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Jakarta Post

Rape victims '€˜blamed'€™ in Indonesian culture

  • Dewanti A. Wardhani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, August 8, 2014   /  09:07 am

Indonesia'€™s patriarchal society has hindered victims of sexual assaults in getting justice as members of the legal system often lack sensitivity, activists have claimed.

Founder of the rape-survivor support group Lentera Indonesia, Wulan Danoekoesoemo, said many rape victims chose not to report their cases to the police because the law itself did not side with the victim.

'€œSome victims feel hopeless because it'€™s difficult to process a sexual-assault case. Even if the cases are processed, the sentences for the offenders are too short,'€ she said.

Wulan cited the recent case of four Transjakarta employees who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman in a shelter in Harmoni, Central Jakarta.

'€œThe men were sentenced to 18 months in prison. After that they will be free. On the other hand, [the victim] is traumatized. She'€™s scarred for life and she will have a difficult time moving on,'€ Wulan told The Jakarta Post recently.

In the Transjakarta case, not only were the four defendants sentenced to short terms in prison, the victim was also verbally harassed by the panel of judges during the trial.

According to activist Kartika Jahja, who supported the victim throughout the trial process, the judges and the defendants'€™ lawyers went as far as to ask about her clothes and ethnicity.

'€œDuring the trial, the panel of judges and the defendants'€™ lawyers asked [her] such shallow and dumb questions as '€˜what were the colors of your undergarments that day?'€™ and '€˜you'€™re from Aceh so you must be a Muslim. Why did you wear short pants?'€™'€ Kartika wrote on her Facebook page recently.

Kartika criticized the questioning the victim. '€œHow are those questions relevant to the case? ['€¦] I was afraid that [she] would have a mental breakdown during the trial but she stayed strong,'€ she said.

The questions posed by the panel of judges and the lawyers appear to demonstrate that the country has a tendency to blame the victim by questioning her choice of clothing.

Victim-blaming in sexual assault cases in Indonesia is not unheard of.

In 2011, then Jakarta governor Fauzi Bowo, in response to a case of a gang rape of a woman by four men in a minivan in South Jakarta, said that women should not wear miniskirts while on public transportation to avoid '€œany unwanted consequences'€.

Women'€™s Legal Aid Foundation (LBH APIK) executive Uli Pangaribuan said that such stigmatizing was why many rape victims chose to keep quiet.

'€œThe reason why many rape victims in this country choose not to report to the police is because they'€™re ashamed and they'€™re afraid that society will put the blame on them,'€ Uli told the Post recently.

She said that many people tended to normalize rape if the victim was wearing a mini skirt or a tight blouse.

'€œIt'€™s very sad that people think women are '€˜asking for it'€™ when they wear mini skirts or tight blouses. It does not justify rape,'€ Uli said.

She said that many rape victims had to endure a second trauma during the trial process.

Not only was the Transjakarta victim verbally harassed, she said, but the court did not allow her lawyers and supporters to be present during the trial.

'€œI understand it was a closed trial, but [she] should at least have had some support in there. [She] was all alone and she had to answer questions like, '€˜why were you wearing short pants in public?'€™ and '€˜how short were they?'€™'€

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