Women's March Gives Voice to Minority Groups

Dary Muhammad Putra, top left, and Laksmitha Anindyanari, top, second from right, are two among many teenagers who joined the Women's March in Jakarta on Saturday (04/03). (JG Photo/Lisa Siregar)

By : Lisa Siregar | on 10:03 AM March 09, 2017
Category : Life & Style, Arts & Culture

Jakarta. Being seven-month pregnant did not stop Ayu Oktariani from marching with fellow activists at the Women's March in Jakarta on Saturday (04/03).

Ayu, who has been tested positive for HIV, is no stranger to street rallies. A staffer at Ikatan Perempuan Positif Indonesia, a non-profit organization that does research and advocacy for women living with HIV, she has marched with her colleagues many times before, but never when she was pregnant.

"I'm now pregnant with a baby boy, I want him to feel the aura of diversity. I also don't want girls to be the only ones who are told how to behave. Boys must also learn how to respect and protect women," she said.

People across generational lines joined the Women's March in Jakarta to voice their concerns over intolerance and gender equality.

The Saturday march was organized by a group of women activists to celebrate International Women's Day on March 8. They took their inspiration from the Women's March in Washington in January, but marchers spoke out about problems specific to women and minority groups in Indonesia.

Ayu said she joined the march to fight discrimination against women living with HIV.

"I am fighting for equality for women living with HIV. We are often treated differently, especially at hospitals or clinics, even though the government already has a guideline on how to treat people like us," she said. "I also wanted to show to people that women living with HIV can still be pregnant and have a healthy baby," she said.

The march also attracted many teenagers who learned about the event on social media, many of whom never took to the streets before.

Fourteen-year-old Franka Alexa Adria from the Bina Nusantara high school in Serpong, Tangerang, made her way to South Jakarta to join friends she met on Twitter at the march.

"We met each other on Twitter and then became friends in real life. We also have another group called Panic at the Disco on Line [messaging app], so we decided to go to the Women's March together," she said.

Laksmitha Anindyanari, 12, said she did not tell her parents about going to the march.

"I did not tell them because I'm sure they wouldn't allow me to go. So I told them I am going out with my friends," she said. "I am going to the march because I hate catcalling, it's so degrading and disrespectful."

Both Franka and Laksmitha said they were excited about the march because it is a celebration of International Women's Day, an event where they feel their voices could finally be heard.

The students made posters during their free time at school. Franka made a poster that says "Feminism: a radical notion that says women are also people!" Laksmitha wrote "Protect yourself from choices you did not choose" on her poster.

"I am especially worried about rape. We hope people finally listen to us," Franka said.

"I never get to do anything special for International Women's Day, the closest we have [to Women's Day) is Kartini Day, when you're only told to wear kebaya," Laksmitha said. "No one wants to listen to a girl's opinion, so I am marching here to change that."

Seventeen-year-old Dary Muhammad Putra, another protester, said he is often bullied at school because of his sexual orientation.

"I go to an Islamic school, and because I am different, I often get bullied. I run a feminist online chat group, and I get myself educated from the internet. But I joined the march because I am concerned about human trafficking. I learned from UN Women and Unicef that it's been happening more and more since 2013," he said.

The Women's March in Jakarta is part of a series of actions which include campaigns, public discussions and hearing with government officials being held all throughout March in celebration of International Women's Day.

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