‘Victim blaming’ in latest Indonesian uni sex abuse case angers thousands

By Sri Wahyuni and Evi Mariani in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

An leading Indonesian university’s initial response to a recent sexual assault case allegedly involving two of its students has angered thousands of people, who have signed a petition demanding that the Yogyakarta institution punish the student perpetrator and the campus officials who had penalised the student victim.

In less than 24 hours, the online petition protesting against the 70-year-old Gadjah Mada University (UGM) on change.org had garnered more than 55,000 signatories by Wednesday morning, with more people signing every second to reach more than 167,000 signatories by mid-afternoon today.

“We demand that the UGM rector, the advisory board and the Research, Technology and Higher Education Ministry to strengthen regulations on preventing sexual assault and law enforcement against sex offenders,” the petition states as one of its demands.

READ MORE: An alumna at UGM appeals to the university to be a pioneer against sexual abuse

A separate call to a rally on Thursday has been circulating on social media to demand that the university thoroughly investigate the case and create a safe campus environment.

The call says that UGM is facing “a sexual violence emergency”, pointing out that the latest case was not the university’s first and that UGM has not been siding with victims.

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On November 5, Balairung published an investigative report based on the testimony of a female student under the pseudonym Agni, who gave the UGM student magazine permission to publish the full details of her account.

Agni said that a fellow student had assaulted her during a community service project (KKN) at a Maluku village on June 30, 2017. The KKN is a kind of field school programme that lasts several months, during which the students live with local families in the target village.

Homestay lodging
Agni said she was visiting a villager until late evening at their home where fellow KKN student “HS” was staying, so she decided to spend the night at HS’ homestay and return to her own lodging in the morning.

They had to share a single room that night, Agni said, but that they were separated by some distance in the room. She also said she slept fully clothed and still in her headscarf.

Early the following morning, she said she felt HS groping her, opening her top, kissing her breasts and inserting his fingers in her genitalia. She froze in momentary shock until she felt pain that prompted her to yell at HS, “What are you doing!”

Agni said she immediately reported the incident to the KKN supervisor and the UGM Community Service Department (DKPM), which managed the programme. The university officials cut short HS’ programme and sent him back to Yogyakarta, but Agni said they also blamed her for the incident, with one official telling her to “repent”, reported Balairung.

Agni said that after the assault, she often felt scared at night and ended up staying awake all night. She also had suicidal thoughts, she said as quoted by Balairung.

In November 2017, Agni learned that she received a C for her KKN assignment, while her peers on the same programme received an A or a B. Agni said she asked about the reason for her low grade, and that the KKN management responded that she had to share the blame for the incident that “embarrassed UGM” in front of the local villagers.

In the Balairung article, a university official who declined to be named said that the student press should not be in a rush to call Agni a victim. “Like a cat given salted fish, it will at least sniff it and might even eat the fish, right?” Balairung quoted the official as saying in reference to Agni.

Low grade reported
In December 2017, Agni reported the C she received for her KKN assignment and the circumstances surrounding it to her academic department, the Social and Political Sciences Faculty (Fisipol).

The Fisipol’s cooperation, alumni and research deputy dean, Poppy Sulistyaning Winanti, and the deputy dean for academics and student affairs, Wawan Mas’udi, followed up on her case to the top administrative level.

An inter-departmental independent investigation team was formed that recommended Agni’s KKN grade be revise from C to A/B. The team also recommended that the perpetrator write an apology and attend a mandatory counseling session for sexual abusers.

On Tuesday, in response to the Balairung article, Fisipol UGM posted a statement on its Instagram account, @fisipolugm, reiterating its commitment to “side with victim”.

“With this, Fisipol UGM states that we side with the survivor to find justice and a thorough solution to the problem,” the statement said.

It also said that steps had been taken to deal with “Agni’s” case, including a letter it sent to the rector on December 22, 2017, that asked the university to manage the case thoroughly.

