|May '98 Tragedy: Dont Forget!|
Jakarta -- The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) called for an amendment to the Criminal Code to help the cause of dozens of who had been raped in the May 1998 riots in the capital.
Komnas Perempuan commissioner Sri Nurherwati said on Sunday that none of the provisions in the Criminal Code (KUHP) or the Criminal Code Procedures (KUHAP) could bring legal action against what she called the "systemic massive rape of 1998" and provide protection for its victims.
Sri said that all efforts to bring justice to the victims through the court would likely be impossible as both the KUHP and KUHAP required the rape victims themselves file a report and testify.
"The victims are unwilling to talk publicly. They are still dogged by trauma and what can we do if the victims themselves said 'back off, it's enough,' and chose to exile themselves in the darkness?" she told a press conference on Sunday.
She also said that forcing the rape victims to come forward and testify in court would only worsen their plight. Sri said that all the Komnas Perempuan could do is simply to keep pushing the government to keep its promise in amending the law.
"Our biggest obstacle is, as Radhika Coomaraswamy said when visiting Indonesia, the culture of denial embedded deeply in our society about the 1998 rape tragedy and it is sanctioned by the law," Sri said.
Coomaraswamy, a UN special rapporteur on women, visited Indonesia in 1998 to help investigate the case of mass rape during the 1998 riots, which targetted Chinese-Indonesian. With no rape victims from the 1998 riot coming forward and pressing charges, police have repeatedly denied the mass rape claims in spite of findings from a team founded in 1998 to investigate the case confirming the rape allegations.
The fact finding team has verified that 85 women were raped and sexually abused between May 13 and 15, 1998.
The government-sanctioned team, comprising of government officials, the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and non-government organizations -- also identified that most of the victims were Chinese-Indonesian woman.
The report from the fact-finding team also said that victims, their families and activists received threats, warning them against filing reports to the police.
"That is why we urge the government to revise the law and also to include protection and compensation for these victims. They should be given access to the law so that they could legally settle their cases," said Komnas Perempuan deputy chairperson Desti Murdijana.
On June 3, 2003, Komnas Perempuan released a book on the tragedy titled Disangkal! Tragedi Mei 1998 Dalam Perjalanan Bangsa (Denied! The 1998 May Tragedy in the Nation's Journey). The book told the true story of women raped during the tragedy.
One of the victims carried on with her life with an aspiration of becoming a plastic surgeon to help other victims of violence. The character in the book is one of two women whose breasts were cut off by unidentified men in a van on May 14, 1998. The book also tells the story of one rape victim who now suffers from mental illnesses. (aml)