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As Campus Sex Assault Forces Reckoning In Indonesia, a Woman Is Jailed For Her Harasser's Words

A woman was just sentenced to six months behind bars for sharing a recording of her boss sexually harassing her.

by VICE Staff
13 November 2018, 9:15am

Photo by Umar Wicksano

Things have a real habit of going one step forward, two steps back in Indonesia. Last week, allegations of a sexual assault cover-up at one of the country's most-prestigious universities set off a wider conversation about rape culture and ongoing issues with impunity. By Thursday of last week, hundreds of students were rallying at Yogyakarta's University of Gadjah Mada in support of a student known only as "Agni" who was sexually assaulted on a campus community service trip and then punished for reporting the assault to her professors while her assailant was able to graduate without issue.

The university was forced to finally react to the allegations, which were broken not by mainstream media outlets, but by student journalists in the campus press. The alleged rapist, a man whose name has been all over social media after he was doxxed last week, has been reported to the police and the university itself eventually said it would aid the authorities to ensure that Agni gets justice (but not before a dean said that he wished the student journalists didn't "blow up" the case in the press in the first place).


Watch: How To Get High Schoolers To Rethink Sexual Consent And Assault (HBO)


Soon, the hashtag #kitaAGNI, or "we're Agni," was trending in a way that #metoo never did in Indonesia. It seemed like the country was finally being pushed to address its deep issues with victim blaming, sexual assault, and a general tendency to not take claims of sexual harassment seriously.

But then, the same week, a different story broke that shows how far the country still has to go. A teacher in Mataram, a city on the island of Lombok, was sentenced to six months in prison for sharing a recording of her boss, the principal of her school, sexually harassing her. That's because the audio recording itself, in which the principal says some gross and sexually explicit stuff, was apparently considered "pornography" under Indonesia's controversial telecommunications law.

So a woman who had to suffer the repeated sexual harassment of her boss until she recorded one of these exchanges and got him fired is now facing jail time for the that same conversation making it out into the world. (To make matters worse, her lawyers claim she wasn't even the one who publicly shared the recording, her friend did.)

And what about the principal, the guy who actually said all the sexually explicit stuff on the recording? It turns out he was the one who filed the charges against teacher—her name is Baiq Nuril Maknun—around the same time the recording was made public. A local court in Mataram first threw the case out, but then the Supreme Court overturned that ruling and sentenced Nuril to six months behind bars. Just to drive home the point here, let's wrap this up in a single sentence: a woman in Indonesia was just jailed because the words of her harasser were so sexually explicit that the law considered them a "violation of morality." If that's not a travesty of justice, we don't know what is.

She's now being forced to beg the president to intervene in her case.

"Mr. President, I'm only asking for justice because I'm the victim here," she told a reporter with Kompas. "Am I wrong to try to defend myself in my own way? I'm asking for justice."

And the thing is, the law that was used to persecute Nuril, the Electronic Information and Transaction Law, or UU ITE in the local press, has been criticized as a draconian tool prone to misuse and over-reach since it was passed into law back in 2008. It's the same law that was used to jail a woman for telling her friend, via a chat app, that she was being abused by her husband (the court ruled that she had "defamed" her spouse). It's been used to arrest a woman who made a few memes that made fun of a politician implicated in one of the biggest corruption scandals in recent history and it a law that makes the victims of revenge porn too scared to come forward.

It's basically a law used to police people's speech, and one that far too often sides with the powerful over the oppressed.

"Nuril is one of the many women in Indonesia who don't receive justice when they are victims of sexual abuse," Rudi, the deputy director of the Mataram chapter of a national organization against UU ITE, told Kompas. "Instead they are criminalized with the UU ITE. This is really concerning because the state should provide protection for victims."

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News
indonesia
Campus sexual assault
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Indonesia sexual assault
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Universitas Gadjah Mada