Aprilia Resdini was taking the train from Bogor to Jakarta when she saw a man rubbing his crotch against the back of a female passenger, who looked uncomfortable and helpless. Aprilia moved by her side and started asking her about the train routes.
On seeing that his victim was no longer alone, the man stopped.
“The victim was aware of [what I had done] and thanked me, saying that worse things would have happened if I had not intervened,” said Aprilia, who is studying at Jakarta State University.
Nadia was not as fortunate as the woman on the train. No one came to help her when she was walking home in the upscale South Jakarta neighbourhood of Kebayoran Baru, one-night last year after work.
A man on a motorcycle rode by her, grabbed her breast and sped off laughing. Even though other people around her had witnessed the incident, they just looked on, despite Nadia’s call for help.
“A [private] security guard was right there, but he did nothing. I just cried,” she recalled.
Aprilia is the type of woman described as a “female warrior”, a bystander who will not hold back when she witnesses harassment.
The female warrior is but one of four female personas that are identified in a new report titled After Dark by Pulse Lab Jakarta, a joint initiative between the UN and the Indonesian government that combines big data and social research.
The report was launched with a public discussion at M Bloc Space in South Jakarta on Thursday, the final day of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence. After Dark explores what being safe means for women and strategies on taking public transportation at night in three major Indonesian cities – Medan in North Sumatra, Surabaya in East Java and Semarang in Central Java.
“We didn’t include Jakarta because we wanted to offer a wider perspective on women’s safety in Indonesia after the 2017 safe city audit conducted by UN Women in Jakarta,” said Maesy Angelina, a researcher at Pulse Lab Jakarta.
In the 2017 audit, which was based on infrastructure parameters such as streetlights, walkways and public transport as risk factors of sexual harassment and violence, Jakarta scored 2.5 out of the maximum 5.
The audit surveyed 2,095 locations in Jakarta and found that 43 per cent did not have access to public transportation within a 400m radius and that only 19 per cent offered access within a five to 10-minute walk.
UN Women Indonesia country representative Jamshed Kazi said that urban planning should take into account women’s safety since they had different needs from men on issues like public transportation. “Men want faster and cheaper transport, but women’s main concern is safety,” he said at the discussion.
The streets and public transportation are the two most dangerous public spaces in Indonesia for women.
A 2018 survey by the Coalition for Safe Public Space (KPRA) involving around 46,000 respondents nationwide said 33 per cent of respondents reported sexual harassment on the street and 19 per cent reported sexual harassment on public transport.
The Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked Jakarta as the world’s ninth most dangerous megacity for women in a 2017 survey that measured the prevalence of sexual violence, harmful cultural practices, access to health care and economic opportunities.
For comparison, Manila, another Southeast Asian megacity, ranked 14th in the survey.
The survey covered 19 out of 31 megacities – cities with a population of more than 10 million – on the UN list and found Cairo to be the most dangerous and London as the least dangerous.
Public transportation operators in Jakarta such as the Transjakarta BRT and the Commuter Line rail service provide special “women-only” buses and train cars to prevent sexual harassment.
But such initiatives were not enough, said chairwoman Rika Rosvianti of PerEMPUan, one of the five NGOs grouped in the KPRA. “We need more initiatives, like the concept of active bystanders,” she said.
Kazi welcomed the idea of encouraging people to intervene if the situation called for it.
“Many people witness violence before their eyes and often do nothing. Doing nothing only helps the perpetrator. Creating a safe space is everyone’s responsibility, including bystanders,” he said.
After Dark defines passive bystanders as people who are ignorant about sexual harassment as well as those who are aware of sexual harassment and want to help, but are unsure of how.
It also identifies the real concerns of people who could help – transportation drivers worry about the possibility of revenge, as they could run into the perpetrators again, while other bystanders worry that intervening could make the situation worse for the victim or victims.
The KPRA held its first bystander intervention training in November for 30 senior high school and university students from Greater Jakarta. The group plans to hold the training for 30 participants every three months.
KPRA member Hollaback Jakarta has developed the “5D” intervention method for active bystanders – Direct (confront the harasser directly), Distract (get in the way, ignore the harasser and talk to the victim), Delegate (ask for help from a third party), Delay (check on the victim post-incident) and Document (safely and responsibly record the incident, and posting it only with the victim’s consent).
Each method applies to a different situation of harassment and stresses subtler and creative ways of intervening to minimise the risk of harm to the victim and the active bystander.
The KPRA is working with public transport operators such as MRT Jakarta, Commuter Line and Gojek.
The ride-hailing service had provided training on the types of sexual harassment and how to intervene for its drivers in eight cities, said Gojek senior manager corporate affairs Alvita Chen.
“Drivers should be the allies of women, not just for [female] Gojek customers but women in general,” said Alvita, adding that 60 per cent of its drivers had clicked the article about the company’s policy on sexual harassment on its blog.
More regulated protection would be made available to women if the House of Representatives passes the sexual violence bill, which has been delayed primarily because of reservations among conservative Islamist parties like the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS). The bill is now on the 2019-2024 list of 50 priority legislation.
“A nation’s economy will not get far unless women can move around safely and contribute better to economic prosperity,” said Kavi.
THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK