25 September 2011

Jakarta protest over rape statements: don't blame the victim!

On Sunday, September 18, around 100 women staged a lightning protest in Jakarta’s main thoroughfare, Jalan Thamrin, to protest statements by Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo in response to rapes that have taken place in public transport. He said: “Imagine if someone on board a mikrolet (minivan) sits wearing a mini-skirt, you would get a bit turned on”. Women, he said, “must adjust to their surrounding environment so that they don’t provoke people to commit unwanted acts”.

The statement came after reports of a number of rapes over recent weeks, including the gang-rape of a woman in a public transport minivan and the rape and murder of a university student. Three cases of rape in public transport have been reported during the last week. The National Commission on Violence Against Woman (KOMNASPER) has recorded 3753 rapes in 2011, while the Jakarta police have received 41 complaints, compared to 40 for all of 2010. KOMNASPER has also received 105,103 complaints of violence against women.

Women protest in Jakarta over misogynist statements.
Bowo’s statement followed similar statements by other public officials in different parts of the country. Also attracting outrage was a statement by a local administrative head in West Aceh, who stated that women who did not dress according to religious norms could only blame themselves if they were raped.

Several Jakarta women, active in various professions and arenas of work, formed the Women’s Alliance Against Rape to organise the September 18 action. The Alliance issued a statement saying, among other things: “Rape is a sexual attack on a citizen, a woman. Rape is never wanted by any woman, no matter the socioeconomic background. Victims of rape need solidarity from the whole of society as well as physical aid and care. The statements of incapable public servants have been providing no support, but rather humiliating and dumping the burden of blame on the victims.”

The demonstration was reported on TV and in a number of newspapers. The Jakarta Post quoted theatre producer, Faiza Mardzoeki, who was also spokesperson for the Alliance: “This is a lesson for all public officials in the country. Don’t ever blame women and discriminate on the way we are dressed in a rape case.” In another report, the Jakarta Post quoted the editor of the Jurnal Perempuan (Women’s Journal), Mariana Amiruddin: “[Governor] Fauzi should just resign. By attributing rape to how women dress Fauzi is blaming the victims. This is like saying that if Fauzi drove the minivan, he would think that it would be all right for him to rape female passengers in mini-skirts.”

The AFP quoted protest coordinator Chika Noya: “We are here to express our anger. Instead of giving heavy punishment to the rapists, the governor blamed it on women’s dress. This is discrimination.” Another participant, Dhyta Caturani, was quoted as saying that the demonstration was also inspired by the Slutwalk protests that had been taking place in other countries on the same issue.

The protesters shouted and chanted, brandishing posters with slogans such as “Don’t Tell Us How to Dress, But Tell Them Not to Rape” and “My Mini Skirt, My Right, Foke You”.  Fauzi Bowo’s nickname is “Foke”.

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