Crimes against women

‘Men have to be protected, too’: Bookkeeper pays high price after recording obscene call by boss to use as evidence

Nuril Maknun after she received a six-month jail term for violating a controversial law against spreading indecent material, in Mataram on Lombok island on November 16, 2018. (PIKONG/AFP/Getty Images)

A high school bookkeeper who was allegedly subjected to constant harassment for months from her boss, the school principal, eventually recorded one of his obscene calls about his sex life and desire to have an affair with her, to use as evidence.

The outcome: she lost her job and went to jail. His career continued to ascend.

Nuril Maknun’s case is now before Indonesia’s Supreme Court, the New York Times reports, exposing the country’s endemic failure to protect women from sexual abuse in the workplace.

Nuril, a 40-year-old mother of three, grew up on Lombok, a conservative, mostly Muslim island east of Bali. In 2010, she got a temporary job helping with accounting at a high school in Lombok’s capital. In 2013, a new principal, who goes by the one name, Muslim, arrived. According to Nuril, that April Muslim began verbally harassing her, in person as well as after hours by phone, telling her about his sex life and pressing her to have an affair with him.

She worried she would lose her job if she complained. He, meanwhile, led others — including Nuril’s husband — to believe they were having an affair. In August, she recorded a 15-minute call in the hope of gathering evidence to the contrary.

Months later, another teacher copied it from her phone while Nuril was in another room. Nuril says it was more than a year before Muslim learned about it, after which he offered an extension of her contract in exchange for her deleting the recording. She refused and was fired.

Muslim’s lawyer, Asmuni, told the New York Times that Muslim was the real victim in the case, that Nuril had broken the law and she deserved to go to jail. “Men have to be protected, too,” he said. “She is an ungrateful person and does not know her place.”

Nuril was arrested and charged with distributing obscene material, and spent two months in  Lombok jail. At her trial, teachers from the school testified that they were the ones who had taken the recording from her phone and distributed it. “She recorded it for her own protection,” said her lawyer, Joko Jumadi. “She kept it for so long. Even when it spread, it was not her who distributed it.”

Although that trial found Nuril not guilty,  prosecutors were able to appeal her acquittal and take her case to the Supreme Court, where the justices — without a hearing — found Nuril guilty of distributing indecent material electronically and sentenced her to six months in jail plus a fine of $35,000 or further jail time.

After the Supreme Court’s November ruling, Nuril reported Muslim to the police for sexual harassment, but Indonesia’s laws do not cover verbal abuse unless there is also physical contact. Indonesian women’s advocates say tolerating harassment is often the price of keeping a job. And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems of handling sexual abuse cases and other crimes against women — not least of which is the shortage of women in the police force, partly attributed to the penetrative “virginity test” that recruits are subjected to.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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