Subject: UN Rapp on Violence Against Women - Report on Indon and ET (Pt.1)
Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 12:31:26 -0400 (EDT)
From: "Sharon R.A. Scharfe" <>




E/CN.4/1999/68/Add.3 21 January 1999

Original: ENGLISH

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS Fifty-fifth session Item 12 (a) of the provisional agenda


Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy


Mission to Indonesia and East Timor on the issue of violence against women

(20 November-4 December 1998)



Introduction 1 - 7

I. CASES 8 - 12


III. THE POSITION OF WOMEN IN INDONESIAN SOCIETY 21 - 42 A. General 21 - 26 B. Legal Framework 27 - 42



VI. EAST TIMOR 75 - 92

VII. ACEH 93 - 98


IX. RECOMMENDATIONS 111 - 127 A. At the international level 111 - 112 B. At the national level 113 - 124 C. Non-governmental organizations 125 - 127

Annex: Selective list of persons/organizations with whom the Special Rapporteur met during her mission


1. At the invitation of the Government of Indonesia, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, visited Indonesia from 20 November to 4 December 1998 to study the issue of violence against women as perpetrated or condoned by the State. The Special Rapporteur also visited Dili, East Timor from 30 November to 2 December 1998. She had requested access to Irian Jaya and Aceh; however, the Government denied access on the grounds that there was insufficient time.

2. The Special Rapporteur would like to express her appreciation for the cooperation and the assistance extended to her by the Government of Indonesia, and in particular by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ali Alatas, and his staff, which enabled the Special Rapporteur to meet with representatives of all relevant sectors of society and to obtain the necessary information and documentation to be able to report to the Commission on Human Rights in an objective and impartial manner. The Special Rapporteur would like to place on record her appreciation for the assistance given to her by Mr. Andri Hadi and Mrs. Wiwiek Setyawati of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for the efficiency and professionalism they brought to their work.

3. The Special Rapporteur is very grateful for the efficient cooperation and support provided by Mr. Ravi Rajhan, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Indonesia and his staff for ensuring a substantively and logistically successful visit.

4. In Jakarta and Dili the Special Rapporteur focused on gathering information, mainly on: (a) violence against women during the May riots; (b) violence against women in East Timor, Irian Jaya and Aceh.

5. During her mission, the Special Rapporteur met with high-level government representatives, including the Minister for Women's Affairs, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Director-General for Law and Regulations of the Ministry of Justice, the Deputy Attorney-General, the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Defence and Security, the Chief of the Indonesian Police Force, the Minister for Social Affairs, and representatives of the National Commission for Human Rights and the National Commission on Violence against Women. The Special Rapporteur also met with representatives of non-governmental and women's organizations and took testimonies from victims of violence.

6. In Dili, East Timor, the Special Rapporteur had meetings with the Governor, the local Military Commander, the Police Chief, and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and of women's organizations.

7. The Special Rapporteur would like to express her heartfelt thanks to all the women who agreed to tell their very personal stories to her, so that she could attempt to understand the suffering which they had endured, many of them had to travel long distances to meet her. She would also like to thank the organizations which facilitated meetings with women survivors of violence from East Timor, Aceh and Irian Jaya, as well as with ethnic Chinese women targeted during the May 1998 riots.


8. Except in the case of E, the events in the following cases took place before May 1998.

9. N lives in Aceh. The following events took place when Aceh was a military zone designated by the Government of Indonesia. One day soldiers from Kopassus, elite army commandos, came to N's house and took her husband away. He was missing for several days. During his time at the army command post, he was tortured and he lost hearing in one ear and his thigh was fractured. Fearing that he would be taken in again, he went to another village to work as an agricultural labourer. Kopassus became suspicious, convinced that he had joined the guerrillas. As a result, they came and took N to the military post and interrogated her on the whereabouts of her husband. They disbelieved her story and continued with the interrogation. On the sixteenth day, they began to use force. They undressed her and she was raped by one of the soldiers while the others watched and laughed. After that, she was given electric shock treatment in her ears, nose, breasts and genitalia. She suffered injuries from which she has yet to recover. To keep her quiet they put paper into her mouth and gagged her. They also took a rope and tried to strangle her. As a result of all this she fainted. Five days later she was released and asked to go home and warned that she should not tell a soul about what had happened to her. When she told officials of her treatment, soldiers from Kopassus came and threatened her. When the present Government removed the designation of military zone, she went public with her story. As a result of her torture, she has many internal injuries and no money to pay for her medical expenses. / Case interview, Jakarta, November 1998./

10. J lives in Irian Jaya. She was married before but her husband left her, so she decided to marry again. Her sister disagreed with her plans and they had a huge fight. Troops from the Indonesian army came by to inquire into the disturbance and took J, her sister and the husband-to-be into custody. They resolved the dispute and released them, asking J and her boyfriend to come back the next day. When they returned the next day, the soldiers asked them to remove their clothes. She resisted so they stripped her. She and her boyfriend were then requested to walk hand in hand into the sea. They stayed in the water for about an hour. Then the soldiers put an elevated board on the beach. They were told to come out of the water and to lie on the board. Her boyfriend was then forced to rape her. Two soldiers held her legs, two held her arms and her boyfriend was forced to have intercourse with her. The other soldiers watched, and some even took photographs. After that she and her boyfriend were paraded naked around the village. The boyfriend was asked to beat a drum and soldiers followed carrying rifles. When they had walked around the village, they returned to the army post, were given their clothes and told to go home. / Case interview, Jakarta, November 1998./

