Jakarta. The introduction of the 2005 Domestic Violence Law has spurred an increase in the number of women coming forward to report cases of abuse, the country’s leading women’s rights group said on Wednesday.
Sri Nur Herawati, an official with the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said it had received 143,586 reports of domestic violence in 2009.
She said this was a huge increase from the total 9,662 reports filed with the commission between 2001 and 2004, before the law took effect.
She said the main reason for the increase was the fact that more women felt emboldened by the law to report the abuse they suffered.
“There’s actually more that we can do, such as getting the women to understand their rights,” Sri said.
“And they shouldn’t wait until they can’t handle the violence any more before reporting to us.”
The commission says 44.4 percent of women who fall victim to domestic violence are illiterate, and thus not likely to be aware of their rights and the laws protecting them.
Sri said that despite the increase in the number of women coming forward, many more women still preferred to resolve cases of abuse through cultural or religious channels.
“Some women who fall victim to domestic violence only agree to get the problem resolved not because they want to stand up for their rights, but because they’re accustomed to community-based cultural means of conflict resolution,” she said.
A Komnas Perempuan study earlier this year on domestic violence resolution in South Sumatra and Central Sulawesi provinces showed women there tended to turn to cultural or religious leaders to help resolve their problems.
Harkristuti Harkisnowo, the Justice and Human Rights Ministry’s director general of human rights, said women who were victims of domestic violence preferred to take this non-formal route rather than file a formal report with the police.
“Given this tendency, I believe cultural law should be adopted into formal legislation, just as in the Juvenile Offenders Law,” she said.
“Therefore, the victim doesn’t have to undergo a formal way, which puts even more pressure on them, but just needs to lay out their case before a cultural hearing. The results of such a meeting must then be used in a court case against the offender.”