Article Indonesia: Parliament Passes Sexual Violence Bill

On April 12, 2022, Indonesia’s parliament passed the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence (Rancangan Undang-Undang Tindak Pidana Kekerasan Seksual (RUU TPKS, or TPKS Bill).

The TPKS Bill was initiated in 2012 by Komnas Perempuan, also known as the National Commission on Violence Against Women, which was established by Presidential Decree No. 181 of 1998. Under this decree, the commission has a mandate to, among other things, monitor violence against women in Indonesia, undertake legal and policy development, and facilitate regional and international cooperation on this issue. As set out on its website, it operates as “an independent state agency for the enforcement of Indonesian women’s human rights.”

According to news reports, the purpose of the bill is to “provide a legal framework for victims to secure justice.” As set out in the bill’s preamble, it also aims to increase awareness on the issue and eventually eliminate instances of sexual violence.

Background to the Bill

The existing Penal Code of Indonesia defines the offense of rape under articles 285 and 286, providing that “any person who by using force or threat of force forces a woman to have sexual intercourse with him out of marriage, shall, being guilty of rape, be punished by a maximum of twelve years,” and “any person who out of marriage has carnal knowledge of a woman whom he knows that she is unconscious or helpless, shall be punished by a maximum imprisonment of nine years.”

A thesis published by Johannes Kepler University Linz in November 2021 explains that, to establish that rape has been committed, victims were required to produce “tangible evidence such as semen found through medical records as well as testimonies from two sources, including a witness or proof of the victims’ efforts to defend themselves from acts of rape, for example in the form of screams, torn clothes, the scratching of the perpetrator’s hand, or other physical injuries on the body of the victim or perpetrator.”

According to the thesis, the existing provisions did not provide for any other types of sexual violence offenses, with the offense of rape placed in the “chapter on criminal acts of decency” to be viewed as “impolite acts” as opposed to “serious crime[s].” In an article published in the International Journal of Criminology and Sociology, other academics note that Indonesia’s characterization of sexual violence as a matter of morality resulted in such matters being handled outside the judicial system.

Purpose of the Bill

According to the journal article, the purpose of the TPKS Bill is not only to provide victims with access to the judicial system, but also to implement mechanisms for the protection and recovery of victims; prevent the actual “occurrence of sexual violence”; and involve the community, state, family, and business in “creating a sexual violence-free environment.”

According to news reports, the final text of the bill listed the forms of sexual violence as “non-physical and physical sexual harassment, forced contraception, forced sterilization, forced marriage, sexual abuse, sexual slavery, and electronic-based sexual violence.” It was also reported that the bill “extends the definition of rape to cover marital rape” and “recognises men and boys as victims of sexual violence.” As set out in a draft available online, article 11 specifies that sexual violence includes events “in the scope of personal relationships” within the household, work, and in public and “other special situations.”

The online draft of the bill also seeks to ensure that victim confidentiality is maintained. The bill also provides how such crimes will be investigated and prosecuted; sets out the types of evidence that can be provided by victims, including the victim’s testimony and witness statements from relatives; and allows the victim to be awarded financial compensation.

The National Commission on Violence Against Women is tasked with monitoring the bill’s implementation as well as providing advice to relevant stakeholders with respect to victim protection and recovery.

Political Context of the Bill

The bill, which was submitted to Indonesia’s House of Representatives in 2016, met opposition from groups within Indonesia on “religious or moral” grounds. Opposition groups raised concerns about the bill’s “concept of marital rape,” the propensity for the bill to threaten “Indonesian values,” and the bill’s purported promotion of a western view of sexuality and “sexually deviant acts.”

Public support for the bill increased following the conviction, in the United Kingdom, of Reynhard Sinaga, an Indonesian national believed to have raped and sexually assaulted over 195 men in the United Kingdom. Proponents of the bill noted that Sinaga could not have been convicted under Penal Code of Indonesia as rape necessarily required the penetration of a vagina.


Support for the bill also increased following the case of a school teacher, Herry Wirawan, who was accused of raping 13 students between the ages of 11 and 16, with reports stating that Indonesia’s education minister characterized the increase in “sexual abuse and assault” as a “sexual violence pandemic.”

The passage of the bill reportedly followed President Joko Widodo’s instructions in January 2022 “to expedite the legislation, which seeks to make it easier to build cases and secure convictions.”

Reactions to the Passage of the Bill

The Minister of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (PPPA), Bintang Puspayoga, described the bill as a “legal umbrella” that “can provide certainty and accelerate the fulfillment of victims’ rights, provide justice for victims and carry out law enforcement.”  

The United Nations called the passage “a testament to the leadership of the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (Kemen PPPA) and the National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan), and to the vigorous advocacy of civil society and women’s rights activists across the country,” noting that it reaffirmed “Indonesia’s commitment to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).”

Prepared by Nabila Buhary, Law Library intern, under the supervision of Kelly Buchanan, Chief, Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II

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