Indonesia: The Damaging Debate on Rapes of Ethnic Chinese Women

Other Sections

Table of Contents
The Violence
The Rapes
Government Statements: From Condemnation to "Fabrication"
Ending Discrimination
Ending Violence Against the Ethnic Chinese

VI. Ending Violence Against the Ethnic Chinese

The debate over the rapes has been damaging on a number of fronts but most importantly in diverting attention from the need to uncover and punish the organizers of the May violence more generally and to prevent any further violence against ethnic Chinese and their homes and shops. The latter effort is a mammoth one. It involves undoing decades, indeed centuries, of discriminatory policies going back to the Dutch colonial administration. It will need a long-term public education program to point to contributions that ethnic Chinese have made to the society. It will need an examination and abolition of the corrupt system that has existed for years in Medan, Jakarta, and most other cities and towns whereby ethnic Chinese shopkeepers and business people paid local police protection money as a way of ensuring their own security; that system should be replaced not by vigilantism but by a policy that opens the police force up to ethnic Chinese applicants and a system of municipal policing that is non-discriminatory. It will also require an effort to publicize and replicate initiatives taken by ethnic Chinese themselves in some areas to reach out to their non-Chinese neighbors to build a sense of community.

The immediate priority, however, must be investigation and prosecution of the organizers of the May violence. Once the perpetrators of that violence have been brought to trial, it may be easier to probe the extent of violence against women. In the meantime, it is imperative that all accusations and threats by government officials against rights advocates not only cease but be actively censured by President Habibie. They do not help create a climate where the targets of violence, sexual or otherwise, would feel comfortable in coming forward to testify.

Indonesia: The Damaging Debate on Rapes of Ethnic Chinese Women - Table of Contents