Grassroots Women’s Advocacy for the Protection of Survivors of Violence against Women

Azifah R. Astrina
Smita Tanaya

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This case study examines the how women in the Labuhan Batu research village have sought to influence changes in the way cases of domestic violence are handled and support is provided to women who experience such violence. Factors contributing to high rates of violence against women in the Labuhan Batu research village are varied according to villagers and include juvenile delinquency, child marriage, narcotics use, and the burdens on households in poverty. There are also numerous barriers to handling cases of violence against women, including a lack of safehouses to receive and process complaints of violence in villages and sub-districts, and a lack of collaboration between available services.

The Independent Women’s Union’s (Serikat Perempuan Independen – SPI) in Labuhan Batu has sought to support women in the Labuhan Batu research village to address some of these challenges through collective action. It supported village women to establish an SPI group at the village level. This village women’s union has become the driving force in the advocacy and support for domestic violence victims the research village. SPI Labuhan Batu has provided gender equity, paralegal and other training for women and others in the village. The village SPI has established a Women’s Care Post to respond to cases of domestic violence and to provide a safe space for women to engage and gain support. The village SPI group has also built networks with village leaders, in particular the Chair of the Village Consultative Council (Badan Permusyawarahan Desa, BPD) to advocate for wider support for preventing domestic violence, which was, based on the joint collective action of village women, the BPD, and others, eventually supported by the village government and other influential leaders and groups in the village.

Further cross-stakeholder collaboration and collective action resulted in the formation of a Community Based Service (LBK), comprised of the village SPI and other key village leaders from the village government, in particular the Chair of the BPD, as well as religious and community leaders, and other community groups. This cooperation successfully led to the enactment of Village Regulation No. 02, 2018 on the Implementation of Protection of Women and Children Victims of Violence and the promise of a fund allocation from the Village Fund.

In the research village, increased awareness of the prevalence of violence has also led to an extension of the definition of domestic violence to go beyond physical violence and psychological violence in the form of verbal abuse, to include other forms of psychological violence such as neglect and infidelity, although these definitions are yet to be codified in District Regulations.

SPI Labuhan Batu has been working to support and empower village women in the district since it joined HAPSARI (the Association of Indonesian Women’s Unions) in 2001. From 2001 to 2015, SPI worked independently to handle cases of violence against women by providing mediation and assistance in obtaining divorces. Since joining the MAMPU-supported Forum for Service Providers (Forum Pengada Layanan or FPL)as a network partner, SPI has extended its activities through an enrichment of its gender awareness training materials, dissemination of Law No. 23, 2004 on the Elimination of Domestic Violence, improvement of women’s economic skills, as well as building networks with the village government to strengthen SPI institutionally. Supporting village women to establish the LBK has further legitimised SPI as the watchdog for violence against women in the research village. All of these changes are not without obstacles. First, the Village Fund allocation for the implementation of the 2018 Village Regulation is yet to be fully released. Second, while the Village Regulation has set up sanctions for perpetrators of violence, its implementation lacks monitoring, particularly when the perpetrators are elite figures in the village, indicating social norms in the village have only partially shifted. Third, collaborations with district government has been hampered by frequent changes to government officials, as is common at a particular point in the political cycle. Nonetheless, this case study shows how village women’s collective action, with support of SPI Labuhan Batu, has played a significant role in effecting change on preventing and responding to violence against women. Further collaboration with multiple stakeholders, particularly with the district government, is crucial so that the handling of violence against women can be more comprehensive and sustainable.

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