Shinta Maharani, Yogyakarta – Police have examined posters and banners being prepared by activists prior to the commemoration of International Women’s Day (IWD) in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta on Sunday March 8.
Scores of police officers, who have been on alert since Sunday morning at the Abu Bakar Ali parking area north of the central shopping district, have been examining each and every banner brought by activists.
Male and female police officers have been asking the demonstrators, one by one, to unfurl their banners after which they were questioned about the contents.
Yogyakarta City Danurejan Sectoral Police Chief Commissioner Etty Haryanti, one of the officers who approached and questioned the demonstrators, said that the examination was conducted so that messages on the banners and posters were in accordance with the theme of the action.
Haryanti asked the protesters not to use words which are provocative or sensitive such as messages that are “anti-nationalist”. “The NKRI [Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia] is not negotiable. So we examined the posters”, Haryanti told Tempo.
The police also banned the protesters from unfurling rainbow coloured flags as symbols of gender diversity as they marched from the Abu Bakar Ali parking area towards the Zero Kilometre Point in front of the central post office.
Meila Nurul Fajriah, an activist from the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) said that the examination of the posters by police was excessive.
This demonstrates that the protesters were not free to take up their demands. “Participants’ bags were even examined. It was excessive”, she said.
LBH Yogyakarta was one of around 50 organisations which were involved in commemorating IWD. The hundreds of Yogyakarta activists from various different non-government organisations which took part in this year’s rally demanded, among other things, the enactment of the Draft Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence.
Protesters who were part of the Social Alliance Against Sexual Violence brought a variety of posters calling for the law to be enacted.
The International Women’s Day Committee, one of the groups which have been active in fighting sexual violence, also involves artists and activists from the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang.
They represent musicians fighting against sexual violence who condemn all actions which blame victims, intimidate and silence the voices of survivors.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) says that there has been an increase in the number of cases of sexual violence against women in 2019.
Over the last year, there were 431,471 cases of sexual violence against women, a rise of 6 percent on 2018 when there were 406,178 cases.
Data on violence against women in Indonesia has also seen a steady rise over the last decade. Over the last 12 years violence against women has risen by 792 percent or by eight times.
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Polisi ‘Sweeping’ Poster Aksi Hari Perempuan di Yogya”.]