The co-existence of laws regarding domestic violence case settlement: Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia

Ratih Lestarini, Herdis Herdiansyah, Tirtawening Tirtawening, Dianwidhi Michelle Pranoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Domestic violence has long been an adversity, which many women have to endure and even accept, especially in places where patriarchy reigns. Unlike other forms of violence against women, domestic violence is particularly special because of its private and sensitive nature. In the island of Rote in East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia, domestic violence is a serious social and cultural issue. People in Rote continue to practice their customary laws despite formal state laws that offer better justice for victims, at least from the perspective of women's rights and feminism. This article elaborates on customary laws used to settle domestic violence cases in Rote Island, East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia. The research is structured into three parts. The first part discusses the existing formal state laws and analyzes its norms against the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the second part highlights the culture and domestic violence in Rote Island, and the third part explores the three choices of laws used in Rote Island to resolve cases of domestic violence, within it also the discussion of how these laws coexist in that regard. Stories of these settlements were gained through qualitative research in Rote. Semistructured interviews were conducted towards women, church leaders, maneleo (the head of clan who acts as a medium for parties in dispute), and adat (traditional cultural group) members. Focus Group Discussions (FGD) were conducted prior to the interviews to gain general knowledge of the customary practices on the island. It was found that the belis (dowry system) in Rote implies that women are required to obey the men because by belis the men have "bought" the women. The belis strengthens the patriarchal culture in East Nusa Tenggara in general and in Rote Island. The findings of this paper also show that customary law and church law are the communities' first option when it comes to resolving cases of domestic violence, although the formal state law normatively offers better protection and justice for victims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-179
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of International Women's Studies
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


  • Customary law
  • Domestic violence
  • East Nusa Tenggara
  • Indonesia
  • Socio-legal studies


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