INTERVIEW-Indonesian woman jailed for reporting harassment urges end to victim blaming

by Beh Lih Yi | @BehLihYi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 10 July 2019 11:17 GMT

Baiq Nuril Maknun, a teacher on the island of Lombok who was jailed after she tried to report sexual harassment, reacts during a press conference with Indonesia's Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 8, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

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The former school teacher from the island of Lombok complained of getting lewd phone calls from the principal of a high school where she worked

By Beh Lih Yi

KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An Indonesian woman sentenced to jail for reporting sexual harassment called on Wednesday for an end to the culture of victim blaming as she appealed for justice in a case that has sparked public anger.

Baiq Nuril Maknun, a former school teacher from the island of Lombok, is due to serve a six-month sentence after Indonesia's top court last week found her guilty of violating a communications law.

Maknun had complained of getting lewd phone calls from the principal of a high school where she worked. She recorded some of the phone calls and reported them to a colleague, who later distributed the recording.

The principal lost his job, but reported Maknun to the police under the communications law for distributing immoral content.

"This is an injustice," Maknun told the Thomson Reuters Foundation as her legal team prepared to seek a pardon from President Joko Widodo after exhausting all other avenues for appeal.

"I am only defending my rights and my dignity as a woman. I didn't do anything wrong," the mother-of-three added by phone from the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

The court ruling has been widely criticised, including from government figures and human rights defenders, who said it would set a bad precedent and deter other victims from reporting abuses.

In overturning a lower court's earlier decision to acquit Maknun, the top court ordered the six-month jail term as well as a fine of 500 million rupiah ($35,000).

"Other women would not come forward in the future because of this kind of punishment. People will be afraid what happened to me - this persecution - will happen to them as well," she said.

"I hope I will be the last victim," Maknun added.

The court has defended its verdict saying it was not asked to rule on sexual harassment allegations, but on whether Maknun had electronically disseminated pornographic content and violated the communications law.

Human rights campaigners have rallied behind Maknun, issuing a joint statement on Wednesday calling on the Indonesian president to grant an amnesty and drop the charges.

The letter, signed by nine groups including the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and Jakarta-based Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, said the ruling would only "perpetuate the culture of victim-blaming".

The #MeToo movement that has taken off in the West has been slow to gain traction in Indonesia, which is the world's most populous Muslim country and socially conservative.

Women in general are still reluctant to speak up due to social pressure, although official figures show one in three Indonesian women have faced physical or sexual violence. ($1 = 14,125.0000 rupiah)

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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