Samarinda – Scores of protesters wearing multi-coloured clothing from the Samarinda Anti-Sexism Alliance began gathering at 2 pm local time at the Samarendah Park on Friday March 8.
The protesters, who came from a number of different organisations, were preparing to hold a march to the East Kalimantan governor’s office to commemorate International Women’s Day (IWD).
During the march, which began at 3.30 pm and ended at 4.10 pm, the protesters carried multi-coloured umbrellas and posters with their demands. The march was also enlivened with the singing of the Internationale and the song Blood of Struggle.
At the governor’s office, art communities, students and cross-sector organisations continued to arrive and representatives of the organisations and individuals took turns giving speeches and reading out poetry.
Despite the pouring rain, the protesters spirit was in no way diminished. Instead, the strong wind and rain created a more tangible atmosphere of anger against the repression of women and the ordinary people. A number of the protesters handed out leaflets explaining the issues being taken up by the action.
The leaflets also contained a number of demands including giving women the right to control their own bodies, menstrual leave, equal wages and free and equal education opportunities.
The groups also demanded harsh punishments for perpetrators of sexual violence, the ratification of the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence (RUU PKS), the right to a safe environment free from all forms of sexual violence and crime and for an end to discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people and other minority groups.
Andi Hartati from the Mulawarman University (UNMUL) student association HIMAPSOS said that the government has failed to side with women because sexual harassment and violence continues to occur.
“The current government does not side with women. Sexual harassment and violence still occur frequently. There are almost no places which are safe for women”, said Hartati in a speech.
Hartati said she felt disappointed because the House of Representatives (DPR) is reluctant to ratify the RUU PKS which could provide protection to women from sexual violence. She also said that she hoped that the government will have the courage to investigate past sexual crimes.
“Meanwhile the government has shown that it is reluctant to immediately ratify the RUU PKS. Yet almost no legislation sides with women. The government should immediately ratify the RUU PKS so that women can fell protected and have an environment that is free from sexual violence. The government must also have the courage to fully investigate rape cases from Gerwani [the Indonesian Women’s Movement which was targeted in the 1965 anti-communist purge] to Marsinah [a labour activist raped and murdered in 1993] as well as discrimination and sexual harassment in regions such as Ambon, Maluku, Aceh and Papua”, said Hartati.
She also criticised the state’s failure to resolve past cases of sexual violence saying that historically the state has been a perpetrator in sexual violence citing the 1965 anti-communist purge and the rape of ethnic Chinese women in the May 1998 riots in Jakarta, noting that state repression has become a tool for those in power to oppress the ordinary people. So if the oppressed people’s struggle for liberation is surrendered to the state it will only end in band-aid solutions.
Because of this therefore, the struggle to liberate the people from oppression is a struggle to create a socialist society. While of course the creation of a social order without sexual violence will not be realised overnight, this requires work and an understanding of the roots of sexual violence and extra propaganda work. And most importantly, not depending on the bourgeois.
A similar view was expressed in a speech by Erick from the People’s Study Circle (LSK). “The struggle for women’s liberation must not just depend upon women but must also be fought for by men. I don’t see that the roots of women’s oppression are only because of patriarchy as the root cause of oppression. But it is actually capitalism which creates sexism, destroys the environment, creates new illnesses, extreme weather, terrible poverty and discrimination against minority groups. So the root cause of our problems is one thing: capitalism. So our struggle to abolish this is the struggle to bring down capitalism which finds fertile ground in this county”, said Erik.
Despite the rain, the action continued with poems and music performances from different participants. The action ended with a call to “Fight sexism and smash capitalism” and the singing of the Internationale as the song of the oppressed.
The organisation involved in the Samarinda Anti-Sexism Alliance include the LSK, SPARK, JKMK-FMK Samarinda, EMPEKA, the East Kalimantan Thursday Action (Kamisan Kaltim), the Mulawarman University Faculty of Social and Political Science Student Executive Council (BEM FISIP UNMUL), the FISIP UNMUL Communication Studies Students Association (HIMAKSI FISIP UNMUL), the Samarinda Executive Board of the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement Women’s Corps (KORPRI PMII), the Samarinda Indonesian National Students Movement (GMNI), the Samarinda National Student League for Democracy (LMND), the Samarinda Socialists Union (Perserikatan Sosialis). (ad)
[Slightly abridged translation by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Hari Perempuan Internasional di Samarinda”.]