Woman jailed for recording alleged sexual harassment granted amnesty

Indonesian lawmakers have unanimously approved amnesty for a woman who was sentenced to six months in prison for recording her boss’s alleged sexual harassment.

Indonesia’s House of Representatives on Thursday agreed that President Joko Widodo would grant Baiq Nuril Maknun amnesty, according to CNN Indonesia. The decision was greeted by a standing ovation from attendees at the house.

Before the decision was handed down, Deputy Chairperson of the House of Representatives Commission III, Erma Suryani Ranik, told lawmakers she viewed Nuril as a victim, not a perpetrator, according to CNN Indonesia.

Nuril’s case made global headlines and put the country’s sexual violence laws under scrutiny, with rights groups saying Indonesia’s fundamentally flawed system makes it difficult for women who are abused or harassed to find justice.

The decision comes after President Joko last week recommended that Nuril be granted amnesty.

Speaking to CNN earlier this month, Joko said: “I will use my authority to give amnesty to Baiq Nuril … as soon as possible.”

Nuril’s ordeal

Nuril’s problems began in 2012 when the principal of the school where she worked as a bookkeeper allegedly began calling her into his office and making sexually inappropriate comments.

“I would tell him to stop. I don’t want to listen to that,” Nuril told CNN. “I was scared if I spoke out he would fire me. He knew he had the power.”

Nuril recorded one of the explicit phone calls as evidence of the sexual harassment she said she endured on more than 50 occasions.

Shortly after the recording was forwarded to the local Department of Education by one of her colleagues, Nuril was fired and her boss sued her for defamation. During the investigation, Nuril spent two months in jail.

A district court found her not guilty in 2017 but prosecutors launched an appeal with the nation’s highest court, which ruled last year that the recording broke the country’s Law on Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE). All internet activities in Indonesia are regulated under the law, which makes it a criminal offense for a person to distribute or transmit electronic information or documents that violate decency.

Earlier this month, Nuril lost her final appeal and the country’s Supreme Court sentenced her to six months in prison and ordered her to pay a 500 million rupiah (more than $35,000) fine.

Her alleged harasser did not face legal repercussions. CNN reached out to Nuril’s former boss who would not comment, only saying: “I let God solve this problem.”

Nuril’s case sparked a wave of support from local and international rights groups who brought her plight to the world stage with the campaign #SaveBuNuril.

Calls for President Joko to grant her amnesty grew louder, with a Change.org petition calling on him to grant Nuril amnesty attracting well over 300,000 signatures.

But rights groups say the sexual harassment Nuril allegedly endured is not uncommon in Indonesia.

The National Commission on Violence Against Women (known as Komnas Perempuan) found that 260,000 cases of sexual violence including harassment were reported in 2018, though they believe unreported cases could be at least five times that number.

A culture of victim blaming in society that’s deeply patriarchal and religious often deters women from speaking out or reporting crimes against them.