman and the son of a local official.
She wrote that she was coerced into having an abortion, twice.
The story of her suicide went viral, trending on Twitter and becoming the source of public discussion about consent in relationships.
After the public outcry, police arrested Mr Sasongko.
Police said for now, he had been charged with intentionally aborting or killing a foetus by forcing his girlfriend to have two terminations, and he had been dishonourably dismissed from the force.
He faces up to five years in prison.
But in an official statement shortly after his arrest, police said there was no "element of rape" when Mr Sasongko was dating Ms Rahayu.
''Because they are dating, logically, it's consensual. It means that the element of rape is not fulfilled," said Gatot Repli Handoko, the head of public relations of East Java Police, in a press conference last month.
When asked for clarification about whether the police would investigate the rape allegation, Mr Handoko told the ABC: "The suspect said, 'It's consensual'."
Randy Bagus Hari Sasongko was arrested shortly after Ms Rahayu's death.(Supplied: East Java Police)
"There's still a possibility [of other charges], it depends on the development of the investigation later," Mr Handoko said.
Seeking help from overwhelmed services
According to the National Commission for Women (Komnas Perempuan), Ms Rahayu had tried seeking help, and she had reported her case to the commission in mid-August 2021.
However, Komnas Perempuan said they only managed to contact Ms Rahayu about three months later.
Theresia Iswarini, commissioner of Komnas Perempuan, said at that time the commission received a spike in the number of cases related to violence against women and sexual harassment — around 400 to 500 cases per month — and there were limited staff in the complaint and referral unit.
Theresia Iswarini, a commissioner with Indonesia's National Commission for Women, says the system is overwhelmed by the number of reports they receive.(Supplied.)
"We have tried to make internal improvements and increase our staff capacity, but [the cases] were still not being handled," she said, adding there were currently seven staff on duty in the unit.
According to Komnas Perempuan, Ms Rahayu claimed she was a victim of alleged repeated dating violence for almost two years since 2019, and that it had impacted her mental health.
Dating violence and lack of understanding about consent
Between 2015 and 2020, there were 12,000 cases of dating violence reported to Komnas Perempuan. This made up about 20 per cent of the total cases of violence against women in Indonesia they received.
The commission said the complaints they received often ended up unresolved — although they can refer them to police for further investigation, many victim-survivors chose not to due to a combination of stigma, fear and distrust of the police.
Commissioner Ms Iswarini said social misunderstandings about consent were fuelling violence within Indonesia's dating scene.
"The nature of a social, romantic, or intimate relationship between the victim and the perpetrator was taken for granted, as if there had always been a mutual consent from both parties."
Dian Indraswari says Indonesia's patriarchal society tends to blame victims instead of supporting them.(Supplied.)
Dian Indraswari, executive director of Yayasan Pulih — a psychological aid agency that offers counselling for victims of sexual violence — said in a patriarchal society, there was an assumption that if women refused sexual advances, they weren't always serious about it.
"Rather, men saw this as signal of a challenge to subdue women, as women and children are often placed in a subordinate position in society," Ms Indraswari said.
She said many victims of dating violence were reluctant to report sexual assault for fear of being blamed and not being trusted by friends, teachers and even parents.
"Instead of protecting, a patriarchal society is more likely to blame and corner survivors or victims, including the media in Indonesia, which focuses more on the background of the victim than the actions of the perpetrator," she said.
According to Ms Indraswari, a healthy relationship requires equality and respect for partners so that consent is always needed.
"Including in marriage. The Elimination of Domestic Violence Law contains an article on marital rape, meaning that in a husband-wife relationship it is also necessary to have consent to have sexual intercourse."
A decade of waiting
Past tragedies have at times brought the languishing bill back into stark focus, but so far, none have led to the bill becoming law.
Before Ms Rahayu's case emerged, the push for the bill gained new momentum after the public gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old schoolgirl by 14 drunk men in Bengkulu in 2016.
But the issue, and the bill, faded from public view.
