Here at The Optimist Daily, we are passionate about proclaiming victories for human rights around the world. We have paid special attention to the globally shifting attitudes around child marriage and forced marriage practices. Now, we can joyfully report that Indonesia passed a bill that, for the first time in the country’s history, bans forced marriage and sexual harassment.
The law was first proposed by the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and civil society groups a decade ago, and the House of Representatives first deliberated it in 2016.
For years, staunchly conservative groups have opposed this legislation, arguing that the bill’s definition of sexual violence supports liberal values that allowed for “deviant” sexual behaviors.
Despite conservative opposition, though, earlier this month the House of Representatives finally passed the long-awaited bill that specifies nine forms of sexual violence. Among these are physical and verbal assault, harassment, forced sterilization, and exploitation.
The new law outlines severe punishments for perpetrators of these crimes, including 15-year prison sentences for sexual exploitation, nine-year sentences for forced marriage, and four years for circulation of non-consensual sexual content.
The legislation takes matters a step further to offer restitution and rehabilitation for victims. The law requires the courts to compel convicted abusers to financially compensate victims, who will also be offered counseling.
Indonesia is experiencing rising cases of violence against women, making this new legislation a light of hope during an especially dark time. Last year, Komnas Perempuan reported 338,496 cases, a significant jump from 220,000 in 2020.
“This is not just about law; this is the beginning of a new civilization that we create together,” states Siti Mazumah, the director of the Jakarta chapter of the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice. “Indonesia has become a nation that will not tolerate and normalize sexual violence.”