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Indonesia’s parliament passes landmark bill on sexual violence

Indonesia’s parliament passed on Tuesday a long-awaited bill to tackle sexual violence, aimed at providing a legal framework for victims to secure justice in a country where sexual abuse has often been regarded as a private matter.

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A majority of lawmakers backed the bill at the plenary session in parliament, overcoming opposition from some conservative groups in the world’s biggest Muslim majority country after six years of deliberation.

“We hope that the implementation of this law will resolve sexual violence cases,” speaker of the house Puan Maharani said.

The bill has been broadly welcomed by activists, though some have objected to its limited scope, with only some sex crimes included and the omission of a specific clause on rape which the government has said will be included in other legislation.

“This is surely a step forward,” said Asfinawati, a law expert at Jentera school of law, who has assisted sexual violence victims, while noting definitions of rape currently covered under the criminal code should still be made clearer.

Sexual violence complaints have been rising in Indonesia, where prosecuting sex crimes has been complicated by the absence of a dedicated legal framework, while victims’ concerns of being shamed during questioning have deterred many from speaking up, according to activists.

The final draft of the law includes prison terms of up to 12 years for crimes of physical sexual abuse, both in marriage and outside, 15 years for sexual exploitation, nine years for forced marriage, which include child marriage, and four years for circulating non-consensual sexual content.

It stipulated that a court must compel convicted abusers to pay restitution and authorities to provide counselling to victims.

Under earlier proposals, the legislation would have also covered abortion and provided a clearer definition of what constituted rape.

The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) and civil society groups first proposed the idea of legislation a decade ago and a bill was submitted to the house four years later.

In January, President Joko Widodo told his government to expedite new legislation, which seeks to make it easier to build cases and secure convictions.

One party in parliament, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), had objected to the bill, saying it should regulate against extramarital sex and had called for a ban on sexual relations based on what it described as “deviant” sexual orientation.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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