The bill was initiated by Komnas Perempuan in 2012, proposed by the Indonesian Democratic Party, the National Democratic Party, and the National Awakening Party.
But the Islamic conservative Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has consistently rejected it.
Some activists have been holding silent protests against the bill in Jakarta.(Supplied: ANTARA/Reno Esnir/ama)
A parliament member from the PKS, Ledia Hanifa, claimed the law would legalise adultery due to phrases such as "consent to have sexual relations" or "sexual consent" in the draft law.
The commission said there were many misconceptions about the legislation, and asked all parties to read its contents "from a fair perspective to women, to victims, from a more empathetic perspective so that there are no misconceptions".
"Don't be directed by prejudice, such as, 'This bill campaigns for adultery' and, 'Legalises same-sex relationships', which are not regulated [in the bill] at all," Ms Iswarini said.
Another cause for the delay in the ratification of the bill, according to Ms Iswarini, is the lack of understanding about sexual consent.
During the past decade there have been several amendments to the bill — the official name has changed from "Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill" to "Sexual Violence Crime Bill", and it has been cut back from 128 articles to 43.
Parliament is due to debate the bill again next week.(Supplied: ANTARA)
Although there are pros and cons about the changes, many women's rights activists think the spirit of the bill remains the same and represents the victims of violence.
Komnas Perempuan said the new name emphasises that sexual violence is a "criminal act".
Even though the term "sexual consent" is no longer explicitly written in the bill and there were some significant changes, PKS still refused to approve it.
"Only violence or threats of [sexual] violence can be punished according to this bill, while sexual acts committed outside a legal marriage are still not considered as a crime … so that in our view, the [Sexual Violence] Bill still adopts the sexual consent paradigm," said PKS MP Bukhori Yusuf.
Women's rights activists said Ms Rahayu's tragic case should not only end in the arrest and dismissal of an individual alleged perpetrator, but should also serve as a call to finally ratify Indonesia's sexual violence bill.
They are holding onto hope that the bill will be put back on the agenda and passed next week.
The West Australian Government says there is no reason for Australian tourists to avoid travelling to Bali, despite reports of the first case of coronavirus being linked to the popular holiday island.
- The tourist from China reportedly tested positive on his return home
- It is unclear whether they were exposed in Indonesia or China
- WA authorities say people should not cancel travel to Bali at this stage
WA Health Minister Roger Cook said Indonesian authorities were aware of a Chinese national who travelled through Bali who may have tested positive for coronavirus.
He said health officials were closely monitoring the situation.
“Now obviously we need to monitor carefully the spread of this disease outside China,” Mr Cook said.
“This is a new situation because obviously Bali represents the playground for a lot of West Australians.”
It was unclear whether the person potentially contracted the virus in China and then travelled to Indonesia, or whether they may have been exposed to the virus in Indonesia.
The Chinese national is understood to have returned to Shanghai, where the positive diagnosis was made.
Don’t cancel Bali plans: Health Minister
Mr Cook said people should not cancel travel to Bali as a result of the development.
“We are not saying that people have to curtail their trips to Bali,” he said.
“At the moment DFAT [the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] has the same travel advisory for Bali, so people shouldn’t be alarmed.
“We are simply providing this information in the interests of transparency to make sure that we continue to provide people with the most up-to-date information as possible.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison today confirmed a travel ban from China to Australia would be extended for another week.
Mr Cook said Border Force officers would continue to meet all flights arriving into Perth Airport and nurses would continue to be stationed at the Airport around the clock to manage people who may require testing.
WA health officials had tested about 10 people per day for the virus over the past week.
In total, 81 people have so far been tested in WA and all had returned a negative result.
“Our situation at the moment remains a very low risk,” Mr Cook said. “We are on top of this situation.”
Communicable Disease Control director Paul Armstrong said there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Bali.
“Officially, Indonesia doesn’t have any cases at all,” Dr Armstrong said.
