Advocacy for the Protection of Women and Children against Domestic Violence through a Community Constituent Group

Wigke Capri
Hening Wikan Sawiji

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This case study focuses on advocacy for the protection of women and children from domestic violence in the research village in East Lombok. Villagers formed the mixed-gender Mele Maju Constituent Group with the support of the Eastern Indonesian Knowledge Exchange (BaKTI). The Constituent Group has aimed to support advocacy and influence the village on a number of issues of concern, particularly for women, such as responding to social norms that have led to the continuation of physical, economic and psychological forms of violence against women and have restricted women’s involvement in formal and informal decision-making processes in the community.

The Mele Maju Constituent Group represents the interests and communicates the aspirations of the research village’s community to the village government. Together with BaKTI and the regional government, and supported by existing provincial and district level policies, the Group has served as an informal space for community support and discussions and its members are trusted confidants for women to disclose experiences of violence. It has also helped establish and strengthen networks with influential government and non-government leaders in the village.

Women’s experiences of paralegal work led to the Mele Maju Constituent Group becoming the lead advocate for policy reform, which was passed as Village Regulation No. 4, 2018 on the Protection of Women and Children. The Group has also been formally recognised in Village Regulations, and this recognition has allowed for allocations from the Village Fund for the Group’s activities, including the establishment of Balai Balaq, a reporting centre and a safe house for victims of domestic violence in the village.

The active role of the Mele Maju Constituent Group in the East Lombok research village has also created broader positive changes. Women members have become more confident and able to voice their needs and aspirations through their networks and in village meetings and the new Head of the Constituent Group is a woman. The 2018 Village Regulation has also brought greater attention to the need to protect women and children (as well as to respond to cases of domestic violence and undertake prevention efforts) and, has expanded the roles of women in public and private spheres.

The Village Regulation was designed to provide pathways for reporting and handling cases of domestic violence. The implementation of the Regulation has challenged social norms, which has meant change has been slow and in some cases is resisted. Consequently, the Regulation, to date, has produced two contrasting outcomes. On the one hand, some women have increasingly reported cases of the violence they experience. On the other hand, other women remain reluctant to report cases of violence to the reporting posts developed under the Regulation because of a wider social stigma against divorce, which holds that that women reporting intra-household issues such as domestic violence are in effect initiating divorce proceedings causing their husbands to suffer. The Regulation has been an important early step, however, the institutionalist and formal approach taken in the formation of this Village Regulation has created distance between some members of the community and institutions in the village that prefer informal routes to addressing such problems.

This case study provides key lessons to advance protection policies for women and children in villages. The first centre on the use of informal power structures and mechanisms, and prior to the introduction of the Village Regulation, how residents reported their case informally to the Hamlet Head, and mediated and resolved cases of violence informally within families only. The second concern the need for closer collaboration between community groups, village officials, village elders and CSOs to create informal discussions about the handling of cases of violence against women and children. Moving forward, this case study highlights that continued support for these women overtime is important, as are additional mechanisms to address violence against women and social stigma, aside from this Village Regulation.

Read other case studies in the same sectoral focus area of gender-based violence.