Women given a crash course on domestic violence law

A group of women from Kebon Kacang, Central Jakarta, attended a seminar outlining the rights of women under the 2004 Law on Domestic Violence. Three lawyers from LBH Mawar Saron Jakarta legal aid institute donated their time to share with the women an understanding of the law through a series of lectures and discussions. "What if my husband doesn't support me after we divorce?" one of the women asked the practitioners. Friska J.M. Gultom, the institute's deputy director of criminal law division, answered the question by citing Islamic laws stipulating that in a case when a husband divorces his wife, the wife is entitled to her husband's support for 180 days after divorce. Another of the professionals, Lindung Sihombing said men have no right to physically abuse their wives. He gave an example of a husband beating his wife. "If something like that happens, report the incident to the police, a man like that must be taught a lesson," he said. In 2004, the government issued Law 23 on domestic violence. It stipulates that citizens are forbidden from committing physical, mental or sexual acts of violence, which includes neglect, against members of his or her household. Jefri Kani, another lawyer who spoke at the seminar, said the government had not yet provided the public with an adequate education campaign on the law. "Neighborhood administrations should educate their residents about the law, but they often lack the resources to do that," he said. Neighborhood head Putut P Linangkung said making the neighborhood's residents legal-savvy was not yet part of the administration's agenda. "I have only been the neighborhood head for a year. Right now I am still concentrating on matters such as sanitation and civil registration," he said. Educating the densely populated neighborhood, which has more than 22,000 residents living inside an area of only 115 hectares, might prove to be difficult for it's local administration, especially seeing as it is prone to other civic problems such as flooding. "Through this lecture the neighborhood's women have learned how to handle instances of domestic violence. In the current *difficult* economic situation, it is possible that one might resort to acts of domestic violence," Eli Rosdiana, the neighborhood's secretary, said. According to Friska, most of the women who attended the lecture were not familiar with legal matters. One question raised by a woman at the back of the audience reenforced Friska's statement. "So where should I go if I want to divorce my husband?" the young woman asked eagerly to the laughter of some of the other audience members.

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