“Neighbouring countries of Indonesia of course have got several cases each but nothing alarming, nothing that would really elevate the risk of people travelling there.”
Dr Armstrong said Australia had offered support to Indonesia for increased testing if required.
More on the coronavirus outbreak:
- What the updated coronavirus travel alert level and additional border measures will mean for you
- The WHO has declared a global emergency for just the sixth time. Here’s what that means
- China says coronavirus is ‘under control’ as 6.5 per cent of world population is in lockdown
- A diary from Christmas Island: A Melbourne mother shares her experience as a coronavirus evacuee
- How the coronavirus emergency is exploited on eBay and Amazon
- Australian lab recreates coronavirus, helping vaccine push
- What exactly is coronavirus, and should you be concerned?
Chinese men trying to enter Australia by boat trigger biosecurity operation amid coronavirus concerns
Six Chinese men who tried to enter Australia’s northern waters by boat have triggered border and biosecurity operations in Australia and Indonesia.
- The six men, from Jiangsu province in eastern China, flew into Bali on New Year’s Day
- In the city of Kupang, they paid $1,000 each for an Indonesian boat and crew to take them to Australia
- They drew the attention of Operation Sovereign Borders officials when they reached Ashmore Reef, just inside Australian territorial waters
The ocean crossing through the Timor Sea in unseaworthy fishing boats is perilous at any time, but coming amid the global coronavirus scare only added to the extreme difficulty of completing the journey.
The six men and their two Indonesian crew are being detained by police off a naval base in Rote Island in the East Nusa Tenggara province, effectively quarantined on their wooden boat as a precaution against the virus.
Rote marks the end point of an ill-fated expedition for the Chinese, who all arrived in Bali from their home province of Jiangsu in eastern China on New Year’s Day.
According to Indonesian police, Fan Shenghong, Cui Hennggo, Hang Yongsheng, Wang Sisen, Han Baolin and Chu Kaishan soon left Bali for East Timor before returning to Indonesia days later.
In the East Nusa Tenggara provincial capital of Kupang, the men succeeded in securing a boat operated by two local crew for what Rote police deputy commissioner Bambang Hari Wibowo said was a fee of about $1,000 each.
Later in January, the Jiangsu six set sail for Australia on their modest boat, only to draw the attention of Operation Sovereign Borders officials when they reached the remote Ashmore Reef atoll just inside Australian territorial waters.
“In the Australian waters, they were intercepted by a Border Protection vessel and [were] returned back as soon as they found Chinese onboard”, Mr Wibowo told the ABC.
“They [Border Force] worry about the virus threat.”
Border Force has been approached for its description of the intercept, but being part of the secrecy regime surrounding Operation Sovereign Borders, a public account of its techniques is unlikely.
What is known is that the Chinese men were next seen back in Indonesia’s 12-nautical-mile territorial waters, their boat drifting on a now empty tank of fuel.
This fits with previous methods under Australia’s official border security policy of “boat turn-backs”, where sufficient fuel is made available for intercepted boats to safely return to Indonesian waters, but not enough to reach further towards Christmas Island or the Australian mainland.
What are the signs and symptoms of coronavirus and how is it spread?
As the number of confirmed cases of deadly coronavirus in Australia continues to grow, experts are beginning to get a greater understanding of the disease and its impact.
Off Rote Island, Indonesian police and the navy approached the Jiangsu six cautiously as potential sources of a biosecurity threat, if any were carrying the coronavirus.
Several officers were seen wearing thin surgical masks to shield themselves from any contagion.
“As we identified they were Chinese, we then contacted the health office to make sure they were not having the corona infection syndrome”, Mr Wibowo said.
“So far they are clear of the symptoms.”
Arrangements are being made to transfer the young men from their boat and to hand them over to immigration officials for questioning in Kupang.
The immigration department’s investigation will examine the men’s reasons and motives for undertaking the trip and whether a people-smuggling syndicate helped organise it.
