Activists have demanded an explanation from legislators over alleged verbal harassment toward a female candidate during a test to select prospective members of the national broadcasting watchdog, despite the supposed victim denying that anything untoward took place.
Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), said in a statement on Thursday that her office sought to ensure that the House of Representatives was serious about upholding human rights and eliminating discrimination against women.
Yuniyanti said she believed questions asked by some members of House Commission I to the female candidates for posts on the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) were irrelevant.
Some legislators, she said, were asking about the candidates’ physical appearance and personal relationships.
The controversy came to light after Komnas Perempuan reported four legislators to the House Ethics Council for alleged harassment of KPI commissioner hopeful Agatha Lily, 33, during vetting in July.
Tubagus Hasanuddin, a deputy chairman of House Commission I, which oversees, foreign, defense and information affairs, was accused of flirting with Agatha and asking her personal question about her marital status.
Another legislator is alleged to have publicly asked for her phone number and complimented her for being beautiful.
But Agatha has said there was no misconduct on the part of the legislators.
“There was no harassment and I was really surprised when my name was mentioned and it was said that I was teased by some legislators during the questioning,” she said.
“I know Komnas Perempuan is defending women, but I would have reacted harshly if I was harassed and I didn’t feel like I was disrespected,” she said, adding that the context of the situation had been blown out of proportion.
Komnas Perempuan has chosen to pursue the issue, regardless.
Yuniyanti said questions asked by the legislators could “disrupt the candidates’ integrity and focus” and in the long term could set a bad precedent and prevent capable female candidates from being selected.
“The questions and comments often disguised as jokes could be considered harassment if looked at with gender equality in mind,” she said, adding that it was not the first time that legislators had asked female candidates inappropriate questions in tests for KPI selection.
Tubagus claimed he was only trying to be friendly because he knew Agatha personally and that his jokes were only meant as an ice-breaker.
“Agatha used to be a KPI official and she often met with Commission I members. So we already knew each other. We didn’t think there were any barriers to joking around with her. It was just normal,” he said on Wednesday.
Tubagus said that following the report by Komnas Perempuan, he immediately contacted Agatha to ask whether she felt harassed during the test.
Mahfudz Siddiq, the House Commission I chairman, said Komnas Perempuan’s accusation was baseless and unreasonable, and questioned why it was reporting the matter five months after the vetting took place.
Mahfudz also criticized Komnas Perempuan for filing a report to the House Ethics Council without verifying the allegations with Agatha.
Nurul Arifin, a female Golkar Party member who was present during the vetting, also said that she did not witness any improper conduct on the part of her male colleagues.
“There was no such thing, not even verbal harassment, because it if happened I would have protested,” she said.