Jakarta. More than 2,000 people participated in Women’s March Jakarta 2018 on Saturday (03/03) to demand an end to gender-based violence in Indonesia.
Participants, many carrying colorful posters and some even accompanied by their pet dogs, started to march from Sari Pan Pacific Hotel on Jalan Thamrin to Aspiration Park in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta at around 8.00 a.m.
Among the marchers were students, activists, artists, members of indigenous communities, migrant workers, domestic workers and factory workers.
Most were dressed in purple and tosca, the semi-official dress code of Women’s March Jakarta 2018.
According to the organizers’ official Instagram account, the color purple represents courage and dedication to end violence against women, while green symbolizes peace and hope.
Despite their colorful posters and outfits, the marchers presented serious demands for government policy changes.
One of their main objectives was to push the government’s hand in ratifying the bill on the elimination of sexual violence, which has been stalled in the national legislature since 2016.
“Last year, Jokowi declared that sexual violence is an extraordinary crime. If it is an extraordinary crime, then it is time for the government to take concrete steps to ensure that no more women are subjected to violence,” National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) chairwoman Azriana Manalu said in a speech during the march, referring to President Joko Widodo by his popular nickname.
The new law is expected to offer better protection for women who are at greater risk of gender-based violence, such as factory workers and domestic workers.
The domestic workers bill meanwhile, which has still not been ratified since it was first put to the House of Representatives 14 years ago, was also highlighted during the march.
Leni Suryani, a domestic worker and member of the National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy (Jala PRT), said many of her colleagues face poor working conditions due to the misconception that they are not workers, but merely helpers or servants.
Another legal instrument that was the target of ridicule by many of the marchers, was the draft revision of Indonesia’s Criminal Code.
As it stands, it contains articles that outlaw zina, or adultery, unmarried couples living together, sex education and the sharing of information on contraception.
The marchers echoed what many experts have said, by stating that these articles can be used to persecute marginalized groups and victims of sexual abuse.
“If we want to stop gender-based sexual violence against women, we have to create a culture that respects our bodies. Against those who discriminate against and criminalize women, what do we do? We fight,” Azriana said.
The marchers also spoke out against child marriage and domestic abuse and advocated for better protection of female migrant workers and for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
On a small stage set up at Aspiration Park, singers Melanie Subono, Lala Karmela, Yacko and the band Sister in Danger took turns to perform.
There was also a flash mob by Kabar Bumi, or the Big Family of Indonesian Migrant Workers.
Actress Hannah Al Rashid, who is a United Nations Sustainable Development Goals ambassador for gender equality, also read a poem titled “Because We’re Women,” written by the late Australian women’s liberation movement leader Joyce Stevens.
Poet Saras Dewi, who is a philosophy lecturer and student counselor at the University of Indonesia, also read her own poem titled “Suaraku” (“My Voice”), which was inspired by the victims of sexual harassment she has assisted.
“I wrote the poem to say that these victims are not alone; their voices can never be covered up or buried,” Saras told the Jakarta Globe.
Praise From Jokowi
President Jokowi responded to the march with a post on Instagram and Twitter, saying: “To develop Indonesia, we need tough women. Both those that can take to the streets, and those who stay behind with their families… Congratulations to the women who participated in the Women’s March today in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8.”
Women’s March Jakarta 2018 deputy organizer Naila Rizqi Zakiah said in a statement that platitudes and congratulations are nice, but not enough.
“We need the Criminal Code to be reviewed. We need more laws that are in favor of, instead of criminalizing, victims,” said Naila, who is a public defender at the Community Legal Aid Institute (LBH Masyarakat).
The women’s march movement started in the United States in response to the election of Donald Trump as president, but Indonesian feminists who are part of the Jakarta Feminist Discussion Group decided to join the movement by organizing a march in the Indonesian capital last year to advocate for local issues.
This year, marches were also held in Lampung, Serang (Banten), Bandung (West Java), Salatiga (Central Java), Surabaya and Malang (East Java), Yogyakarta, Denpasar (Bali), Pontianak (West Kalimantan), Kupang (East Nusa Tenggara), Sumba (West Nusa Tenggara) and Tondano (North Sulawesi).
“The women’s march channels the voices of women who are not heard by the state. We demand justice, equality and humane treatment for all women. We demand that all forms of violence against women are put to an end by enforcing the law and by not treating women as sexual objects,” said Siti Musdah Mulia, chairwoman of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace.