Still No Answers, or Peace, for Many Rape Victims

By webadmin on 12:15 am May 14, 2010
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Nurfika Osman & Ulma Haryanto

The National Commission on Violence Against Women lamented the fact that while the gang rapes that occurred during the May 1998 riots had highlighted the need to change the Criminal Code, 12 years on there had still been no progress.

Sri Nurherawati, from the recovery division at the commission, known as Komnas Perempuan, said on Thursday that the country’s Criminal Code limited the definition of rape to penetration of a woman’s genitals by a man’s penis.

“The rape victims of May 1998 had rocks and glass shards inserted into their genitals. They were raped anally. They were raped with sharp and blunt objects,” Sri said. “The kinds of rapes that occurred were varied. Such kinds of rapes are not regulated in the Criminal Code’s article on rape.”

According to Article 285 on rape, a convicted rapist faces a maximum jail term of 12 years.

“Also, according to our Criminal Code, a rape victim has to provide witnesses and evidence,” Sri said. “The May 1998 rape victims are deeply traumatized. Also, how to find evidence [in the form of] semen that is 12 years old?”

She added that the Criminal Code also did not legally consider the psychological trauma caused by rape. “It also has nothing about special litigation procedures that can be adopted by traumatized rape victims.”

At least 168 women, according to the commission, were gang raped during the rioting, some in front of family members. A majority of the rapes were committed in the open with Chinese-Indonesians in Jakarta, Medan, Palembang and Surabaya being especially targeted. The commission recorded 20 deaths as a result of the gang rapes.


Rahima said she would never forget the day in May 1998 when she found a woman lying naked on a street in Jati Selatan, East Jakarta, bruised and with her vagina covered in blood.

“Locals said she was not from our subdistrict, and that she was only dumped there,” Rahima said. “At night, I could hear men out on the streets shouting, ‘Where are the women?’ I did not know who they were. I just kept running.”

Tania, not her real name, told the Jakarta Globe that her two female cousins were raped after their shop-house in North Jakarta was looted.

“They looted the store. Then they raped two of my cousins and threw them on the lower floor of the shop-house, which was starting to burn. One other cousin of mine escaped. But she watched her sisters getting raped. She could do nothing.”

Nancy Widjaja, chairwoman of the Chinese-Indonesian Association, said that if you paid for security, nobody would touch you.

“If you did not pay your store was burned and your women raped. That is the reason why some parts of Mangga Dua were burned and some parts were not,” Nancy said, referring to a North Jakarta area that was among the worst hit areas during the rioting.

“I don’t know who these rioters were. They looked like soldiers with their crew cuts.”

Paying for Safety

Records from Komnas Perempuan and a joint fact-finding team show that people had to pay between Rp 2 million and Rp 85 million for security when the riots hit the capital.

“In one case, people entered the house, looted it, raped the woman in front of her husband, killed the husband,” commission deputy chairwoman Desti Murdijana said. “Other cases showed that the perpetrators were local criminals, some of whom confessed to receiving money to riot. Those accused of instigating the riots must be investigated. They must be brought to trial. We must not forget.”