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Jakarta Post

Sexual harassment victims face hurdles in getting justice

  • Indah Setiawati and Sita W. Dewi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Tue, January 28, 2014   /  01:26 pm

Jakartans were left unfazed by the recent allegations of sexual harassment on a Transjakarta bus, knowing that such cases rarely make it to court.

Women'€™s rights activists complain there is not yet an acceptable definition of sexual harassment in the law, which largely relies on Articles 281 and 289 of the Criminal Code stipulating jail sentences for indecent acts that violated social norms or using force on another to commit an obscenity.

This lack of a specific definition has led to multiple interpretations among law enforcers to the point of weakening the position of the victims before the law, according to Uli Pangaribuan, a lawyer with the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women'€™s Association for Justice (LBH APIK).

She said lawyers representing the victims often ended up arguing with police investigators over the charges to be pressed as neither party could agree on the difference between sexual harassment and offensive behavior.

She said the foundation always insisted the police use Article 289 of the Criminal Code on sexual harassment, which carries a maximum nine-year prison sentence, as the police tended to use Article 355 on offensive behavior, which carries a lesser punishment.

'€œThe police say groping is just offensive behavior because there is no struggling and the victim is still dressed. While for us, the [struggling and opening clothes] constitutes attempted rape,'€ Uli told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

The Constitutional Court recently dropped the term offensive behavior from the article.

Uli said the difficulty for the victim did not stop even after the police charged the suspects under Article 289. '€œUnlike rape where victims can use a visum et repertum as evidence, sexual harassment cases usually leave no evidence, which is always requested by the police. This poses a challenge in bringing the case to court.'€

She said it could take months and even years before the case was brought to court, or eventually dropped due to lack of evidence.

The number of sexual harassment cases reported to the foundation was much smaller than that of cases of violence against women, which amounted to 600 in 2013. LBH APIK is currently handling three sexual harassment cases, including a case of five women against an executive of a major media organization.

The city police did not list sexual harassment cases in their 2013 annual report and only reported 57 cases of rape, 36 of which made their way to court.

Nationally, the number of reports of violence against women remains high. In 2012, The National Commission on Violence against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded 4,336 cases of sexual abuse. Of this figure, 118 cases were categorized as sexual harassment.

The total number of cases of violence against women reported that year was 211,822.

In the recent case, a woman reported four employees of city-owned PT Transjakarta to the city police for sexual harassment.

The police said the four suspects would be charged under Article 281 of the Criminal Code which carries a maximum three-year jail sentence.

Transjakarta Management Authority spokeswoman Sri Ulina Pinem said that the authority had suspended four employees who were allegedly involved in the case.

'€œYes [we have suspended the four employees]. We are still waiting for a letter from the police which explains their involvement in the case before taking further action against them.'€

Women'€™s Research Institute executive director Sita Aripurnami said sexual harassment included unwanted attention, which was the lightest form of violence against women.

'€œHooting, kissing, sexual jokes and porn pictures sent in mailing lists that create an uncomfortable feeling can be categorized as sexual harassment,'€ she said.

She said some sexual harassment cases could be settled within a company, organization or among the individuals.

'€œCompanies should have a code of conduct and sanctions so victims of sexual harassment cases know where to report their cases. The cases could be brought to the police if the company fails to settle the problem or the perpetrator repeats the action,'€ she said.

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