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The Jakarta Post
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Sisters-in-arms stand up for gender justice

  • Margaret Agusta

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, February 11, 2014 | 12:46 pm
Sisters-in-arms stand up for gender justice

Kartika Jahja and Dhyta Caturani. JP/Ricky Yudhistira

Do you ever wonder about what young women today talk about when they hang out?

In the case of Dhyta Caturani and Kartika Jahja, the current topic is their plans for Feb. 14, or Valentine'€™s Day, which are a far cry from the usual chocolates, roses or romantic dinner.

What Dhyta Caturani, a veteran in human rights activism, and Kartika Jahja, a singer-songwriter focusing on injustice, have in mind are simultaneous flash mob dances in Jakarta and other major cities around Indonesia.

'€œWe know that not everyone is willing to join protests with their fists in the air, so we have opted for a different, more friendly way of speaking out,'€ said Dhyta, who has been advocating for justice for the downtrodden, especially women, for almost 20 years.

'€œThe international movement to eradicate violence against women, One Billion Rising [OBR], encourages the establishment of independent local movements to dance in organized crowds in public places to draw attention to the outrage of rape, and we have begun organizing OBR events throughout Indonesia for Feb. 14 to draw attention to this issue,'€ Dhyta explained.

As Dhyta and Kartika, who is widely known as Tika '€” the vocalist for the band Tika and the Dissidents, both said: '€œThe One Billion Rising Indonesia events are from us and for us.'€

For this reason, OBR Indonesia does not solicit or accept sponsorships, financial or otherwise, from any organization or institution. Funds are raised entirely from the sale of T-shirts and donations, information for which can be found at onebillionrisingindonesia.org.

The website also supplies guidelines on how to organize local OBR events throughout Indonesia, including video tutorials for the flash mob dance and poster templates for reproduction.

This year, these sisters-in-arms in the fight to eradicate violence against women have been holding dance practices and a number of public discussions at various venues in Jakarta. They are also publicizing the One Billion Rising 2014 event '€” scheduled to be held at the west part of the National Monument (Monas) complex at 2 p.m. on Feb. 14 '€” on social media like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Additionally, Dhyta and Tika, along with other OBR volunteers, are providing updates on related activities on the website.

Last year'€™s OBR flash mob dance at Monas '€” just one among the many held in a total of 207 countries around the globe '€” drew more than 400 women and men, including children. Also last year, similar crowds turned out to protest all forms of violence against women in 10 other Indonesian cities, including Denpasar and Ubud in Bali, and Poso in Central Sulawesi.

This year, OBR 2014 focuses on justice for victims of sexual violence, with six cities in Java already committed to holding OBR events: Bandung, Jakarta, Malang, Semarang, Surabaya and Yogyakarta. Still others are expected to sign on in the next couple of weeks. According to Dhyta, in 2013 there were a lot of last minute participants.

'€œThe issue of justice is especially relevant in Indonesia,'€ Tika said.

'€œPeople rarely get any justice for anything, let alone in cases of violence against women,'€ she said, citing the lack of awareness and support for such issues in a society with rigid social structures, norms and values rooted deeply in tradition and religion.

'€œIndonesia'€™s societal structures, including the justice system, shame victims of sexual violence, so law enforcement is not the first recourse for women who have experienced rape,'€ Tika added.

'€œEven before I became involved in OBR, I was deeply frustrated by the reaction to violence against women in society. I had no effective channel to express this. All I could do was to write and sing about it.'€

She added that the One Billion Rising movement, which derives its name from the statistic that one out of three women has experienced or will experience violence in their lifetime, provided a wider channel.

'€œI, myself, am a survivor. We survivors are forced to live in shame all of our lives. When we do speak out, we get no support,'€ she said, explaining that she was no longer afraid to reveal her experience.

'€œIt was not my fault. I have no reason to be ashamed.'€

'€œFinding OBR helped me tremendously because I could channel what happened to me in the past into helping others,'€ Tika said, adding that OBR allowed her not only to have a voice, but also to reclaim her body.

 '€œThe dancing is a symbol of owning our bodies and freeing them from societal perceptions,'€ Dhyta said about the efforts exerted by women worldwide through the annual OBR flash mob events.

'€œWe say to victims that you are not alone, we are here for you to fight for the justice you deserve,'€ Dhyta said.

'€œLast year at OBR, one woman came and expressed how grateful she was for the event. She told me '€˜Ordinary people like me have a voice we want to use ['€¦] Now you have opened a channel for our voices through OBR'€™,'€ Dhyta said.

'€œBecause of OBR many people have told us their stories and asked for help.'€

Many of the survivors and gender equality activists, who organize and participate in the dancing, volunteer to help women who want to find the proper assistance, whether it be post-trauma counseling through Yayasan Pulih, or assistance with filing police reports to ensure appropriate treatment by law enforcers through the Women'€™s Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Apik).

'€œMost importantly, we are there when they need someone to talk to,'€ Dhyta said.

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