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Indonesians Combat Rape Culture Via Social Media

BY Julia Wetherell | Wednesday, January 23 2013

Indonesians have taken to social media to fight misogyny in the largely Muslim nation. As in India, where several shocking incidents over the past year have led to outrage, public discourse over rape and other forms of sexual assault is the issue in question.

After a nominee for an appointment to the country’s Supreme Court cracked a tasteless joke at the expense of rape victims last week in front of a parliamentary commission meant to determine his viability for the position, the amplified outrage of the Indonesian Internet actually precipitated his apology and removal from consideration.

Speaking of proposed legislation that would condemn rapists to the death, Daming Sanusi – who currently serves as high court judge in South Kalimantan province — suggested to the audience of parliamentary officials that, since “both the victims of rape and the rapist might have enjoyed their intercourse together...we should think twice before handing down the death penalty.”

Disturbingly, the joke seems to have raised no eyebrows in parliament; the hearing went on as planned. Yet as soon as word reached the media, condemnations of Daming began to spread rapidly over Twitter and Facebook. With 24 hours, the candidate was apologizing tearfully on television. Daming’s nomination was withdrawn by major political parties soon after, and politicians have begun to strategically distance themselves from him.

In a country where institutionalized misogyny has a grievous impact on women’s lives – earlier this week authorities refused to investigate allegations that a police officer had raped 19-year old woman, and one village recently outlawed women from straddling motorcycles, calling the position morally licentious – the fact that online discourse can facilitate positive political decisions is a step forward. A female editor of the Jakarta Post stressed the importance of online media in forming the conversation on misogynistic culture in an editorial last week:

Social media has helped society to become more aware of the irregularities occurring around them. Public pressure can often be conveyed more effectively through the media rather than channeling our voices through our representatives at the House in Senayan [the home of Indonesia’s parliament in Jakarta].

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