Writed by Sofia Belen Medina Herera
It’s almost eight months that I have been living in Indonesia. My name is Sofía Medina, and I come from Quito, Ecuador. Actually, I’m a Darmasiswa Student at ISI Yogyakarta. Before I came here, I had a lot of question about climate, living customs, food and society. When I gave the news to my family about my new adventure, they could not believe which country I choose for studying art. Of course, the main issue that they saw was the religion and the way women are seen. I am agnostic, and I want to talk about my experience that I had as women in the most populous Muslim country around the world.
In the first months, I lived with a Muslimfamily near my school. They do not discriminate against me because of my beliefs, and I have always been open to any kind of customs, principles or traditions. However, what I can observe is most people are not tolerant or even respectful to my thoughts, and as a result, to my culture. I understand that I am living in another country and I have to adapt to some topics, but it does not mean I have to change my way of thinking, or even my way of dressing.
One day, I was riding my motorbike and I am very careful when I do it. Anyway, I always watch through the mirrors for doing any action, and I saw that one guy turned his lights off but I could not figure out which way he went. It was maximum 9pm. When I turned my left light on to enter my residence, I just felt the touch of someone on my leg.Did you remember the guy? It was him. At that time, I was wearing shorts, long shorts, but it does not matter because I felt like a sexual object.My reaction was, of course, screaming, and tried to catch him by taking his license plate number but I could not. Everything happened at Kasihan – Bantul. Finally, when I arrived at my home, and I told the story my host family, they said to me that it was my fault, because of my way of dress and because I put myself in danger.
Likewise, once I was walking around the city, specifically on “JalanMalioboro”, I was wearing a normal long dress and my arms were covered also. Even though, the glances of guys, especially young people, were unsupportable, not just to me, also at other Muslim girls. What did I do at that time? I asked them what they were looking at, and they just gave me apologies.
What did I learn from those experiences? No matter the way you dress, it can be long shorts, tiny clothes, huge dresses, it does not matter. People must understand that is not the problem. You can walk around with lot of clothes or with a bit, and nobody has the right to look at you as an object, as a piece of “meat”. When my host “mom” told me I was guilty of that an unscrupulous guy I felt bad, not because of her argument, because women justified that action, that kind of violence. If people are not conscious of the need to be respectful with others, they will do whatever they want. We need to demand respect even if you are women or men; women are not less than men because of their gender. All of us are human beings.