11. A lives in East Timor. For some time, the army had suspected her and her family of having dealings with the guerrillas. As they were forewarned, they tried to escape, but were followed by army trucks. When the soldiers detained them, they were interrogated with regard to arms and ammunitions. A was beaten, taken to a camp and then to the district military office. She was tied to a pole and beaten for about four hours. After that she was taken back to the cell. Left-over food was thrown at her through the cell window. She was kept for four days in the room. On the fourth day a soldier came into the cell and raped her. The next day she was moved to another post near the jungle. At this post, she was raped four times by different soldiers. She was detained for two weeks. Her duties included having to clean the army post and do other menial chores. Her family and the priest intervened and she was released. She became pregnant as a result of the rapes. Initially she hated the child and wanted to get rid of her, but now, with the aid of counsellors, she is trying to think differently. The child is one year and four months old. A has decided to take her case to court. / Case interview (Dili) December 1998/

12. E is an 18-year-old Indonesian of Chinese origin who lives in Jakarta. After May 1998, when the riots took place, many of E's Chinese friends and neighbours, especially those working for the Voluntary Team for Humanitarian Causes (an NGO investigating the May riots) received anonymous death threats. Some of these death threats, signed by the "Pribumi Warriors" were extremely racist, informing the recipient that they intended, among other things, to strip women naked and to rape them. Since they did not wish to "dirty our thing", they threatened to use curtain rods in the rape. E was a home-stay student in a house and she worked as a part-time shop assistant. On 2 July 1998, she was at home on her bed, reclining on her side facing the wall, when two men barged in. One was muscular and the other was smaller in build. They put their hands over her mouth and then took an aluminium curtain rod and shoved it into her vagina. In her attempt to prevent the attack, her hand was lacerated by the rod, requiring stiches. She lost consciousness because the pain was excruciating. When she regained consciousness, she crawled to the door and shouted for help. The surgeon who operated on her managed to patch up some of her organs but she has to receive further treatment since there is extensive damage to her system. / Case interview, Jakarta, November 1998./


13. The Special Rapporteur's visit to Indonesia took place during a time of transition. Elections are scheduled to take place in June 1999, but in the interregnum, a transition government is faced with unrest and disturbances. Since the change of regime in May 1998, Indonesia has experienced student demonstrations, riots against ethnic minorities and apparent religious conflict, with churches and mosques being burnt to the ground. Conspiracy theories circulated as people attempted to separate fact from fiction. The visit of the Special Rapporteur took place during this period of uncertainty, when the promise of a democratic future was being challenged by civil unrest.

14. Despite the uncertainty, the Special Rapporteur was struck by the good will and openness of the present Government of Indonesia with regard to her visit. Her stay in Jakarta was facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which arranged for her to have access to the highest levels of government and the armed forces. The Ministry did not interfere with the Rapporteur's meetings with NGOs and victims of violence and allowed her to maintain her own itinerary, in keeping with her mandate. Government officials and members of the security forces spoke to her with frankness and candour, even if they disagreed with what she presented.

15. The sincerity of the Government's wish to become more open and respectful of human rights was highlighted by various events that have taken place in the months following the change of regime in May 1998. Firstly, a fact-finding commission was appointed to look into the May events; it included non-governmental representatives. Then, the National Commission on Violence against Women was established, with broad based representation. In addition, the heads of the security forces were very keen that the United Nations engage in human rights training of their cadre and were very enthusiastic about a follow-up programme. Finally, the decision of the Government to invite the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the Special Rapporteur on racial discrimination and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is evidence that the new Government is interested in improving the condition of human rights in Indonesia.

16. In addition to a responsive Government, the Special Rapporteur was extremely impressed by the vibrant civil society that has emerged in Indonesia. She was truly encouraged by the commitment and dedication of non-governmental organizations, women's groups and human rights groups and their efforts to develop a sensitive human rights culture in Indonesia. During her visit, she also met with a student leader and was impressed by the secular human rights vision that seems to animate the student movement in Indonesia.

17. Despite all these positive developments, the darker side of recent developments in Indonesia is of great concern to the Special Rapporteur. The anonymous letters and death threats, especially to children of victims and activists, are ominous, especially when a certain element of impunity seems to be attaching to the perpetrators. The Chinese community, members of which provided the Special Rapporteur with ample evidence of death threats and anonymous letters that they have received threatening their very existence in Indonesia, seems to be terrorized.

18. Activists have also been targeted. The safety of human rights defenders in Indonesia is of primary concern and the international community must ensure that they are protected and that those responsible for the campaign of terror receive their just punishment.

19. Another worrying factor is the apparent polarization within elite circles between those who want to continue to push for democratic and human rights reforms and those who prefer to return to the old order. This struggle for power has yet to work itself out. Given the fact that there are strong linkages between the Government and the military, the final nature of government has yet to be determined. As Indonesians solve these problems for themselves, the international human rights community must assist the Government to strengthen the human rights component of governance.

20. The recent financial crisis is another factor that has accentuated the civil unrest in Indonesia. Poverty, reflected in a large increase in the number of street children, and disparities in income have added a class factor to the human rights debate. With the security forces holding their fire, looters and arsonists are often left to their own devices, though they appear to be provoked by groups of provocateurs. The lawlessness, anarchy and chaos that surrounded the May riots and the inability of the Government to act firmly against the perpetrators has created a climate of impunity that is exploited by those who are desperate to make a living. The linkages between economic reform, a welfare safety net and human rights protection is amply demonstrated in the events leading up to the economic crisis in Indonesia.

... continued in part 2 ...

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