‘In Bali, a woman’s feet were cut off’: #MeToo time for Indonesia? | This Week In Asia

‘In Bali, a woman’s feet were cut off’: #MeToo time for Indonesia? | This Week In Asia

Earlier this year, at a march for women’s equality in the Indonesian city of Bandung, university lecturer Saras Dewi and her fellow marchers were almost run over by a man on a bicycle. They escaped unscathed – as did the perpetrator.

At a similar event in Jakarta, male bystanders heckled them as they marched to the National Monument, a popular meeting spot in the capital. On social media, they were called horrible names. But the women ignored the abuse and focused instead on their goal of calling attention to gender discrimination in Indonesia.

Saras, 35, who teaches philosophy at the University of Indonesia, is among the growing number of young women stepping up and speaking out against gender-based violence in Indonesia, fuelled by the momentum of the #MeToo movement that has rapidly spread since last year.

Have you been Grabbed? #MeToo, say Indonesians

“Women are realising that there is a huge issue,” Saras says. “We are stubborn. With the issue of sexual violence, we have to be stubborn.”

Women say violence is perpetrated by continued gender discrimination in the country of 260 million.

This is a society that has a deep-rooted culture of victim blaming and is quick to judge survivors of abuse and violence. Claims of domestic violence are also hastily dismissed.

This month, Gadjah Mada University responded to a female student’s sexual assault by blaming her for the incident, asking her to “repent” and even discouraging the student press from calling her a victim, implying that she had consented to the assault.

Saras has helped rape and sexual abuse survivors, both male and female, by personally counselling them and then supporting them if they choose legal action. She helped one student by accompanying her to the police to testify after her rape.

“Since Indonesians are still biased, they tend to blame the victims of sexual abuse, making it even harder for them to seek justice. Solidarity is the key to change the tide to a gender-sensitive…

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