Sunday, January 20, 2013

Bali No heaven for women, children

Although known as a paradise island, Bali has yet to be a paradise for Balinese women and children. Over the years, the number of domestic abuse cases involving Balinese women remains high, while cases of sexual violence toward children have soared at an even higher rate.

As of September last year, the Bali branch of the Community Service Center for the Protection of Women and Children (P2TP2A Bali), which is run under the auspices of the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, found a total of 472 domestic violence and sexual abuse cases involving women and children across the island. The figure comprised 67 cases reported to Denpasar Police; 73 in Badung; 22 in Gianyar; 15 in Klungkung; 19 in Karangasem; 7 in Bangli; 73 in Buleleng; 45 in Jembrana; 14 in Tabanan; 66 reported to the Bali Police; and 71 reports made at the P2TP2A Bali office.

“The data is not yet complete, as there are more cases reported in the last three months of 2012 that have not yet been compiled,” Endang Widiati, head of the P2TP2A Bali told Bali Daily.

In the previous year, as many as 782 cases of violence involving women and children were recorded in Bali. Of this figure, an overall total of 253 cases of sexual offenses to women and children, including 190 cases of domestic violence, were recorded in the island’s capital city, Denpasar.

Secretary of the Bali chapter of the Women’s Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Apik), Luh Putu Anggraeni, regretted that of the 190 domestic violence cases, only four were brought to court. “Most victims revoke their recourse to criminal proceedings, choosing divorce instead to put an end to their domestic misery,” said Anggraeni.

“Divorce is not a deterrent to abusive husbands as they will likely continue their abusive behavior with other women if they remarry. Such cases of domestic violence require mediation between the wife and husband to prevent reoccurrences in the future,” she said. Last year, LBH Apik Bali brought only 12 cases of domestic violence and 16 cases of child sexual abuse to Denpasar District Court.

“These women, who were victims of domestic abuse, don’t usually receive much support from their families and relatives to file lawsuits against their husbands,” said Anggraeni.

“Regretably, the few wives who persist with their lawsuits, often have to endure extremely long trials,” said Anggraeni, citing one example of a domestic violence case, in which a husband had been proven guilty of physically abusing his wife. He responded by filing a number of appeals, despite the lenient two-month jail sentence handed down to him.

“The husband could not accept ‘being punished’ by his wife,” said Anggraeni. When asked whether Balinese traditional norms regarded violence and infidelity by married men as common and acceptable, Anggraeni replied: “Very much so. The patrilineal family system and the caste system are both obeyed and glorified in Balinese families.” Thus, she underlined, the need to raise awareness among Balinese people that domestic offenses were unacceptable.

Anggraeni acknowledged that victims of domestic and sexual abuse required tremendous support to find the right solutions their problems. “However, not many people in Balinese society are aware of such violations, let alone seek support from legal aid services. LBH Apik Bali also has limited human resources in trying to cover the entire island,” said Anggraeni, whose foundation is currently training 25 paralegals to provide legal assistance to other regencies in Bali, not only focusing on Denpasar.

Law No. 23/2004 on the elimination of domestic violence stipulates that abusive husbands found guilty in court face a maximum five years’ imprisonment or a maximum Rp 15 million fine. Meanwhile, according to Law No. 23/2002 on child protection, those convicted of child rape or child molestation may face between three and 15 years in prison or a fine of between Rp 60 million and Rp 300 million.

Despite the much heavier sentences for rape and molestation of children, it is very challenging for Bali’s law enforcers to impose such heavy sentences on perpetrators who are philanthropists that donate cash and other goods to impoverished, remote communities across the island.

Society’s lack of awareness about sexual violations of children hampers law enforcement, as shown in the ongoing trial of the Dutchman, Jan Jacobus Vogel, an alleged pedophile in Buleleng, who is likely to breathe fresh air soon, after a total of eight testimonies have been revoked by the four victims and four key witnesses. Bali Daily

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