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Explainer: Why is Indonesia’s sexual violence law so important? | Sexual Assault News



Medan, Indonesia – With the strike of a gavel, Indonesia’s controversial sexual violence bill has been passed into law by parliament.

As legislators took to their feet on Tuesday to applaud the passage of the long-awaited bill, House Speaker Puan Maharani appeared visibly moved.

The legislation was “a gift for all Indonesian women,” she said.

The bill, known as RUU TPKS, has been a long time coming.

First proposed in 2012, it faced stiff opposition from conservative groups who argued over everything from its name to the contents of the law itself, requiring repeated revisions in an effort to ease its passage.

Elizabeth Ghozali, a lecturer in criminal law at Santo Thomas Catholic University in the city of Medan, told Al Jazeera that the bill was a landmark piece of legislation that finally puts the rights of victims first.

“Previously, Indonesian law was only focused on punishment in sexual violence cases. That was seen as the entire scope of the law and a sign that it had done its job,” she said.

“We need progressive law in Indonesia that thinks about the victims and accommodates their rights.”

What does the law cover?


The new law sets out nine different kinds of sexual abuse, including physical and non-physical sexual abuse, forced contraception, forced sterilisation, forced marriage, sexual torture, sexual exploitation, sexual slavery and sexual abuse through electronic means.

It allows for prison terms of up to 12 years for crimes of physical sexual abuse, 15 years for sexual exploitation, nine years for forced marriage, including child marriage, and four years for circulating non-consensual sexual content.

Crucially, the law also recognises sexual abuse both within and outside of marriage. Indonesia’s current Criminal Code does not acknowledge marital rape.

The law also recognises other forms of sexual abuse such as rape, obscenity, sexual violence against children, pornography, and forced prostitution, although these are also included under different sections of Indonesia’s Criminal Code and other specific laws such as Indonesia’s Child Protection Law.

The law also stipulates that victims of sexual violence receive restitution and be provided with counselling.

According to Usman Hamid, the head of Amnesty Indonesia, the law is “a long-overdue step forward for protecting the rights of victims of sexual violence in Indonesia”.

“This historic moment could only be achieved due to the persistence and hard work of civil society organisations, particularly women’s rights groups, as well as sexual violence survivors and their families, who continually worked to raise awareness about the urgency of the issue for nearly a decade,” he told Al Jazeera.

What does it not cover?


The new law does not cover rape or forced abortion, although it acknowledges rape as a form of sexual abuse.

While some groups have criticised these omissions, both crimes are already covered under Indonesia’s Criminal Code.

Why was the new law considered necessary?


According to Tunggal Pawestri, an Indonesian women’s rights activist, the new legislation was sorely needed.

“We have really been lacking in terms of support for victims,” she told Al Jazeera.

One fundamental change in the new law is how it approaches the submission of evidence. Under Indonesian law, two items of evidence (or more) must usually be presented in a criminal case, but the new bill allows for one item of evidence to be submitted in addition to the testimony of the victims.

There are also changes related to the type of evidence that can be used.

“We haven’t had comprehensive support for victims, like recognising a statement from a psychologist as evidence and we didn’t recognise non-physical sexual harassment, so this law is really important to provide legal, economic and psychological support to victims,” said Pawestri.

“It will also change the way our law enforcers treat victims of sexual violence cases.”

In addition to allowing for a range of new evidence to be submitted, such as psychological and medical reports, the new law stipulates that Indonesian police are not allowed to refuse a report of sexual abuse and are duty-bound to investigate.

Restorative justice, in which a financial settlement may be reached to prevent a case from going to court, is also no longer allowed in sexual violence cases.


Why did it take 10 years to pass?


“Conservative Islamist parties in the People’s Representative Council (DPR), most notably the Islamist Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), blocked the legislation for more than five years since it was first introduced,” Alexander Arifianto, a research fellow at the Indonesia Programme at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore told Al Jazeera.

“But the legislation was supported by moderate Islamic parties most notably Indonesia’s National Awakening Party (PKB) and its main constituent organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) which is Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation.”

“Senior NU female figures like Yenny and Alissa Wahid, both daughters of the late Abdurrahman Wahid who was NU’s former leader and Indonesia’s 4th President lent their support for the TPKS bill which re-energised it.”

One of the reasons PKS opposed the bill involved its references to sexual slavery and sexual abuse both within and outside marriage, which the party argued could violate Islamic law, which they said mandates wives to be obedient to their husbands in family relations.

PKS also objected to the name of the bill, which was originally RUU PKS and had to be changed to RUU TPKS to avoid any accidental reference to the political party.

What happens next?


The law was effective as soon as it was passed on Tuesday, although people will now be watching closely to see how it is implemented across the archipelago, as well as pushing for further revisions to existing legislation.

