Series of rapes and other sexual crimes against students of pesantren (Islamic Boarding School) across Indonesia are a mock to religious elites and their supporters who are busy trying to block a ministerial regulation (Permendikbud) to prevent sexual crimes inside the country’s campuses.
The emergence of new facts that an ustads (teacher) of a pesantren in Bandung have raped at least 21 of his students is the latest rape cases inside Islamic school, and adds further to an undeniably scary face of many pesantren in Indonesia, and should put heavy pressure on Indonesia’s religious authorities to quickly act on crimes in front of their own nose rather than fighting against a regulation aiming at the very crime that happen in their own backyard.
According to Komnas Perempuan, during 2015-2020 nearly one-fifth of rape cases reported to them happened in Pesantren, second only to cases reported in universities.
As these kinds of crimes usually are perpetrated by powerful and influential people, it’s only logical to infer that many more boys and girls out there are now experiencing the same kind of anguish because of the sexual predators.
A 2016 survey jointly conducted by Lentera Sintas Indonesia, a support group for victims of sexual violence, online magazine Magdalene and online petition website, Change.org showed that more than 90 percent of rape cases in Indonesia go unreported. That means that the whole series of reported rape cases that have cause great concerns for many of us are only 10 percent of the total rape cases. Imagine, how shocked we are if the whole cases are unveiled.
Despite such a high incident Indonesia’s religious elites are still insisting on rejecting a regulation aiming at preventing sexual harassment and violence to take place within universities, sticking to power play, hypocrisy and nonsensical and unproven arguments at the expense of Indonesian students who continue to be vulnerable to such crimes.
While series of sexual violence and sexual harassments taking place within universities and pesantren almost on a daily basis across Indonesia, Muhammadiyah, the country’s second largest Islamic group, together with the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and a number of other figures and organizations, have rejected a regulation issued by the Ministry of Education and Culture identifying and specifying sexual harassment and violence within universities, while equipping campus authorities with clear legal and preventive tool for them to make sure perpetrators are punished and the crime can’t happen again within their environment. Not wanting to be left behind in seemingly effort in the defending Islam, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) also joined in demand of updating the regulations to better reflect the Islamic values, while voicing rejection if it will encourage consensual sexual relations.
The center of the argument for the rejection is the use of word “consent” in the regulation. The opponents of the regulation fully believe that the use of the word “consent” will encourage pre-marital sex and outside marital sex because they interpret that sex can take place anytime if both parties show consent, and because it is consensual, it won’t be punished. This, they believe, will become the basis for free-sex practices among Indonesia’s young people.
This argument is not only confusing and unproven, it is simply misplaced and wrong. What is the proof of using consent can encourage free-sexual activities? Nothing because it is only based on imagination of these groups.
Consent is actually about freedom, or sex is an activity by choice. Consent also means that beside having freedom, parties involved have capacity to make that choice. So, it means they have not been forced, manipulated, threatened or pressured into that sexual activity.
To use a what if logic to reject it without a proper evidence while all these rapes and sexual violence continue to happen is not only reckless it also put millions of Indonesia’s students and teens in grave danger, risking the future the nation as whole.
Besides, if consent is eliminated from law and regulation then how can we tell rape and other sexual crimes from non-criminal activities?
In fact, it’s urgent for the Ministry of Religious Affairs, which oversees pesantren, to follow what the Education Ministry has done: issue a clear regulation with sterner punishments against sexual crimes as well a clear mechanism to prevent such crimes in the Islamic boarding school because too many of our teenagers have become victims.
Pesantren is a noble place. It’s a place to learn about Islamic high virtues and morality. It’s very ironic that such a place is allowed to be tainted by such heinous crimes without any high moral persons want to do something about it.