The following blog post was written by William K., who recalls a conversation he had with a woman about her experience of street harassment in Jakarta.
Hello. This is me. The meeting with everyone is here right?
-Hi… Who are you?
I just texted you less than 2 minutes ago.
-Oh yes, I got it now. Sorry, I did not recognize you because you look very different from your photo on Whatsapp.
I know. It is actually a picture of me from last year. Before I started to wear a hijab.
-You surely look a bit different. Nonetheless, your jilbab has a very nice and fashionable pattern.
Terima Kasih. It takes a bit of time to set it up though. (Laugh)
-May I ask why did you start to wear a hijab? I hope you do not mind me asking you that but I am always a bit curious to understand the reasons which lead a woman to begin wearing a veil.
-What do you mean? The men in your family or your community asked you to do it?
No. I meant the men outside. The ones in the street, lingering at a warung, waiting on their motorcycles or drinking a coffee on the sideways. Groups of young men usually, but also older ones sometimes, who cross my way all along my days. It is because of them that I started to wear it. I could not stand their daily harassments anymore.
-I am sorry to hear that. It is unfortunately not the first time that I heard such stories. To be honest, one of my foreign female friends even chose to not renew her contract and leave Indonesia because of that issue.
Did something bad happen to her?
-Thankfully nothing horrible but plenty of unpleasant behaviors. Including physical abuses a couple of times. A man touched her breast briefly in Jakarta once, and a few teenagers grabbed her butt in a kampung.
Same for me somehow. Only “minor” abuses but I hated them so much. And recently, as I am going out more, I was very tired. So, I decided to wear a jilbab to stop these harassments.
-And since you wear it, you have no more problems?
I would not say “never”, but it has tremendously decreased. Almost no more catcalls, silly words, staring and frivolous laughs.
-So you are not wearing it for any religious reasons?
No. I am a Muslim but I was fine without hijab before. I was just tired of men’s behavior. I wanted to walk in peace. Now, I feel safer with a hijab. I became transparent.
-I know but is it really the best solution? Is it women’s fault? Why should you cover your body to feel safe? They should cover their mouths no? Do you want to become transparent?
I agree but what can I do? I cannot change their mentalities.
-How about you fight back at every man who harassed you? (Laugh)
That would be awesome! I totally agree but my life has already lots of fights to deal with. I really wish I could but I cannot add another one now. Me too, I surely hope that men could be more respectful towards girls. Maybe I do lose a battle here, but I don’t have the strength to fight them all. One day hopefully.
Terima kasih, William!