Jakarta has joined the global movement Hollaback! to end sexual harassment, targeting first the prevalent problem of catcalls. Hollaback! Jakarta wants to let people know that street harassment is not acceptable, and it is building a platform to map out incidents of harassments and to come up with the best ways to respond.
Hollaback! Jakarta founder Angie (who prefers to go by her first name only) said that though there is still no comprehensive data on the particular issue, many women can relate to the experience of being harassed on the street in Jakarta.
“We want to raise awareness and empower people to speak up about this issue,” she said. “Too often, street harassment is perceived as normal, while it’s not,” she hopes that by sharing their experience, survivors would feel less traumatic, so we could start finding the solution together.
The international movement was established in New York in 2005 by gender activist Emily May. It quickly spread to other parts of the world, creating an opportunity to share, compare and adopt one another’s strategies to combat street harassment in each local site through their website and an award-winning app.Angie recalled her own personal traumatic experience of street harassment. She was riding a bike on her way to work in Gandaria, South Jakarta, last year, when a man on a motorcycle grabbed her breast, saying “halo, sayang” (hello, honey).
“I was shocked, upset, ashamed, angry, yet I did not know what to do,” she said. “I continued riding to work, and then I reported the incident to a very nice police officer. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the creep’s license plate number so there was nothing the police could do,” she said.
After the incident, Angie warned her friends to be extra careful on the street. The more she told people, the more she heard similar stories.
“A friend of mine, Mia, spoke of this issue as well. She has been living in Jakarta for two years and she walked on the street for at least once a day, seven days a week – mostly by herself. She said that whenever she was alone, men would ‘hurl countless epithets and make explicit sexual gestures.’ A number of men even attempted to lay their hands on her. It happened every day for two years. That adds up to a total of at least 700 personal experiences of street harassment – just one woman,” Angie said.
As she was deeply concerned about the issue, she browsed and found Hollaback! website, which provides information on nearby site where people can report their experience.
“I figured that there’s still no Hollaback! site in Jakarta, so I applied to their global site leader program. With me are five supportive awesome friends – Adila, Bry, Emma, Fitri, and Maura. We unite as a team, and we are Hollaback! Jakarta,” she added.
Hollaback! Jakarta aims to collect as many personal stories as possible via their website and app. Other than hosting quarterly gathering, they also tweet on Tuesdays with hashtag #lawanpelecehan with different topics to end harassment.
“We are trying to focus on getting the word out there about different bystander intervention techniques, so that people know what they can do if they witness harassment in public space,” she added.
Hollaback! Jakarta will also initiate “chalk walks,” and the first one will take place on April 2nd to kick off International Anti-Street Harassment Week. The second chalk walk will be in November to commemorate 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence.
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