Although Rote police believe this is the first such intercept of a would-be venture in their waters for three years, attempts by other Chinese people have been made more recently in other nearby ports.
In mid-January 2018, seven Chinese nationals were found in a boat off Kupang.
The Australian Government maintains that Operation Sovereign Borders continues to prevent “successful” arrivals of “illegal maritime ventures”.
More on the coronavirus outbreak:
- Coronavirus update: Information about the outbreak and how you can protect yourself
- The WHO has declared a global emergency for just the sixth time. Here’s what that means
- Interactive map tracks the spread of coronavirus from Wuhan
- What we know about the coronavirus evacuations from Wuhan to Christmas Island
- The doctor who sleeps just four hours a night to diagnose coronavirus cases
- Coronavirus fear spreads easily and it could fuel an economic as well as health crisis
- Christmas Island locals surprised, split over quarantine role
- Australian lab recreates coronavirus, helping vaccine push
- The Australian kids trapped in Wuhan by coronavirus
- From fish market to global epidemic: How the outbreak unfolded
- What exactly is coronavirus and should you be concerned?
- Super spreaders of the virus can infect multiple people
The death toll from flash floods and landslides in and around Indonesia’s capital Jakarta has risen to at least 21, with more heavy rain forecast, authorities said.
- Almost 20,000 displaced residents in Jakarta have been evacuated to temporary shelters
- Rising rivers have submerged up to 90 neighbourhoods, according to officials
- One man reportedly died of hypothermia, while a 16-year-old boy was electrocuted
The number of deaths climbed after earlier reports that nine people were killed and tens of thousands evacuated after flash flooding submerged parts of Indonesia’s capital and nearby towns.
The deadliest floods in years displaced more than 30,000 people and caused chaos across parts of South-East Asia’s biggest city with train lines blocked and power outages in some areas.
Social affairs ministry spokesman Joko Hariyanto said in a message to Reuters that the death toll had now reached 21.
Authorities did not give a full breakdown of the causes of death for all of the victims, but earlier said four people had drowned, four died in landslides and four more were electrocuted, while three died of hypothermia.
Heavy monsoonal rains since New Year’s Eve have inundated areas of the capital, filling homes and streets and washing away cars.
Earlier, in Jakarta’s east, many houses were submerged up to their roofs, with the water level reaching as high as 2 metres in parts.
“As of 4:00pm [Wednesday], there are 19,079 displaced residents who have been evacuated at temporary shelters throughout Jakarta,” city governor Anies Baswedan said in a news conference.
“The rain in Jakarta has stopped, now we are waiting for the water to recede.”
Water levels in east and south Jakarta as well as in the satellite cities of Tangerang and Bekasi in West Java province started to quickly rise from 3:00 am (local time), according to the Disaster Mitigation Agency, who also said monsoonal rains and rising rivers have submerged up to 90 neighbourhoods.
Indonesia’s state electricity utility said it had switched off the electricity in hundreds of districts in Jakarta, which is home to 30 million people.
The company said in a press statement that 724 flood-hit areas of the city had been shut down to prevent any electricity-related accidents.
Tweet: Flooding cars
Instead of celebrating the new year, residents in the worst-hit areas have spent the day mopping up water that has flooded homes and streets.
Severe flooding has also affected areas in the city’s east and further south at Bogor and as far as Bandung.
The Halim military airport had to close for a few hours after floodwaters covered the runway.
Television footage showed dozens of cars floating or being swept away by muddy waters, as well as rescue workers evacuating children in rubber boats.
Social media videos showed a boy apparently drowned in a flooded street.
@7boysnewnoona :No we will have no lights #BanjirJakarta #flood in #Jakarta
The rains dampened celebrations around the city, soaking tens of thousands of people waiting to watch the annual fireworks.
Jakarta is prone to heavy flooding because many areas, particularly in the north, are almost at sea level and the city’s network of flood canals are insufficient.
In one of the worst floods, more than 50 people died in 2007. In 2014, much of the capital was inundated after the canals overflowed.