Fisipol said that the rector arranged a closed meeting with relevant parties in response to its letter, and agreed during the meeting to set up an investigation team that involved several departments. The rector also agreed to sanction the DKPM officials for their “ignorance” in their initial handling of the incident until “the survivor” reported the case to Fisipol.

Trauma counselling
During the same meeting, Fisipol said it agreed to engage psychologists to provide trauma counseling for “the survivor”.

The statement continued that, after an intensive investigation, the team submitted its recommendations to the rector on July 20, 2018, which included punishment for the perpetrator, protection and support for the victim and improvements to managing the KKN programme.

“This is why Fisipol UGM is pushing for a thorough and speedy management of the case by implementing the follow-up measures as recommended by the investigation team,” the statement said, ending with a call to all parties to create a campus that was free from sexual abuse.

Separately, UGM public relations and protocol head Ariani said the university would continue its work to make sure that the victim received protection and justice.

“Next, UGM will soon take the necessary real steps to take the case to the legal domain,” Ariana said in a statement issued on Tuesday.

Other UGM cases
In 2016, a sexual abuse case that involved several female victims among Fisipol students rocked the university. The perpetrator, EH, was a respected lecturer and the head of the international relations department at the time of the incident.

EH was stripped of his positions, but is still officially employed as a UGM lecturer.

The investigative report in the Balairung student magazine also cited other unresolved sexual assault cases at UGM.

Sexual assault at universities

Many commentators believe that the incidents of sexual assault at universities that have emerged in the public eye are a mere tip of the iceberg.

In 2008, the University of Indonesia (UI) Law School received sexual assault reports from several students on a lecturer, TN.

As in the case of UGM’s EH, TN also sexually assaulted his students during one-on-one thesis consultations. TN was later dismissed from UI but he was still being interviewed by the media.

Women’s empowerment and rights activist Damairia Pakpahan said she had represented a sexual assault victim of a humanities lecturer at UGM, but that the case did not go anywhere.

The reporters are Jakarta Post journalists.

#kitaAGNI

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pacific Island leaders tightening the screws on press freedom, dissent

ANALYSIS: The three-hour “detention” of television New Zealand Pacific affairs reporter Barbara Dreaver for “breaking protocols” over interviewing refugees on Nauru. But Josef Benedict reports this is just part of the dismal media freedom scene in the Pacific.

At this week’s gathering of key Pacific Island leaders on the Micronesian island of Nauru, conspicuously missing were journalists from Australia’s public broadcaster.

This was because the South Pacific’s smallest nation has refused visas to journalists from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to enable them to attend and cover the four-day Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit.

And one of the Pacific’s most experienced journalists, Television New Zealand’s Barbara Dreaver was detained for more than three hours yesterday after interviewing refugees from the notorious Australian-established detention centres on the island. The Nauru government claims she was not “detained”, merely “questioned’.

READ MORE: Self-immolation, hunger strikes and suicide: Children on Nauru want to die

The Nauru government’s ban on the ABC, it says, is in retaliation for the news organisation’s “blatant interference in Nauru’s domestic politics prior to the 2016 elections, harassment of and lack of respect towards our President and… continued biased and false reporting about our country.”

But some say ABC’s criticism of Nauru’s policies on notorious Australian-run refugee detention centre on the island – plagued by widespread reports of physical, psychological and sexual abuse, with at least five suicide deaths to date – may have more to do with it.

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Those controversial camps are not on the agenda and not likely to be a subject of much discussion within the forum which ended today.

And neither is the issue of free speech and media freedom, since efforts to repress critical reporting has become increasingly common among Pacific governments.

Climate change
It is not only climate change and rising sea levels that threaten the lives and wellbeing of Pacific Islanders. Rising levels of official intolerance of dissent and free speech across the region pose a threat to the wellbeing of their democracies.

Indeed, CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, has found that these violations of freedom of expression appear to be systemic in the region.

In Fiji, attempts by the government to intimidate and silence free speech is creating a chilling effect ahead of upcoming national elections and before the date has even been set.

