Blaming the Victim Sparks Outrage in Indonesia

"Sometimes it can be intentional. They do it for fun and then the girl alleges that it’s rape. Cases of teenage rape are sometimes the victims’ fault."  

- Minister Mendikbud Nuh, Indonesia’s Education Minister

This statement has created an uproar, especially as Indonesian feminists and social activists will certainly not take it sitting down. From petition letters to street protests, a lot of other creative means of registering dissent were made by women. In Jakarta, an alliance was formed following this incident of gang rape involving a 14-year old student in Indonesia – the Alliance Rape, a group of women’s rights activists and organizations.

The women of JASS in Indonesia are right at the center of these protests.  Some campaigned for the signing of petition letters demanding apology from Minister Nuh as a public official, like what our JASS sister Dina Lumbantobing did. Many joined street protests in Jakarta. There were some women’s groups who even wanted the Education Minister to be prosecuted for his statement. 

Indeed, at this day and age it is appalling when one still hears about blaming the rape victim instead of condemning the rapist. It is more revolting when top government officials lead the blame game. As JASS Southeast Asia Regional Director Nani Zulminarni observes, “it is ironic that these kinds of statements keep coming out of the mouths of those high-ranking people in government.”

“Education Minister Should Educate, Not Discriminate!” a placard of a woman activist reads during a street protest last October 17. Women demanded accountability from government officials like Minister Nuh.

This incident also generated a string of other issues. One of these is the growing concern over the policy of some schools that prohibits women students who are victims of sexual harassment and rape from continuing their education. “It is the woman that pays the price.  She gets kicked out of school,” says Maria Mustika, one of the key persons of JASS in Indonesia. “In this scenario, we can see the unfair policies of educational institutions for women, especially regarding women and their sexuality,” adds Maria.

On November 20, JASS women activists in East Java plan to meet and discuss with Members of the Board of Education and Member of Parliament from A commission (for law) to discuss about the protection of women students from school policies that institutionalizes the expulsion of student victims of rape. On November 25, there will be at least 1,000 students and activists who will join in action against sexual violence in schools.

This string of actions of women should serve as a warning. When misogyny strikes, the collective organizing power of JASS women of Indonesia intensifies.

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