Making Justice in Indonesia

International Bridges to Justice offers multiple opportunities to bring criminal defense advocates together online to collaborate on methods used to counteract torture and abuse in the legal system around the world. One opportunity is the Justice Makers competition. The 2020 competition was open to women lawyers in Indonesia and the selected fellows were awarded up to 10,300 euros to carry out their projects. The focus was on increases access to justice for female defendants and victims through legal representation and reform. The selected fellows participate in training sessions in Jakarta and receive publicity and support through IBJ’s international community.

 This past week I had the opportunity to read through the selected fellows’ applications to write up profiles highlighting their background and their work. The same challenges appeared in many of the explanations of their programs and why they are important.

 For example, systemic issues in the law impact the accessibility of legal aid for the economically disadvantaged. The Law No. 16 of 2011 on Legal Aid in Indonesia established the legal aid program and in theory guaranteed legal representation to those who cannot afford it in all criminal, civil, and administrative issues. However, to access legal aid, Indonesians must show proof of their need by possession of a certificate of low-income status. This certificate is issued by a local official and provided to households, rather than individuals.

This requirement is particularly harmful to women and children seeking legal aid against their husbands or parents, particularly in rural areas of Indonesia where patriarchal standards still exist, and many women do not work outside the home. If a woman is seeking legal representation against her husband, he can withhold the certificate from his wife or other family members. Additionally, there are situations where a household brings in enough income to not qualify as low-income, but the women and children in the family do not independently have access to sufficient funds to hire a lawyer.

It was extremely impressive to read through the applications of the female lawyers who have developed creative solutions to their country’s legal challenges. Although policy change will have to occur on the national level, the Justice Makers emphasized the importance of working with local legal aid societies, judges, prosecutors, and police to increase awareness of the challenges facing women and children.