In February, Island Business magazine’s editor and two of its journalists were questioned under the Public Order Act over articles on the firing of a magistrate who had presided over a union dispute.

The 2016 sedition charges against The Fiji Times – widely regarded as the country’s last independent news outlet – saw its publisher, editor-in-chief and two others hauled through the courts over a reader’s letter to the editor that allegedly contained controversial views about Muslims.

Human rights groups believe the charges were politically motivated. The state has filed an appeal against their acquittal.

Journalists in Papua New Guinea often work in fear and many believe media freedom has been eroded. In February this year, PNG Post Courier reporter, Franky Kapin, was attacked and assaulted by staff from the Morobe Province Governor’s office for alleged biased reporting.

Journalists threatened
Journalists continue to be threatened and barred from covering the ongoing crisis at the Australian refugee detention center on Manus Island (after its closure) in the country’s north.

Senior Papua New Guinean journalist Titi Gabi says that increasing outside interference of the editorial process and the bribing and threatening of journalists has led to media freedom no longer being enjoyed in the country.

After a passenger ferry sank in Kiribati in February, leaving 93 people dead, authorities barred foreign journalists from entering the country to report on the disaster.

Meanwhile, the government of Samoa was criticised by a media freedom lobby group earlier this year for seeking to repress freedom of expression by reintroducing legislation on criminal libel without proper public consultation

Civil society groups in the regional power of Australia are extremely concerned about the impact that changes to security laws will have on fundamental freedoms. The National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017 and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017 were met with a storm of protest from media outlets and civil society organisations.

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights has criticised the legislation, warning that the measures will have a “severely chilling effect upon academic research, free speech, and particularly constitutionally-protected free political speech”.

According to Amnesty International Australia, the draconian laws will make it a crime for charities to expose human rights violations, and to communicate with the United Nations about those violations.

Stifled free speech
So, why are governments in the region working to increasingly stifle free speech?

For one, they are coming under growing public scrutiny, led by journalists and civil society using social media, for abuse of power, lack of transparency and corruption at various government levels.

News stories exposing official human rights violations have received global attention, thanks to the efforts of international media and non-governmental organisations. Averse to the negative publicity, Pacific governments have responded with repressive action.

Also, civil society groups in the Pacific are increasingly raising not just national concerns but sensitive regional ones as well, such as rights abuses in West Papua, a region in Indonesia where there is an active pro-independence movement, and in refugee detention centres in Nauru and PNG’s Manus Island.

Asylum seekers stand behind a fence in Oscar compound at the Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea. This has now been closed but problems remain for the asylum seekers, “stranded’ against their will within the Manus community. Image: Eoin Blackwell/AFP/Asian Correspodent

Seeking to appease regional powerhouses Indonesia and Australia as they appeal for economic investment, governments of small island states have no qualms trying to silence those speaking out on these issues at home.

In turn, the “growing influence of China” has also been cited as a justification for Australia’s new security policies. But many believe another objective is to keep government dealings from the public.

This regional trend flies in the face of Pacific countries’ clear commitments to respect and protect freedom of expression.

Good governance
In 2000, governments signed the Biketawa Declaration committing themselves to democracy, good governance, protection of human rights and maintenance of the rule of law. At the meeting in Nauru, leaders are expected to sign a Biketawa Plus Declaration, building on the original document.

In recent years, island nations have also made commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all and effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels contained in Goal 16. Ensuring fundamental freedoms is pivotal to meeting this goal, as well as the other 16 SDGs.

Leaders at the gathering needed to reiterate their nations’ commitment to fundamental freedoms in its communique and demonstrate it – to create an enabling environment for both the media and civil society to work without fear of criminalisation, harassment and reprisals.

Failing to do so – and the detention of Barbara Dreaver yesterday – are clear signs that the forum is willing to undermine its international obligations and its commitment to democracy and the rule of law.

Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer with global civil society alliance Civicus and a contributor to Asian Correspondent. This article is republished from Asian Correspondent with the permission of the author.

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Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media