The Jakarta Post
“What is catcalling? Is whistling a form of sexual harassment?” asked a commuter at Sudirman Station in Central Jakarta.
A nearby officer answered: “Catcalling is a form of sexual harassment, because whistling, shouting and comments on someone’s physical appearance in public are not compliments,” the officer said.
The officer is among 16 PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia (KCI) officers who went around the station educating commuters on sexual harassment on Tuesday. They explained the different types of sexual harassment, how to prevent them and whom to report to if someone is sexually harassed.
One commuter, Sonya, 26, said she always felt uneasy inside the commuter train when it was packed, as one never knew the intention of passengers touching others: Perhaps they wanted to pickpocket or sexually harass other passengers.
“I am glad that there is this kind of education, especially since I am a woman and commute regularly on the commuter line. I only just learned that catcalling is [a form of] sexual harassment and heard that there are more than 30 cases of it. Now I know how to prevent it,” Sonya said on Tuesday, kompas.com reported.
Similarly, 22-year-old Refia appreciated the effort. “Now I know many kinds of sexual harassment, not just physical but also verbal. I will use this knowledge to protect myself,” Refia said.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) recorded 406,178 cases of violence against women in 2018, a 14 percent increase from the previous year. Only 364 of the cases occurred in public.
KCI recorded 34 cases of sexual harassment inside commuter line trains and stations, in 20 of which the victims were willing to report the incidents to the authorities.
Meanwhile, in 2017, with 25 cases of sexual violence recorded, none of the victims were willing to go proceed with their cases and just let them rest.
KCI was assisted by Komnas Perempuan and the perEMPUan Community to educate commuters on sexual harassment, in commemoration of International Women’s Day, which fell on March 8.
“We do this to educate commuter line users on types of sexual harassments, how to prevent them and how to protect yourself and others against falling victim,” KCI spokeswoman Eva Chairunnisa explained.
Eva said commuters, whether women or men, should be on the lookout for sexual harassment, both verbal and nonverbal. Verbal sexual harassment included catcalling, such as whistling, lewd comments or conversation and jokes aimed at making someone else uncomfortable. Nonverbal sexual harassment included staring, touching, kissing or other physical activities done without consent, she added.
Rika Rosvianti, founder of the perEMPUan Community, warned that sexual harassment in public could hinder gender equality.
“Adult women and girls that are in danger of being sexually harassed on their commute would not be able to avail themselves of their citizen rights to education, health or work, let alone reach their full potential,” Rika said.
Rika said commuters should also take preventive action to avoid being sexually harassed.
“[Commuters] should be aware of their surroundings [to notice] possible victims or perpetrators of sexual harassment nearby and should report any suspicious activity to a nearby officer,” Rika told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
She said commuters should also avoid falling asleep during their commute, keep in touch with their friends and family and not be so focused on handphones that they let their guard down.
KCI and perEMPUan have prepared a series of four short videos on sexual harassment to be played at every commuter train TV screen at least for a month, with three more video series coming soon, Rika said.
Komnas Perempuan commissioner Mariana Amiruddin said the pervasive culture of disrespect of women and normalized sexual harassment let perpetrators get away without repercussions, because there was a lack of laws to restrain them.
“That is why the sexual violence bill [RUU-PKS] must be passed, so that our culture can change to protect victims of sexual harassment and punish perpetrators,” Mariana said.