Jakarta – In April last year, Kennedy Jennifer, a filmmaker, started receiving calls and messages on her smartphone asking for a "massage service".
She responded by saying that she offered no such services. The calls and chats intensified that night, with callers demanding that she perform the service because she had "asked" for the money.
When she posted a clarification on her Facebook account, she discovered that she was not the only one who had fallen prey to this form of harassment.
The cyber harassment that she experienced was just one of the many forms of gender-based violence online (GBVO) that women on the internet face.
"There is a form of gender inequality that stems from the heteronormativity in society concerning those who identify as women or those whose gender identity is becoming a woman," Nabilla Saputri of SAFEnet – a nongovernmental organization specializing in advocating freedom of expression – said recently.
According to Nabila, GBVO could take many forms, including the use of sexist language, catcalling, sexist gossiping, online exploitation and doxxing.
"The social construction reflects the unequal relationship between the genders that focuses on legitimizing the patriarchal culture that is permissive toward violence, including violence against women," she explained.
Nabila herself has been a victim of revenge porn, a form of GBVO, as her former partner threatened to spread intimate photos of her that they took when they were together if she continued to "flirt" with other men.
"When I was still with my ex, I was on the phone [talking] with a [male] friend," she recounted. "We were just talking, but at that time, my ex told me that if I dared to talk to him again, he would spread photos of me from when we were having intimate relations."
She admitted that the experience had traumatized her. "I didn't go to work for a week because I felt traumatized seeing people who may have seen the photos my ex had spread on social media. Even if some of them didn't care or didn't know, I still felt afraid," she said.
Kennedy had a different experience. She managed to get information from the people who had been harassing her and went to the Jakarta Police, filling out a police report for her case, after she went to the Communication and Information Technology Ministry and the chat app B Talk. The latter gave her a couple of phone numbers that were used to make the fake accounts that were spreading her number.
"When I reported my case, the police asked me if I was an important personage. I told them that I wasn't, but should I not be reporting this? I was harmed by this," she said, adding that her report was eventually accepted on April 28 last year.
The police arrested the perpetrator in November. The motive was political – Kennedy had announced that she was making a documentary on former Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, around a week before the harassment started – and the perpetrator admitted that he did not like President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Ahok's supporters.
"Because I was a filmmaker who was filming a documentary on Ahok, I was framed as the victim. I was promoted as a sex worker, as a woman who offered 'massages'," Kennedy said.
Indriyati Suparno, a commissioner of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) said that for the last few years, the number of cases of violence against women online has risen.
"In 2017, we recorded as many as 98 cases, and 65 of them were reported directly to our complaint center. It includes cyber grooming and cyber harassment, of which there were as many as 20 cases," Indriyati said.
She further said we could be certain that the number of cases recorded before 2018 would not be much different.
"[The problem is that] the regulations and laws used are not those used to protect women, but those that concern the cyber sphere, and that does not solve the problem, because it places the victim in a more vulnerable position where she can be victimized further," she said. (spl)