“While the bill is a welcome piece of legislation, it is not perfect,” said Amnesty’s Hamid.

“We urge the government and the House of Representatives to ensure that articles regarding rape in the draft revision of the Criminal Code are in line with the anti-sexual violence bill and put the rights of victims first.”

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Pope to visit Canada in July to meet residential school survivors | Indigenous Rights News



Visit from July 24 to 30 comes after Pope Francis apologised for Catholic Church’s role in abuse of Indigenous children.

Warning: The story below contains details of residential schools that may be upsetting. Canada’s Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

Pope Francis will travel to Canada at the end of July, the Vatican has announced, as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church is expected to meet Indigenous survivors of abuse committed at so-called residential schools.

The 85-year-old will travel to Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit, the Vatican said on Friday, adding that more details on the July 24 to 30 visit will be published in the coming weeks.

The announcement comes after the pope last month apologised for abuses that members of the church committed against Indigenous children at residential schools.

Speaking to Indigenous delegates at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he felt “sorrow and shame” for the role Catholics played in the many harms that Indigenous children suffered while attending the forced-assimilation institutions.

“For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon,” he said.

A map of former residential schools in Canada

Canada forced more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children to attend residential schools between the late 1800s and 1990s. The children were stripped of their languages and culture, separated from siblings, and subjected to psychological, physical and sexual abuse.

Thousands are believed to have died while attending the institutions, most of which were run by the Roman Catholic Church. A federal commission of inquiry into Canada’s residential schools, known as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), concluded in 2015 that the system amounted to “cultural genocide”.

The discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Canada over the past year spurred renewed calls for accountability – and an apology from the Catholic Church in particular.

The pope’s apology last month was welcomed by Indigenous leaders, but they called on him to visit Canada to deliver the apology on Indigenous lands.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday that “a formal in-person apology” from the head of the Roman Catholic Church to survivors and their families would be an important step “to advance meaningful reconciliation for Indigenous Peoples in our country”.

Edmonton is home to the second-largest number of Indigenous people living in urban Canadian centres, and approximately 25 residential schools were located in Alberta, the most of any province or territory in Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, who is coordinating the papal visit on behalf of the Canadian bishops, said the pontiff will visit a former residential school site “and other locations of significance”.

Quebec is home to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, one of the oldest and most popular pilgrimage sites in North America, while Iqaluit, on vast Baffin Island, is the capital of the Nunavut territory, home to many Inuit.

Bishop Raymond Poisson said Canada’s bishops were “immensely grateful” the pope will visit to “continue the journey of healing and reconciliation”.

Francis is expected to repeat his apology to school abuse survivors and relatives of victims.

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US states argue to keep contentious border policy in place | Migration News



US court is hearing challenge to Biden administration’s plan to end Title 42 restriction at US-Mexico border this month.

A group of 21 US states have argued that the Biden administration’s plan to lift a contentious border restriction that barred most asylum seekers from seeking protection at the US-Mexico border was made without sufficient consideration of the effects it would have.

Drew Ensign, a lawyer representing the states involved in the legal challenge, told US District Judge Robert Summerhays on Friday that their lawsuit was “not about the policy wisdom” behind the announcement to end the policy on May 23.

Rather, Ensign argued that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did not follow proper administrative procedures requiring public notice and the gathering of comments on the decision to end the restrictions imposed under what is known as Title 42.

More than 1.8 million Title 42 expulsions have been carried out since March 2020, when the policy was first invoked under former President Donald Trump’s administration as the nation was going into lockdown due to COVID-19.

Rights groups have said the move was made largely to deter asylum at the border, however.

Title 42 has allowed US authorities to quickly expel most asylum seekers who arrived at the border without giving them chance to request protection in the country, which rights groups said violated US and international law.

Migrants being returned
The US states that sued are alleging that proper consideration was not given to increases in border crossings and their possible effects [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

The lawsuit came after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on April 1 that the restriction would be lifted by May 23 after the CDC said it was no longer needed.

Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri quickly sued and were later joined by 18 other states in the legal challenge being heard on Friday. Texas sued independently.

The states have alleged that proper consideration was not given to the resulting increases in border crossings and their possible effects, including pressure on state healthcare systems and the diversion of border law enforcement resources from drug interdiction to controlling illegal crossings.

Jean Lin, with the Department of Justice, argued on Friday that the CDC was within its authority to lift an emergency health restriction it felt was no longer needed. She said the CDC order was a matter of health policy, not immigration policy.

“There is no basis to use Title 42 as a safety valve,” Lin told Summerhays.

Several migrant advocacy groups have asked Summerhays to at least allow Title 42 to be lifted as planned in California and New Mexico, two border states that have not challenged the administration’s decision.

But the effort to end the policy came just months before crucial US midterm elections in November, and it appeared to have emboldened some Republicans who want to make immigration an issue before the vote.

