Police decide man caught touching woman’s thigh on bus not guilty of sexual harassment because she was wearing long pants

Photo illustration.
Photo illustration.

On Saturday, Women’s March Jakarta brought hundreds of people out to the streets of the capital to demonstrate for equality and against gender-based violence like sexual harassment. Despite the enormous challenges facing women in Indonesia being well-documented and studied, there were saw quite a few comments from people wondering why such a demonstration was even necessary.

Well, here’s infuriating example number one million and one for why the Women’s March was necessary and why so many people in Indonesia desperately need a wake-up call.

A man was detained by the Jatinegara Police yesterday after he was accused of sexual harassing a young woman, identified as IK, by caressing her thigh on a TransJakarta bus. An onboard TransJakarta officer backed up IK’s account and said the alleged perpetrator had admitted to it.

However, after questioning the alleged perpetrator, police decided that his actions did not qualify as sexual harassment.

“So, it actually does not qualify as [sexual harassment], the person just touched her as they were sitting side by side. The woman was holding her bag, as was the perpetrator. And then he happened to touch her thigh. Also, she was wearing long pants, and he happened to touch her thigh since they were sitting next to each other,” Bambang Edi, head of criminal investigations for the Jatinegara Police, said on Monday as quoted by Vivanews.

Bambang said that sexual harassment might have taken place, if IK had been wearing a miniskirt.

“If he had grabbed her breasts or genitals, or if he had shown his genitalia then that would be harassment. That’s not what happened. He just touched her thigh and she was wearing trousers. Unless she’s wearing a skirt, and he opened her thighs and grabbed her, that would be harassment,” he said.

Fitri, the onboard Transjakarta officer who IK reported the harassment too, said the suspect admitted to touching IK’s thigh. According to her, the suspect admitted to frequently sexually harassing women on the TransJakarta.

However, officer Bambang said that if the perpetrator had done anything it was “just for fun” and only involved poking at her knee with his little finger.

Nonetheless, the police said that the suspect has not yet been released and that they would follow the standard procedure in these cases of detaining the suspect for 24 hours while investigating further before making a final decision.

So essentially the police are fine with people creepily rubbing up against or touching strangers’ thigh, as long as they’re wearing pants? Let’s hope nobody puts that logic to the test, particularly on the people who think there’s no need for a Women’s March in Jakarta.

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