In­done­sian women killed in HK are for­got­ten at home

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

They were poor and vul­ner­a­ble no­bod­ies try­ing to make a liv­ing in a so­phis­ti­cated and clin­i­cal me­trop­o­lis far from their is­land vil­lages. They were bru­tal­ized by a mem­ber of the global 1 per­cent, a Cam­bridge Univer­sity-ed­u­cated 31-year-old who boasted that he spent his half-mil­lion­dol­lar salary on drugs and pros­ti­tutes.

The Hong Kong trial of a Bri­tish stock trader who mur­dered two In­done­sian women and hor­rif­i­cally tor­tured one of them, record­ing the three-day or­deal on his phone, has cap­tured head­lines day after day in the ter­ri­tory off China and in me­dia out­lets around the world. But in In­done­sia, their home, the re­ac­tion was far dif­fer­ent: Scarcely any­one no­ticed. So­cial me­dia didn’t stir. There were no dra­matic head­lines or out­raged ed­i­to­ri­als about the plight of the mil­lions of vul­ner­a­ble In­done­sian women com­pelled by poverty to work abroad.

Hor­ri­fy­ing ev­i­dence

The pros­e­cu­tion last week pre­sented hor­ri­fy­ing ev­i­dence of three days of es­ca­lat­ing tor­ture for the first vic­tim, Su­marti Ningsih. She was re­peat­edly raped, her gen­i­talia bat­tered with fists, her body mu­ti­lated with pli­ers and her throat slowly cut with a ser­rated knife. Ju­rors wore frozen ex­pres­sions of shock as de­fen­dant Rurik Jut­ting’s smart­phone videos were played. “I’ve never seen any­one that scared,” Jut­ting said of Ningsih in one of the videos. “She would vol­un­tar­ily eat fe­ces out of the toi­let and then smile and thank me after­ward. That’s how scared she was. She would just do any­thing.”

While In­done­sian broad­cast­ers largely ig­nored that case, they de­voted hours of live cov­er­age to the In­done­sian trial of a priv­i­leged young woman ac­cused of mur­der­ing her friend with cyanide-laced cof­fee, al­legedly be­cause she was an­gry about a tiff over boyfriends. “We find no sup­port from the gov­ern­ment and me­dia in our own coun­try,” said Ningsih’s brother Suyit Khal­i­man. “We don’t un­der­stand, maybe be­cause she was a maid or what­ever. No mat­ter how she worked for her fam­ily, she de­serves jus­tice,” he said.

In the two years since Ningsih was killed, no one from the gov­ern­ment has been in touch with the fam­ily, Khal­i­man said. They heard the trial had started from re­porters and some on­line news re­ports. The fam­ily is also grap­pling with the fu­ture of Ningsih’s son, now 7. One day, Khal­i­man said, “The boy will know how his mother died, per­haps from the in­ter­net, and we are wor­ried about that.” Clos­ing ar­gu­ments in Jut­ting’s mur­der trial are ex­pected by the end of this week. He has pleaded not guilty.

Ningsih, 23, and the se­cond vic­tim, 26year-old Se­neng Mu­ji­asih, were among the le­gions of In­done­sians work­ing abroad, many of them un­doc­u­mented, and vul­ner­a­ble to ex­ploita­tion. The In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mated their num­bers at 4.3 mil­lion in 2012. Mi­grant Care, an In­done­sian ad­vo­cacy group, says most are not ed­u­cated be­yond pri­mary school and 85 per­cent are women. It says gov­ern­ment com­mit­ments to bol­ster pro­tec­tions are still mainly only on pa­per.

Keep­ing fam­i­lies afloat

Ningsih had worked in Hong Kong for sev­eral years and was on a vis­i­tor pass at the time of her mur­der. Jut­ting had paid her for sex on a pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sion. Her fam­ily, who she was in reg­u­lar con­tact with, be­lieved her most re­cent job was work­ing as a wait­ress. Mu­ji­asih had an em­ploy­ment pass to work as a maid but also worked at a bar where Jut­ting met her and of­fered her a large sum of money for sex. At his apart­ment, Jut­ting cut her throat dur­ing a strug­gle after she saw a rope gag he tried to hide un­der a cush­ion, ac­cord­ing to the po­lice summary of facts.

Mu­ji­harjo, the 56-year-old fa­ther of Mu­ji­asih, said daily life for the fam­ily was dif­fi­cult, emo­tion­ally and fi­nan­cially, but they tried to ac­cept what hap­pened and move on. Money she sent ev­ery month had helped pay to build a new house for the fam­ily in South Su­lawesi, he said. Khal­i­man, Ningsih’s 27-year-old brother, said the fam­ily was sur­prised to learn the source of the money she sent back to In­done­sia. But it is rel­a­tively com­mon for earn­ings from the sex in­dus­try to keep fam­i­lies back home afloat, an un­palat­able fact in In­done­sia, a pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim, so­cially con­ser­va­tive coun­try of more than 250 mil­lion peo­ple. —AP

JAVA: In this Thurs­day, Oct. 27, 2016, photo, fam­ily mem­bers of In­done­sian mi­grant worker Su­marti Ningsih who was mur­dered in Hong Kong, from left to right; fa­ther Ah­mad Kal­i­man, brother Suyit and mother Su­ratmi pray at her grave. — AP

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