Migrants being returned to Mexico
Rights groups say Title 42 violates US and international law [File: Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters]

“Ending refugee protection for those fleeing violence and human rights violations is a betrayal of the Democrats’ supposed values and our nation’s identity,” Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a group that advocates for immigration reform, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“It will do nothing to stop Republican attacks and falsehoods over the border, and it will do nothing to modernize our immigration system so that it serves our interests and reflects our values,” Sharry said in a statement.

US authorities stopped asylum seekers more than 221,000 times at the Mexican border in March, a 22-year high. Many of those were repeat crossers.

Title 42 authority has been applied unevenly across nationalities. Mexico has agreed to take back migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico — but largely refused to take back people from other countries.

Under Title 42, the US has flown Haitian asylum seekers, including those who had not lived in the country for years, to the crisis-stricken nation on board deportation flights.

Earlier this year, however, US border officials exempted Ukrainians fleeing the war from Title 42 expulsions and allowed them to enter the US through the US-Mexico border.

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UN experts condemn Shireen Abu Akleh’s killing, demand probe | Israel-Palestine conflict News



A panel of United Nations human rights experts have condemned the killing of Al Jazeera correspondent Shireen Abu Akleh and said it may constitute a war crime.

In a news release published on Friday, the UN’s Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) called for a thorough and independent investigation into her death.

“Authorities have an obligation not to harm journalists and to protect them from harm under international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” the experts said according to the statement. “The killing of Abu Akleh, who was clearly performing her duties as a journalist, may constitute a war crime.”

Abu Akleh, a veteran reporter with Al Jazeera, was killed on Wednesday while covering an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin. She was wearing a helmet and a vest that clearly identified her as a journalist.

Abu Akleh's coffin being carried
Shireen Abu Akleh, a veteran reporter with Al Jazeera, was killed on Wednesday while covering an Israeli army raid in the occupied West Bank city of Jenin [Abbas Momani/Pool via Reuters]

“We demand a prompt, independent, impartial, effective, thorough and transparent investigation into the killing of Shireen Abu Akleh,” according to the statement.

“The killing of Abu Akleh is another serious attack on media freedom and freedom of expression, amid the escalation of violence in the occupied West Bank.”

Thousands of people jammed the streets in her hometown of Jerusalem Friday for her funeral and burial. Israeli police kicked and beat mourners with batons as they carried her body from the hospital in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, nearly causing the pallbearers to drop the coffin.

Israeli forces also attacked the hearse as it carried her body, to snatch Palestinian flags from it.

“Al Jazeera Media Network denounces this violence in the strongest terms, and holds the Israeli government fully responsible for the safety and security of all the mourners and the family of our colleague Shireen,” the broadcaster said in a statement Friday.

Abu Akleh was buried next to her parents at the Mount Zion Protestant Cemetery.

INTERACTIVE Journalists killed by Israeli forces
[Al Jazeera]

The UN experts said Abu Akleh’s killing came as violence has been on the increase in the occupied West Bank and Gaza in recent years. Last year, according to the statement, marked the highest number of Palestinian deaths resulting from confrontations with Israelis since 2014. It also came amid a high rate of attacks against Palestinian journalists.

At least Palestinian journalists have been killed since 2000, and hundreds more have been injured.

“The role of journalists, especially in a context of heightened tension and marked by continuous abuses, like the occupied Palestinian territory, is critical,” the experts said.

“Lack of accountability gives carte blanche to continue the litany of extrajudicial executions. The safety of journalists is essential in guaranteeing the freedom of expression and media freedom.”

large crowd during funeral
Al Jazeera has accused Israeli of deliberately killing Shireen Abu Akleh [Ammar Awad/Reuters]

The Israeli military said its initial investigation into Abu Akleh’s death showed that a heavy firefight was under way in Jenin approximately 200 metres (about 220 yards) from where she was killed, but that it was unable to determine whether she was shot by Israeli forces or Palestinian fighters.

In a statement issued Friday, the military said Palestinian gunmen recklessly fired hundreds of rounds at an Israeli military vehicle, some in the direction of where Abu Akleh was standing. It said Israeli forces returned fire, and that without doing ballistic analysis, it cannot determine who was responsible for her death.

Reporters who were with Abu Akleh, including one who was shot and wounded, said there were no clashes or fighters in the immediate area when she was killed.

Al Jazeera has accused Israel of “blatant murder” and have called for an independent investigation into her death.

Rights groups have said that Israel rarely follows through on investigations into the killing of Palestinians by its security forces and hands down lenient punishments on the rare occasions when it does.

Abu Akleh, 51, had joined Al Jazeera’s Arabic-language service in 1997 and rose to prominence covering the second Intifada, or uprising, in the early 2000s.

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