College students campaign against gender-based violence in Sukabumi, West Java, on Monday. (Antara Photo/Budiyanto)

#HearMeToo Hopes to Inspire More Victims of Gender-Based Violence to Speak Up


NOVEMBER 30, 2018

Jakarta. Riding on the positive momentum created by the growing #MeToo movement across the globe, rights organizations in Indonesia hope this year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign will help bring women's issues to the fore and encourage victims of sexual violence to speak up.

A nationwide survey by the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in 2017 showed that at least a third of all Indonesian women had experienced violence in their lives.

"In many cases, instead of receiving proper assistance or help, victims are told to keep silent. We want to change this custom of silencing survivors. There is nothing normal about violence," UN Women program management specialist, Lily Puspasari, said at a press conference on Tuesday.

She added that the so-called 16 Days campaign serves as a reminder that society must unite against the persisting normalization of violence against women.

The campaign, launched in 1991, kicks off on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Nov. 25 every year and ends on Dec. 10, with the observance of Human Rights Day.

Women's Legal Aid Institute (LBH APIK) director Siti Mazuma, popularly known as Zuma, said her office dealt with more than 600 cases of violence against women and children in the greater Jakarta area alone last year and that most involved domestic violence.

She said the recent case against Baiq Nuril Maknun illustrates the complex challenges faced by victims of sexual violence, who are often revictimized just by coming forward.

The Supreme Court sentenced Nuril to six months' imprisonment and a fine of Rp 500 million ($34,000) earlier this month for defaming Muslim, her former boss, after a recording of his lustful phone call to her leaked to the public.

Though the recording had been Nuril's small attempt to defend herself against his unwanted sexual advances, it landed her in prison instead.

Zuma said many women have trouble speaking up because they are afraid and reluctant to admit that they are victims of sexual violence because society still tends to blame the victims.

"Nuril, along with other women who come forward to report their experiences, go through the same kind of dilemma," Zuma said.

Women's Rights Are Human Rights

Choirul Anam, a commissioner at the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM), emphasized that the term "women's rights" does not set it apart from human rights.

"It actually stresses how we need more effort when it comes to women because they face very specific challenges and conditions," Anam said.

Mariana Amiruddin, a commissioner at the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), echoed this sentiment.

Lily of UN Women added that the first step towards gender equality is freeing women and girls from gender-based violence.

The theme of this year's 16 Days campaign is #HearMeToo, which rides on the wave of success generated by last year's #MeToo movement, further highlighting that many women have experienced some form of sexual violence in their lives.

UN data showed that one in every three women or girls globally would experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetimes, most frequently perpetrated by an intimate partner.

Though it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of campaigns such as 16 Days, Lily said there has been increased awareness on the issue of violence against women and girls as seen by growing discussions on social media and the high number of people signing online petitions related to the issue.

"People are more aware and more likely to speak up that violence against women and girls cannot be tolerated, which has been further supported by the growing use of social media," Lily said.

Zuma said the effectiveness of such campaigns can be measured by the increasing number of victims reporting their experiences.

"When we campaign, we provide a space for women who used to be afraid to speak up; it's so effective and consequently increases the number of reports we receive on violence against women," she said.