Secretary who accused former gov’t agency executive of harassment may face defamation charges after police drop rape investigation

Photo illustration.
Photo illustration.

Indonesia had a small victory in the fight against sexual harassment recently when President Joko Widodo granted amnesty to Baiq Nuril, a school teacher who was sentenced to six months in prison for defamation after she recorded audio of her boss sexually harassing her. But activists warned that more harassment victims could be criminalized by defamation charges unless laws are changed to give better protections to victims of sexual abuse.

The elastic definition of Indonesia’s defamation laws has indeed become a specter hanging over another high-profile victim of alleged sexual harassment, whose case bears many similarities to Baiq’s. 

Rizky Amelia made headlines late last year when she reported her former boss, ex-Workers Social Security Agency (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) executive Syafri Adnan Baharuddi, to the police over accusations that he repeatedly raped her while she worked as his secretary. But she is now at risk of being charged with defamation, according to the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), which has been giving her legal assistance throughout her case.

Rizky — who previously went by the pseudonym Dina before she went public about her case — told the media in December that Syafri forced her to have sex with him on numerous occasions since 2016. When she filed a complaint with the agency’s supervisory board, she was fired from her job instead.

Rizky then reported Syafri to the police for sexual harassment, leading to his resignation from the agency. But Syafri claimed that his resignation was not an admission of guilt but rather because he wanted to focus on clearing his name. In January, Syafri reported Rizky to the police for defamation under the Criminal Code (KUHP) and the Information and Electronic Transactions Act (UU ITE), which criminalizes the dissemination of any defamatory information online, for posting the sexual harassment allegations on social media.

Last week, Rizky’s lawyer said the police had dropped their investigation into her sexual harassment complaint against Syafri due to a lack of evidence. Rizky’s legal counsel has asked for help from Komnas Perempuan to pressure the police to resume their investigation into the case.

However, it appears there’s little hope for the sexual harassment case to be reopened. According to Komnas Perempuan, there are plenty of indications to suggest that the police will instead focus on the defamation complaint against Rizky, as she has been questioned by the police twice over the matter.

“Every time a victim dares to speak out against their harasser, they will be charged with UU ITE,” Komnas Perempuan Commissioner Mariana Amiruddin told reporters on Monday, as quoted by Tempo.

“This makes victims go into heavy depression and contribute to problems with their mental state.”

For years, women’s rights activists in Indonesia have been pushing the government to pass the Elimination of Sexual Violence Bill (RUU-PKS), which would enforce harsher punishments for perpetrators of gender-based violence and provide greater protections for victims. However, conservative activists and politicians have consistently fought to block the bill — first introduced in 2016 — by framing it as permissive towards sex outside of marriage and supportive of LGBTQ rights.

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