Government and the NGO sector are working to change attitudes towards violence against women
Campaigning against domestic violence
The Indonesian government has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to violence against women. Yet, as in many other parts of the world, what goes on in the home is still generally considered to be a private matter. There is no doubt that domestic violence remains a serious social problem in Indonesia, where close to 150,000 cases of violence against women were recorded in 2009. The number of domestic violence cases reported in that year was more than two and a half times that of the preceding 12 months. Ninety-six per cent of these were cases of violence by husbands against wives.
The dramatic increase in reported cases suggests that an increasing number of women are no longer prepared to accept violence against them and are finding the courage to reach out for help. Sadly, however, experts have estimated that just one in ten cases of domestic violence is reported, meaning that as many as nine times more suffer in silence. The articles in this cluster delve into the reasons reported by men as to why domestic violence occurs in different parts of the archipelago. Pam Nilan’s article draws on evidence from the Minang-Malay town of Pekanbaru in Sumatra and the Bugis town of Makassar in Sulawesi. Rachmad Hidayat describes domestic violence in Javanese communities. Donald MacKenzie and Mila Shwaiko’s study focuses on the predominantly Christian province of East Nusa Tenggara. As the articles demonstrate, domestic violence is a complex issue not confined to any one religious or ethnic group, with elements of Islam and Christianity, as well as indigenous cultural practice and economic pressure, contributing to the mix.
On the whole, however, the contributors to this discussion of domestic violence are optimistic that – with the right forms of intervention – domestic violence will decrease. Nilan points to changing attitudes within the bureaucracy as a result of the zero tolerance policy, but also to more structural changes, most notably women’s increased participation in the workforce, as reasons for optimism. The articles by Hidayat and by MacKenzie and Shwaiko describe NGOs that work not only with female victims, but also with male perpetrators, who they see as a key resource in stopping the cycle of violence.
It remains to be seen whether best-practice initiatives like these can be applied broadly enough to achieve widespread change. But at the very least, they offer a glimmer of hope to victims of domestic violence.
Michele Ford (firstname.lastname@example.org) teaches Indonesian Studies at the University of Sydney.