“If we are to fight discrimination and injustice against women we must start from the home for if a woman cannot be safe in her own house then she cannot be expected to feel safe anywhere.”
Violence against women in Indonesia is already at an emergency level, from the most subtle to the most obvious. Public memory has not disappeared from the death penalty case committed by Saudi Arabia against Tuti Tursilawati on October 29, 2018 and sexual violence case experienced by ‘Agni’, a student at Gadjah Mada University. The perpetrators were only given social sanctions without criminal and university only consider the case as a minor violation.
The public was again shocked by the case of Baiq Nuril Maknun, a housewife who recorded harassment through phone conversations by Muslim, principal of SMAN 7 (public senior high school) Mataram. Muslims reported back on Baiq Nuril to the police on charges of violating article 27 paragraph 1 of the Information and Electronic Transactions Act (ITE Law). Ironically, the Supreme Court sentenced Baiq Nuril to be guilty of violating the law and had to spend six months in prison with IDR 500 million’s fine.
The case experienced by Agni and Baiq Nuril is the latest tip of the iceberg from a series of problems of violence against women –even because they are brave enough to tell their stories. These cases are only examples of tons of violence against women, in addition to other more extreme such as May 1998’s rape which never followed up in the absence of evidence as a reason, caning sentences imposed on rape victims in Aceh, and so on.
This does not include cases that are more subtle in public, private, and digital spaces such as verbally and physically abused in public spaces (including catcalling), verbal violence by their own husband, as well as sexual harassments in digital medium.
As a woman, I truly understand why is telling your sexual harassments or violence experiences is never easy. The patriarchal climate often regards such cases as normal and must be understood as part of ‘culture’. If you dare to report, one of the possibilities that you will face is facing back charges, for example because of how you dress up.
I remember that when I was in junior high school and using public transportation (‘angkot’) in Bandung City, a male passenger sitting next poked my thigh and some even try to reach into my skirt. I tried to hitting his hand, but did not know what to do because I was too surprised.
When I was walking on one of the main road in Jakarta, suddenly three men who had just come down from Metromini (public bus) ran while squeezing my breasts and buttocks. I shouted but they had already run away. Again, I did not know what to do because I was too surprised. On another road, I got catcalling by number of drivers who were hanging out waiting for their employers. I also quite often have experienced sexual harassments through digital media.
I asked randomly to some of my female friends in Jakarta whether they had experienced violence, verbal or non-verbal during their lifetime. Surprisingly, all of them, at least once in their lives, experienced sexual harassment. As a preventive action, some of them deliberately registered themselves and their children in self-defense courses (karate, taekwondo, or boxing).
When I travel to some remote areas in Indonesia for medical services, I found many women who experienced more extreme violation such as child marriages, female circumcision, sprinkled hot water by husband, forced to raise many children alone, carrying kilos of wood, beaten on the head with wooden blocks, even pierced by the arrow. They said that it has become part of culture so it is no longer seen as a form of violence against women.
UN reports that violence has become a daily reality for women in Indonesia. The same report cites the results of a national survey organized by Indonesia’s Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, with assistance from the UN, that one in three Indonesian women have experienced physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime (UNDP, 8 Dec, 2017).
Although the cases of violence that have occurred are so severe, the law seems to have no authority. Law enforcement that should be the last bastion of justice and humanity for women victims of violence, in some cases actually became the main perpetrators.
Virginity tests for female police candidates conducted by the Indonesian Armed Forces/Indonesian National Police, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision convicted Baiq Nuril being a very bad precedent and at the same time show very serious lack of gender awareness and humanity among the officers. It is open our eyes about how vulnerable the victims of violence are.
Therefore, comprehensive legal system reform is necessary.
Not only revising legal products that potentially trigger violence against women but also revolutionizing the way law enforcers think. Gender insights among law enforcement must be encouraged and improved so the interpretation of legislation always prioritizes humanity. We must guarantee safe channels for victims of violence who want to seek justice by voicing their experiences.
Education also plays important role, especially sex education.
Sexual education should not be seen as a taboo because lack of knowledge will only fertilize cases of violence against women. We know that the more taboo an issue on the surface, the more it happens in daily life. Resistance to patriarchal culture that discriminates and demeans humanity requires an awareness that arises through the role of education by educators, including parents.
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25 is an important reminder that 34 years ago, Indonesia has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Indonesia has even passed Law on the Elimination of Domestic Violence (Law No. 23/2004). While the reality shows the contrary, we certainly hope that it is not only lip service, since one of the basic ideologies of the country is fair and civilized humanity.
* * *
Photo Source: Science Photo Library