Sexy Dancers Jailed by Indonesia’s Porn Law as Activists Fume

By webadmin on 01:30 pm Mar 13, 2010
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Nurfika Osman & Heru Andriyanto

The shock jailing under the country’s controversial Antipornography Law of six women for putting on an erotic dance show in Bandung has left women’s rights activists incensed.

“This is discrimination,” said Masruchah, deputy chairwoman of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan).

“Women’s bodies will always be blamed for everything.”

Masruchah told the Jakarta Globe that police had recklessly applied a flawed law that blamed women’s bodies for various ills.

“The sanctions given to these female dancers are too much. Their intention was merely to entertain. Officials cannot apply the sanction at their whim,” she said, adding that dancing was a form of expression and as such was guaranteed by the Constitution.

In a closed hearing on Wednesday, the Bandung District Court sentenced four female dancers to two and a half months in jail and fined them Rp 1 million ($110) each. The manager of the cafe where the dance took place and the dancers’ coordinator were each given similar sentences.

The dancers — Galetya Tannia (19), Anastasia (27), Novi Anggita (19) and Irna Septiani (19) — cafe manager Natal Hariadi (33) and coordinator Yafeth Vins (26) were all arrested during a dawn raid on Jan. 1 at the Bel Air Cafe over a dance show performed as part of New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Masruchah questioned the fairness of the law. “If the dancers were male, would the officials have given them the same punishment as the women? This is the big question,” she said.

Separately, Mariana Amiruddin, executive director of Jurnal Perempuan, a women’s rights magazine, said the verdicts showed how subjective and dangerous the law was.

“This is very unusual and it proves that the country has failed to protect women and their freedom of expression,” she said.

Apart from violating the controversial Antipornography Law, presiding judge I Made Sukadan also found them guilty under Article 282 of the Criminal Code, which bans “the public display of writing, pictures or other things of which the content violates the codes of morality.” The offense carries a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

Eddy Hiariej, an expert in criminal law at Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University, said he was concerned that the Bandung verdicts might prompt more convictions under the controversial Antipornography Law.

“The law has stirred debate ever since it was proposed because no one can determine for certain what attitudes or materials constitute erotic or artistic,” he told the Globe during a telephone interview on Friday.

Eddy called the Antipornography Law “a rubber law” that was easily distorted and would always be open to interpretation.

The first people convicted under the law were two teenage girls who were sentenced in the Serang District Court in Banten in October to between two and four months in jail and fined Rp 300,000 each for performing an erotic dance in a private room at a karaoke club.

The 45-year-old woman who organized the dance was given 10 months in jail and a similar fine.