The movement against sexual harassment is gaining traction in Indonesia. (Antara Photo/Sigid Kurniawan)

Central Java Students Protest to Demand Sacking of Teacher Accused of Sexual Harassment


JANUARY 30, 2019

Jakarta. Hundreds of middle school students in Wonogiri, Central Java, have staged protests to demand that one of their teachers be sacked for alleged sexual assault of a female student, in the latest example of growing awareness of sexual harassment in Indonesia.

The man, only identified by the initials H.M., teaches English at SMPN 1 Slogohimo in Wonogiri. He is accused of having touched the student in an inappropriate manner, according to a report by

The incident, which allegedly occurred in front of other students, resulted in protests over the weekend and on Monday by hundreds of students who gathered outside their classrooms to demand his dismissal. 

He was no longer teaching at the school as of Wednesday, after he was transferred to the district education and culture agency, according to local media reports. 

Local police are reportedly investigating the sexual assault allegation, though they have yet to receive a formal report from the alleged victim's parent or guardian.

The protests and the teacher's subsequent removal highlight significant support in the fight against sexual harassment. 

"Along with increasing awareness of sexual harassment, schools must also be ready with a code of ethics for teachers. Ideally, teacher education must be integrated with gender and anti-sexual violence in the national curriculum," Olin Monteiro, a senior women's and social issues activist and one of the founders of the Indonesian Women's Coalition (KPI), told the Jakarta Globe via WhatsApp.

She acknowledged the slow but real progress in raising public awareness on matters concerning sexual assault and harassment, with many social media accounts leading efforts to stop bullying and gender violence.

"However, there must still be an effective strategy to campaign on our core message. We must move slowly but surely and refrain from protesting every little thing. Sometimes the movements are still in a hurry and the analysis still weak," Olin said. 

Legal Fights

The country saw a #MeToo-like campaign called #KitaAgni ("We Are Agni") going viral last year in support a student of Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta with the pseudonym Agni, who was shunned by her lecturers and fellow students and faced abuse on social media after she was allegedly sexually assaulted during a community service trip.

Last year's case of Baiq Nuril Maknun also prompted many people to rally both online and offline to show their support. Baiq received a jail sentence for spreading an audio recording documenting alleged sexual harassment against her by the school principal where she worked as a contract teacher at the time. The tape was deemed immoral and punishable under Indonesia's notorious Electronic Information and Transactions Law. 

Baiq is now waiting for a judicial review to overturn a Supreme Court decision that upheld the prison sentence imposed on her by a lower court. 

The police have dropped a countersuit against her harasser citing a lack of evidence and the fact that "there was no physical contact" to constitute sexual harassment under Indonesia's criminal code.

"The existing gaps in the law fail to protect victims and allow for impunity for sexual offenses in the country," Amnesty International said in a recent statement on the case.

"Authorities in Indonesia must revise the definition of sexual harassment in the criminal code and include verbal sexual harassment and other forms of it as offenses. This is a necessary step to enable effective investigations into all cases of sexual harassment in the future," the organization said. 

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are currently deliberating the elimination of sexual violence bill, which activists and women's rights groups said would have allowed the police to charge Baiq's alleged harasser. 

Though the House looks set to pass the bill, the fight is far from over. 

Maimon Herawati – who in December started an online petition demanding Shopee advertisements featuring South Korean girl group Blackpink be taken off the air because they were "indecent" – launched a petition against the bill saying that it would promote extramarital sex. 

More than 130,000 people have so far signed her online petition, while a similar number of people have signed a counterpetition in support of the bill.