‘It was unnerving’: Female protesters harassed during Indonesia International Women’s Day rally
Rizki Fachriansyah The Jakarta Post Tue, March 10, 2020
Women take part in an International Women’s Day march in Central Jakarta on Sunday. (JP/Riand Alfiandy)
JAKARTA, Indoneia – While many enjoyed a relatively peaceful and high-spirited International Women’s Day (IWD) rally in Jakarta on Sunday, some female protesters had the unfortunate experience of becoming the subject of harassment allegedly perpetrated by male protesters affiliated with labor groups during the event.
The experience has been described as “traumatizing”, especially because the inappropriate conduct took place during an event dedicated to rallying against all forms of discrimination and violence against women.
Rizqika Arrum Bakti, a gender studies postgraduate student and female activist, claimed that she noticed the disruptive behavior as she was marching alongside other women clad in red-and-white attire inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale in the front row of protesters on Sunday morning.
She said a number of male protesters, who were largely rallying against the controversial job creation omnibus bill, had stared at her and fellow women protesters in the front row. The men later proceeded to take photos and videos of the women without their permission.
“They were staring at us from head to toe. It was unnerving. I could tell we were being objectified,” Rizqika told The Jakarta Post over the phone on Tuesday.
Dentist and feminist activist Dea Safira Basori said she went on to confront the men, telling them that their behavior was inappropriate especially considering that they were taking part in an event primarily dedicated to women’s rights.
However, none of them relented, resulting in a heated argument, she added.
“These men kept causing a ruckus whenever a female orator stepped up to voice their aspirations,” Dea said.
“The male protesters were mainly trying to address their concerns over the omnibus bill, but they should have done so in a way that wouldn’t overshadow or disrupt those who tried to voice their thoughts on issues that specifically threaten women.”
She described the experience as troubling, given that the rally was supposed to serve as a safe space for women.
Feminist activist Dhyta Caturani wrote on her Instagram page, @purplerebel, that she had received a slew of reports detailing harassment allegedly perpetrated by male protesters against women during the rally.
“How ironic and painful to hear that some men who were present during the International Women’s Day commemoration in Jakarta […] perpetrated acts of harassment,” Dhyta wrote on Monday.
She added that she encouraged those who had been harassed to come forward and report their unfortunate experiences to the event committee.
The Women’s March Jakarta committee issued a statement on the issue on its official Instagram page on Monday, condemning the acts of harassment that took place during the IWD rally, as well as encouraging victims of harassment to report their experiences.
“Speaking of security, we hereby condemn protesters who harassed women and minority groups, as well as those who dominate Gerak Perempuan [Women’s Movement against Violence Alliance],” @womensmarchjkt wrote.
The Congress Alliance of Indonesian Labor Unions (KASBI) apologized for the harassment, which included catcalling and was allegedly perpetrated by workers affiliated with the organization. In a statement issued on Monday, the organization said it had carried out an internal investigation regarding the matter.
“KASBI does not condone catcalling, as it is inappropriate behavior. If any KASBI member is found to have taken part in catcalling, we sincerely apologize to the victims and the Gerak Perempuan Alliance,” the organization wrote, adding that over 2,500 of its members from various regions participated in the IWD rally.
The organization noted that its members did not participate in the event to specifically address feminist concerns, but rather to voice their opposition against the proposed omnibus law, which it said would only rob workers of their rights in the workplace.
Rallies took place in several cities across the country to commemorate 2020 IWD on Sunday. Rallygoers in Yogyakarta took to the streets to protest against sexual violence against women at universities, while their counterparts in North Sumatra demanded the passage of the long-awaited antisexual violence bill.