Arniyanti, Activist of Gemawan
Reading Symbolic Violence
According to Pierre Bourdieu, besides playing a role as a means of communication in understanding and conveying thoughts and feelings between humans, language has a latent role which is often not realized, namely as a power practice (Bourdieu, 1991). Therefore, language is a symbol that represents a certain ideology, by which it can construct a new awareness of audience based on the ideological views represented by the language, and even become an instrument of violence to gain legitimacy and fight over opportunities in defining reality.
For example, our definition to the meaning of beautiful will tend to be influenced by the symbols which have been constructed by the mass media for us. A series of the emerging “symbols of beauty” does not exist naturally, but a systematic practice of domination of symbols. In the end, the conception of being constructed as having a slender body, long legs, long hair, white skin, and a sharp nose, when that happens, domination has occurred.
Male domination, in Bourdieu’s view, is something invisible, which operates at the symbolic level. Quoting from the Wikipedia page, Haryatmoko stated that this domination could be in the form of reality, meaning and information falsification by providing false information. The victims of this domination do not consider this as violence, even see it as natural and proper (Haryatmoko, 2016). This domination creates the term Bourdieu introduced as symbolic violence, namely meaning, logic and beliefs containing bias but are subtly and faintly forced on others as something true (Bourdieu, 1994).
By using symbols – such as pictures, text, photos, and videos, violence is done without others realizing it, therefore symbolic violence is a threat that is difficult to overcome. Due to unawareness, a victim may justify the bias delivered through the symbols.
Women, again, become the victims of symbolic violence. This especially happens in Kiwari era (today’s era), when digital media becomes new simulacra to display a series of symbols which explicitly is a form of violence against women. Interpretation is then massively reproduced by anyone who sees it. Objectivation on women occurs through images which appear in the form of vulgar comments. For example, based on End-of-Year Notes (CATAHU) of National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), they received 281 complaints of cyber-crime cases, an increase of 300% from 2018. From this number, the largest proportion was in the form of threats and intimidation of the victims’ pornographic photo and video distribution.
In line with this report, the release of the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFENet) on the kompas.com page stated that cases of online gender-based violence (KBGO) against women have tripled even during the Covid-19 pandemic. Online Security Division of SAFENet, Ellen Kusuma, mentioned that the lack of understanding about the characteristics of the digital world makes the public careless, leading to violence.
The digital world has a character as a room to share private things. This, in fact, eliminates privacy. The habituation of sharing private symbols actually makes the meaning of privacy disappear. Therefore, when we share photos of intimate activities or organs on the pages of digital media, we basically have lost the private meaning of the photos. At the same time, the privacy can no longer be controlled, and there appears symbolic violence. Sexual exploitation like this commonly happens to women, as a result of the construction of a patriarchal viewpoint, when women no longer have power and ownership over their bodies objectivated in public rooms without worry and guilt.
Significance of P-KS Bill
Protection of women from the violence threat is supposed to be a main priority, let alone the mandate of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which makes gender perspectives mainstream; Of the 17 goals and 169 targets, 16 goals and 91 targets are related to gender equality (Bappenas, 2016). In fact, the Criminal Code is not sufficient to accommodate all cases of sexual violence. The discussion of Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill (P-KS) becomes an opportunity for the emergence of solutions to the problems of sexual violence that women vulnerably experience. In the P-KS Bill, sexual violence criminal acts are divided into 9 categories, namely rape, sexual harassment, sexual torture, sexual exploitation, forced abortion, forced prostitution, sexual slavery, forced contraception, and forced marriage.
Women vulnerability to experience violence leads to the need for separate regulations which ensure the protection of their human rights as citizens. Sadly, the P-KS Bill has actually been thrown off the list of 2020 to 2021 National Legislation Program (Prolegnas) list, eventhough the number of violence against women continues to increase from year to year, as released by Komnas Perempuan above. According to Mariana Amiruddin, Commissioner of Komnas Perempuan, the enforcement process on perpetrators of violence and the protection of victims will be hampered without the bill (kompas.com).
Legal certainty will provide an umbrella for many parties to conduct collective work to improve protection for women. The epicenter of civil society movement in organizing and empowering women’s groups will definitely expand when this regulation is ratified by the government. Awareness efforts, especially for women’s groups, are cultural steps taken by civil society groups. Meanwhile, regulation becomes a structural legitimacy tool in the activities of grassroot advocacy. This synergy will provide great energy in realizing gender justice in Indonesia.
The contest of political interests in Senayan is not supposed to be an obstacle in providing service assurance to victims of sexual violence. Let us guard the protection of women’s rights together by ensuring the haste of P-KS Bill discussion and ratification.