Activists say opposition to sexual violence bill driven by identity politics

Source – March 3, 2019
Youth Equality Network Alliance action in Jakarta – February 10, 2019 (Tempo)
Youth Equality Network Alliance action in Jakarta – February 10, 2019 (Tempo)

Juli Hantoro, Jakarta – The director of the Jakarta Alimat Network (Indonesian Family Justice Movement), Maria Ulfah Anshor, says that opposition to the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence (RUU PKS) is ridden with the politicisation of religion to take advantage of the momentum of the elections.

“The politicians enthusiastically rejecting [the bill] are [trying to] garner votes from their constituency. They’re not thinking about what’s good and bad politically”, said Anshor at a public discussion around the theme “The RUU on the Elimination of Sexual Violence Affirms the Values of Islam and Humanity in Eliminating Sexual Violence” at the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on February 28.

Earlier, opposition to the RUU PKS emerged from the Islamic based Justice and Prosperity Party (PSK). The party believes that it has the potential to conflict with the state ideology of Pancasila and religion.

The PKS even believes that the draft law could legitimise permissiveness towards free sex and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) behaviour.

Padjajaran University faculty of communication studies lecturer Maimon Herawati has also opposed the bill by launching a petition against the draft law. Anshor believes that the petition against the law reflects the fact that they do not want to listen to a factual explanation of the bill.

The impact of this is that the opposition is one of “blind rage” (lit: pig blind). In a political situation which is heating up they are supporting groups which reject [the bill] to garner votes in the lead up to the 2019 legislative and presidential elections. “They’re ignoring ethical politics for the sake of winning power”, she said.

Anshor said that perhaps those who oppose the RUU PKS have not actually read the full text of the law. The impact of this is that the interpretation is subjective. Yet there is nothing written in the law that could lead to an interpretation that the law gives space to LGBT, or that the law conflicts with religion and Pancasila.

Opponents of the law should be able to point out which articles and paragraphs conflict with religious values.

Yet, said Anshor, the RUU PKS is actually very important as a legal umbrella to protect women and victims of sexual violence. Key values which are enshrined in Islam also respect equality so unequal relations do not develop which lead to violence. Islam also agrees with strengthening empathy with the victims of sexual violence.

According to Anshor, the two biggest Islamic mass organisations in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, have both signaled their support for the law. “There isn’t any substantial objection”, she said.

Anshor is optimistic that the RUU PKS will be ratified this year after the elections are over. The chairperson of the RUU PKS working committee and the deputy head of the Women’s Empowerment Ministry have also indicated that the law will be ratified following the elections.

Also speaking at the discussion, Al Munawir Krapyak Islamic boarding school leader M. Ikhsanuddin said he supports the RUU PKS because it is in accordance with Islamic values, namely protecting women and victims of violence.

He believes that the groups opposing the law are politicising religion for their own advantage. This situation has emerged because there are extremist groups which want Islam in Indonesia to become like the Middle East or who support the Arabisation of Islam.

Lecturer Sri Wiyanti Eddyono from the Gajah Mada University’s (UGM) faculty of law said that it is important to involve religious figures and institutions in the deliberations on the RUU PKS.

A religious approach is needed to prevent all forms of sexual violence because Indonesia is a religious society. “Piety in religion talks about humanitarian issues, equality and not harming other people”, she said.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Aktivis Sebut Penolakan RUU PKS Kental Politisasi Agama”.]