Growing women’s movement wins support from legislators

Growing women’s movement wins support from legislators
Women’s rights activists demonstrate in front of the House of Representatives in Jakarta on July 7 in support of the sexual violence eradication bill, which has been languishing since 2016 while rates of sexual violence remain high. The activists plan to stage similar protests on coming Tuesdays. (JP/Donny Fernando)

A growing women’s movement in support of the sexual violence eradication bill (RUU PKS) has encouraged more politicians to publicly and vocally support the legislation, especially following a recent uproar over the House of Representatives’ move to drop the bill – yet again – from the National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) priority list.

The NasDem Party faction was the first to respond to the sidelining of the bill. NasDem Party politician Taufik Basari announced shortly after the bill’s removal from the priority list that the party would lead the effort in the House to include it in the 2021 Prolegnas.

“I’m gathering support from members of other factions to support the bill, although what we need at the House is the support of the factions [in our coalition],” Taufik said on Wednesday.

The bill is being contested because two parties, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the United Development Party (PPP), have objected to some of the provisions. The PKS argued that the bill supported the legalization of adultery and nontraditional sexual orientations, such lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) identities, an accusation denied by supporters of the bill.

The PPP opposed criminal sentences for domestic sexual violence, saying the bill should not punish a husband who forced his wife to have sex.

So far, no parties beyond NasDem have announced their support for the bill. However, some members of the government coalition who had for years pushed for the House to pass the bill have voiced their support for NasDem’s initiative. One of these people is Diah Pitaloka of the ruling Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P).

“The PDI-P has consistently supported [the bill] from the beginning. No need to lobby us anymore. We give it our full support,” Diah told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

In the previous legislative term, only two factions supported the bill: the PDI-P and the Gerindra Party. At the time, Gerindra had Rahayu Saraswati Djojohadikusumo, who, with Diah, pushed other factions in Commission VIII to support the bill.

In the current term, amid changes to the political map and the membership of the House, support for the bill has increased. The NasDem Party and certain members of the Golkar Party and the Islam-based Nation Awakening Party (PKB) have voiced their support for the bill. The last two factions did not support the bill in the previous term.

Golkar’s Nurul Arifin and new lawmaker Christina Ariyani, Taufik said, were two female members of the Golkar faction who had communicated with him. “I hope they will ask the factions to support the bill. NasDem can’t be the only one,” he said.

Christina, however, told the Post that she was still unsure whether Golkar would officially support the bill, despite its female members’ support for the bill. “I don’t know about the faction itself, but many of the female members are supporting it,” she said.

PKB’s Marwan Dasopang said his faction was not against the bill, saying the exclusion of the bill from the 2020 priority list was a result of difficulties in arranging the bill’s deliberation.

The deputy chairman of House Commission VIII overseeing social affairs, who previously handled the bill’s deliberation, said the lawmakers were just as divided over the bill as they were in the previous term.

“However, the PKB supports the deliberation of the bill on next year’s priority list. The PKB wants the bill to be added in the 2021 Prolegnas. It’s just that the commission doesn’t have much time to resolve it this year,” he said.

Many supporters of the bill, which has been under consideration since 2016, have criticized its continued postponement.

According to a public debate analysis by big data consulting firm Drone Emprit released on July 3, more women had expressed their disappointment about the postponement on Twitter than usual. Normally, men tended to be more vocal.

“The SNA [Social Network Analysis] of the RUU PKS discussion shows that the social media sphere [in this instance] isn’t just filled with the people who usually influence trending topics. Many who are not usually vocal have appeared to voice their concerns,” the study found.

Before responding to the bill’s removal, social media users were debating the fraught Pancasila Ideology Guidelines (HIP) bill, which was criticized for controversial articles and what some members of the public called insignificant objectives.

“The debate over the RUU PKS defeats the trend of the HIP bill, which had a relatively large opposition. This indicated that the public’s attention on the RUU PKS is also very high,” the firm wrote.

NasDem’s Taufik said his faction would be the facilitator of the women’s movement at the House, noting it aligned with the party’s relatively large representation of women in the 2019 general elections.

“The party’s external and internal policies have sided with the women’s movement. We have the largest number of female representatives in the House. We also did the same thing to the party structure from the central to the subdistrict level. In the 2019 elections, our female legislative candidates reached 50 percent [of the party’s total candidates] in some areas, such as in Pringsewu regency, Lampung,” he said.

Taufik added that the bill would not pose a significant political risk to the party provided lawmakers and activists could explain its policies effectively to those who opposed it.

Feminist activist Olin Monteiro reminded lawmakers and other groups not to forget the initial draft proposed by activists in 2014, which was supported by female lawmakers during the House’s previous term, including Diah and Nurul.

“Whoever the initiator of the bill is, I hope there will be no new draft and that the lawmakers will always communicate with us. We could, of course, change and fix the language of the draft bill, but we don’t want to have a new one,” she said.

Achmad Baidowi of the PPP said the party had yet to decide its stance on the bill, noting it would focus on addressing the bills on this year’s list for the time being. “Later. We’re still focusing on the 2020 Prolegnas,” he said.


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