After six years of discussions, Indonesia’s parliament has finally passed a bill to fight sexual violence.
In a first in the Southeast Asian country, the bill was approved with a majority of votes on Tuesday April 12.
Under the bill, people who commit physical sexual abuse will be sentenced for up to 12 years in prison, while those who commit sexual exploitation will face up to 15 years in prison.
At the same time, forced marriage, including child marriage, can be criminalized by up to nine years. Circulating non-consensual sexual content is punishable by up to four years.
Convicted abusers must pay reparations to the victims, and authorities must also provide counseling to victims.
In Indonesia, few sex crimes are prosecuted due to the lack of a specific legal framework, and victims are often shamed during the interrogation process, according to Reuters.
Human rights organizations hope the bill will bring justice to the victims and change how authorities handle sexual crimes.
“If this bill had existed, I would’ve had more hope to find justice,” an anonymous victim told Reuters.
The Elimination of Sexual Violence bill was first proposed in 2016, but opposition from conservative groups have resulted in the bill being stalled until now.
The recent rise in cases, including a school principal who raped at least 13 girls over the course of five years, have caused a public outcry.
In January, President Joko Widodo asked lawmakers to speed up the process of approving the long-delayed bill to protect victims of sexual violence.
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