A national survey by the Coalition for Safe Public Space (KRPA) has revealed that three out of five Indonesian women have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.
The poll, conducted from Nov. 25 to Dec. 10 last year, involved 62,224 respondents consisting of men and women of different ages and educational backgrounds from all 34 provinces of Indonesia.
As many as 46.80% of the respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment on public transportation, including buses (35.80%), angkot, or public cars (29.49%) and KRL Commuter Line trains (17.79%).
A volunteer from Lentera Sintas Indonesia, a support group for victims of sexual violence, said the results also showed that one out of 10 men have experienced sexual harassment in public spaces.
"But women are 13 times more likely to be harassed in public places than men,” said Rastra, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.
The survey highlighted that respondents faced 19 forms of harassment including verbal, physical and non-physical.
Other examples include whistling, making kissing sounds, dirty jokes or sexual remarks about a person’s body or clothes, grabbing, rubbing and the exposing of private parts.
“People need to know all forms of harassment so they can identify and intervene when they witness sexual harassment or assault occurring," he said, adding only 36.50% of those surveyed said they were defended or helped by witnesses.
In addition, 40.50% of respondents said most witnesses ignored such incidents while 14.80% claimed that instead of helping them, witnesses often laughed or blamed the victims.
The activist said the survey should have encouraged the government to formulate policies that are pro-victim and make public spaces safer, especially for women.
"Notably, sexual harassment often occurs on KRL [lines] when the train is full of passengers and ended without legal proceedings,” said Rastra, adding the harassers will not be punished or deterred that way.
According to data from the commuter rail line’s operator, PT Kereta Commuter Indonesia (KCI), all of the sexual harassment cases reported from 2017-2018 ended in what was dubbed a “peaceful settlement” wherein the victims and the perpetrators had agreed to settle the case out of court.
Anindya Restuviani, a representative of the KRPA, said sexual harassment in public places is considered a common thing by most Indonesians.
“Actually, witnesses can intervene in many ways such as confronting the perpetrator directly, distracting the perpetrator by asking the victim if they’re ok, or asking for help from police officers,” she said.
Although the local Jakarta government has stepped up prevention measures under which they operate women-only carriages for the TransJakarta and Commuter Line, this procedure, however, is not a long-term solution.
“Sex segregation is not the answer because the public sphere should be a safe place for all of us, both women and men,” she noted.
The high rate of sexual harassment on public transportation shows that the methods taken by the government and the transportation companies are not effective.
“Women aren’t the problem. Men who sexually harass women are the problem. The only long-term solution is to educate people early to not sexually harass,” Restuviani added.
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