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Girls & Women

Indonesia's Supreme Court Sentences Woman Who Reported Sexual Harassment to Prison

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Why Global Citizens Should Care
Sexual violence and harassment have been major points of discussion since the #MeToo movement went global in 2017. In Indonesia, the movement has gained traction, but cases like Nuril Maknun’s highlight the urgent need for progress and the advancement of women’s rights. You can take action here to #LeveltheLaw and help empower women and girls around the world. 

Nuril Maknun, an Indonesian woman, has been fighting a legal battle for four years after recording her boss’ sexual harassment and sharing the evidence with others in an attempt to prove her own innocence.

The country’s Supreme Court dismissed Nuril’s latest appeal on Thursday, finding her guilty of distributing “indecent materials” — the recordings of her boss’ harassment — prompting public outcry. The ruling upheld the six-month prison sentence, and $35,000 (500 million Rupiah) fine, that Nuril was handed in November 2018 for violating anti-pornography laws.

Nuril called the ruling an “obvious injustice,” according to the New York Times. She told the Times in a phone interview: “I, as a woman, should be protected, but then I was the one who became the victim. People should know that when we get harassed, there is no place to take refuge.

“Why can he just casually walk around while I, as the victim, am the one being punished?” she asked.

In 2012, Nuril was working as a bookkeeper at Senior High School Seven in Lombok, when the school’s principal repeatedly sexually harassed her, she says. The principal, Muslim – who goes by one name only, like many Indonesians — would call Nuril and describe in explicit detail his alleged affair with another coworker, the Agence France-Presse reported. Muslim also allegedly demanded Nuril also have an affair with him, according to the Washington Post.

Eventually, Nuril grew tired of the principal’s unwanted advances, so she recorded the calls. She later shared these recordings with her husband and a teacher at the school in an attempt to dispel the rising rumor that she and Muslim were having an affair, the New York Times reported.

The recording became widely shared, though Nuril says it was her co-worker who distributed the video, not her. Shamed, Muslim did not renew Nuril's contract, effectively firing her, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

In late 2014, he reported Nuril to the police, alleging that she had defamed him by recording and sharing their call without his knowledge. This report ultimately led Nuril to be prosecuted for distributing “indecent materials.” Muslim was eventually promoted and in 2018, was serving as a high-ranking department of education official and has never been arrested or charged for harassing Nuril.

Nuril was held in jail for a month during this investigation and was originally acquitted, according to the Washington Post. However, prosecutors appealed the ruling, and she was sentenced by three judges. Determined to fight the verdict, Nuril and her lawyer then brought the case before the Supreme Court, which ruled on Thursday that Nuril had violated the country’s strict anti-pornography laws by sharing the recordings and upheld the previous verdict.

The ruling can no longer be appealed, and if Nuril and her family are unable to pay the fine, her prison sentence may be extended. More than $26,000 had been raised by Friday afternoon to help Nuril pay her fine through an online campaign, the New York Times reported.

Nuril’s only hope for recourse now is to be pardoned by President Joko Widodo, who expressed concern over the case in November. The president said that he could not intervene during the legal proceedings, but encouraged Nuril and her legal team to request clemency through his office if her appeal was rejected.

“Since the beginning, my attention to this case has never diminished ... If it gets to me, then it will be under my authority, and I will use the authority I have,” Widodo told reporters on Friday.

Read More: One-Third of UN Workers Have Been Sexually Harassed, Report Says

Women’s rights activists have criticized the ruling.

"The law should provide support and justice for victims of sexual harassment, not criminalize and punish them for reporting their abuse or providing evidence,” Niki Kandirikirira, director of programs at nonprofit Equality Now, told Global Citizen. “Rather than victimizing women further, the Indonesian legal system should be focused on holding perpetrators to account.”

Kandirikirira added that President Joko Widodo should immediately free Nuril and cancel her fine.

“Doing so would send an important message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated,” Kandirikirira said. "The impact of this verdict is bound to have damaging ramifications across Indonesia by discouraging victims of sexual harassment from speaking out and emboldening perpetrators.”

Nuril’s legal team now hopes to seek amnesty (meaning the absolution, or “forgetting,” of an offense) from the president, as her prison sentence falls short of the two-year minimum required to seek clemency (or the “forgiveness” of an offense).

“We stand firm that Baiq Nuril is not guilty,” Nuril’s lawyer, Joko Jumadi, said, using the local honorific title “Baiq.” 

“Even though she has to go to prison for this fight, she is ready.”