women's rights

In Indonesia, Ride-Hailing Apps Fail to Adequately Address Sexual Abuse

As sexual abuse cases against women commuters rise, ride-hailing companies are criticised for their inaction.
translated by Jade Poa

In Indonesia, ride-hailing apps, particularly on the back of motorcycles, is a popular alternative to beating the country’s notorious traffic. As Indonesians increasingly embrace ride-hailing apps like Go-Jek and Grab however, cases of sexual harassment and abuse have quickly risen as well.

The conversation around sexual harassment on such vehicles was most recently triggered by an attack on a rider, Belafitria, who requested only her first name be released. Her story gained popularity after she shared her story with local media in her hometown of Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city. Local media reported that Belafitria was riding on a Grab Bike, when her driver, Fatchul Fauzy, 27, drove her down an unfamiliar road. The road became darker and emptier, until Belafitria became suspicious and asked where he was taking her. Fauzy then allegedly reached back and groped her upper thigh forcing Belafitria to leap off the motorcycle and run in the opposite direction. Less than 24 hours later, Fauzy was in handcuffs.


Belafitria’s case is not isolated. An existing online petition is simultaneously updated with every case of sexual harassment by online drivers in Indonesia. The recent spike in cases however, has caused alarm.

Last year, a woman claimed her driver mugged and sexually assaulted her while riding in a Grab Car. In July 2017, another Grab Car driver attempted to rape his passenger in Gowa, South Sulawesi. And the issue isn’t exclusive to Indonesia. In Malaysia, a grab driver allegedly raped his female passenger while driving her home in June 2017. In Thailand, a Grab driver was arrested for “grabbing his passenger all over.”

A recent video uploaded by @dearcatcallers.id also sparked outrage online. The video shows a Grab Bike driver groping his passenger’s upper thigh. Holding back tears, the passenger pulled out her phone and recorded her driver’s actions so she could report the abuse.

And, in another incident reported by local media in 2018, this time on Go-Jek, a 28-year-old victim ordered a Go-Car from Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta International Airport. She fell asleep in the car, and the driver, Angrizal Noviandi, 30, drove off course from her destination. When the victim awoke, the driver was groping her and attempted to rape her. To deter Noviandi, the victim told him she was two months pregnant. He dropped her off on the side of the road and drove off with her cellphone.

Grab and Go-Jek claim to have preventative policies in place to address sexual harassment. Drivers who commit sexual assault are immediately terminated, and all drivers are required to undergo training before being given a license to drive passengers. But the response to recent cases of the two companies, which boast a strong foothold across Southeast Asia, has been disappointing to women’s rights activists.


In October 2018, the Instagram account @indonesiafeminis uploaded a screenshot of a woman’s experience being sexually assaulted by her Grab driver.

The post reads: “Yesterday, one of my good friends was sexually assaulted by a Grab Car driver, who kissed her on the lips. She couldn’t do anything because she was afraid he would get violent. The driver also forced her to rate him five stars while she was still in the car.”

In response, a Grab Indonesia spokesperson told local media that since the passenger didn’t file a formal complaint, they couldn’t take any legal action against the driver. Instead, they tried to convince the victim to meet with her assailant to make amends, which she refused.

In the past, Grab has chosen to resolve and mediate such cases “privately” and set up meetings between victims and perpetrators. Azriana Manalu, head of the Indonesian Women’s Commission, said that by choosing not to file a police report, Grab Indonesia is making a statement that it doesn’t take sexual assault seriously. “Sexual violence tramatizes victims. Actions that prevent the victim from recovering must be avoided,” Manalu told Tirto.

The Ministry of Transportation’s regulation no. 118 of 2018, states that online transportation drivers are obligated to provide ample protection to their passengers, keep them safe and comfortable on the road, and provide them with a means of filing a complaint. After the string of sexual abuse cases, Grab finally sought the help of the Indonesian Women’s Commission and agreed to work with a legal aid institution to assist passengers in future cases. It has also updated its policy to include more preventative measures like a Share My Ride feature, selfie authentication, surveillance cameras, and emergency buttons.


Still, Manalu believes Grab must improve its recruitment system to include more extensive vetting.

Go-Jek meanwhile, told VICE that every report of sexual assault they receive is immediately referred to the company’s emergency unit, which sends someone to meet with the victim, investigate the case, and offer assistance. Head of Corporate Communications at Go-Jek, Devin Nugroho said, “We provide physical checkups, medication, and psychiatric services to aid the process of healing from trauma.” He said Go-Jek also offers legal aid to both the passenger and the driver should they wish to take the case to the courts.

Nugroho also said Go-Jek is working alongside Hollaback!, an NGO that works to prevent and address sexual assault in the public sphere, as well as legal aid firms and local police.

This is a step towards the right direction. Rika Rosvianti, founder of a community that monitors sexual assault on urban transportation, said the online transportation industry should work alongside NGOs to build a more comprehensive system to prevent and respond to cases of sexual assault. “This is not a mere formality. It’s important to have and enforce an effective standard operational procedure to handle sexual assault,” she wrote in a statement.

In an attempt to curb the incidents, Indonesia’s ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (KPPA) has also set up a citizen’s complaint system to encourage victims to report sexual assault, and to "instil people’s trust in the online transportation industry and prove that it can guarantee women’s rights.”

Indeed, harassment cases related to ride-hailing apps is indicative of a larger problem. Mariana Amuruddin, a member of the Women’s Commission, told VICE that she believes sexual assault on ride-hailing apps is rooted in Indonesian culture. Many Indonesians, she said, still believe sexual assault in the public sphere is acceptable. “The public sees women as too sensitive, so it becomes easy to blame them,” she told VICE.

Amuruddin emphasized that sexual assault isn’t limited to ride-hailing apps, but extends to the entire public sphere. This warrants strict enforcement of the law. “As long as our culture sees assault as something serious, policy must be strictly enforced on all public transportation, not just ride-hailing apps.”

This article originally appeared on VICE ID.