Confronting Victim Blaming on Jakarta Streets
by Mayzura Restalia Munaf
It’s been one year and eleven days since Hollaback! Jakarta was founded by our impassioned team leader, Angie. Her Facebook post on January 20, 2016, which called for interested and altruistic hearts to help start up and run the Hollaback! Movement in Jakarta, garnered the attention of many. Today, we are very lucky to have six core members in the team, who are united with the ultimate goal to end street harassment in hectic, swarming Jakarta — we simply want to walk outside, without having to cross our arms (to cover our chests) and to lower our skirts in the “windy weather” (so our legs would not look too revealing). We were all (and still are) seriously fed up with harassment. We want to feel safe in public space.
However, we soon came to a realization that set the stage for this question: are there other groups here focusing on solely fighting against street harassment in Jakarta or Indonesia? From what we found, there are a number of organizations that are working on addressing violence against women, but not specifically focusing on street harassment or harassment in public space. With that in mind, we dug our heels in for our first year, and tried our best to get Hollaback! Jakarta up and running — for targets, victims, bystanders, the media, and activists of similar and related causes.
We learned that there is still a lot of work to do to raise public awareness about what constitutes street harassment and that it is indeed a form of gender-based violence. I conversed with a female survey respondent during our first ever chalk walk on December 4, 2016 about cases of rape, and she casually stated her “uncasual” opinion to me: “Well if the woman’s clothes provoke the man, then it’s entirely her fault.” I had to physically compose myself after hearing those words. Seriously? It’s the 21st Century! Keeping myself calm and collected, I said in response:
“Really Bu? Think about it. The man’s actions, are the man’s actions. It is HIS decision to feel “seduced” and it is HIS mindless decision to harass the woman. Nobody deserves to be raped, regardless if that person wears a hijab or a skirt. Don’t you think it’s unfair if women were to be blamed, when clearly, they are the ones being attacked?”
I was very glad that she was still there, immersed in what I was trying to say even though I thought that my opposing stance would block my opinions away from her. But no, she was all ears, and she gently replied, “…right, I see. That can be true…”
You see? A simple, cordial conversation like that, which I thought would not even keep her to stay for a second, actually began to shift her misunderstanding of blaming rape victims. Public interactions, similar to the one I encountered in Jalan Sudirman during Car Free Day, in a condensed intersection where Jakartans of different political stances, moral views, religious beliefs and socioeconomic statuses meet, is a powerful platform to convivially reintroduce and voice out the issue of street harassment in Jakarta.
Here’s to many more conversations in 2017!