Having had a female president and with a woman as the current speaker at its House of Representatives (DPR), one would think that much progress has been made for women in Indonesian politics. Unfortunately, as a recent sexism scandal has shown, women are still belittled and harassed over their physical appearance by their male counterparts in politics.
On Friday morning, Gerindra Party's Rahayu Saraswati Djojohadikusumo went for a run in Bintaro before she registered her candidacy for deputy mayor of South Tangerang in the December regional elections. During her run, the niece of Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto happened to be wearing shorts, as most runners do.
Nobody would have made a fuss about runner shorts had they been worn by a man, but Cipta Panca Laksana, a politician with the Democratic Party, later that day tweeted, "The thighs of the South Tangerang deputy mayor nominee are so smooth."
Though Cipta did not mention Rahayu by name, no other deputy mayor hopefuls in South Tangerang exposed their thighs in recent memory.
Rahayu clapped back at Cipta and others, including a politician, who found amusement in the sexist tweet.
"Harassment has nothing to do with political affiliation. Difference in political preferences doesn't justify harassment. Or just because I'm a woman doesn't mean I can be harassed. Harassment is only done by those with petty souls and those who are cowards," she wrote in the tweet above.
Following a huge backlash against him, Cipta offered this lame apology:
"Regarding my viral tweet about the South Tangerang deputy mayor nominee's smooth thighs, I have deleted the tweet. I apologize to those who were offended by the tweet. That is my style on Twitter. Once more, I'm sorry," he tweeted today.
In numerous statements to local media outlets, Cipta maintained that there was no way to definitively prove that he was referring to Rahayu in his sexist tweet.
Rahayu said that she doesn't buy Cipta's explanation but has so far refused to publicly butt heads with the Democratic Party politician. Instead, her recent public activities since his tweet include advocating for sexual harassment victims and calling for the House of Parliament to pass the long-delayed Eradication of Sexual Violence Bill (RUU PKS).
The public has been calling for the Democratic Party to sanction Cipta over the tweet, but a party representative said they are looking into the matter before taking any disciplinary action against him.