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Killed by Jutting and forgotten by Indonesia

image copyrightAFP
image captionSumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih were migrant workers from Indonesia

British banker Rurik Jutting has been found guilty of murder, but in Jakarta, as BBC Indonesian's Rebecca Henschke reports, the grisly fate of the two Indonesian women he killed was seen as just another migrant worker story gone wrong.

Indonesians are used to reports of violence and abuse of their migrant workers. The media here carries horror stories almost every month and President Joko Widodo has made protecting migrant workers one of his key policies.

Some cases have sparked protests outside foreign embassies as fellow workers shout out for the rights of the women labouring abroad.

But few of them get so brutally killed and there has been notably little coverage of the murder trial in Hong Kong of Sumarti Ningsih and Seneng Mujiasih, the two victims.

On social media no one is really talking about it and when they do there is little sympathy for the women.

"Sumarti was generous. That much is clear from the evidence in the house. Her driving force was to improve life for her family, to make them richer. Life may be peaceful in the village but she would have been all too aware of the possibilities of a life with more material comforts."

Facebook provides a clue as to why sympathy for the two women may be in short supply.

"That's the risk of being a sex worker," wrote one Facebook user. "They want to get rich but they don't want to work hard."

media captionJutting case: 'We were lucky it wasn't us'

Another wrote: 'I hope God forgives the sins of the killer and the victim."

It's certainly true that some on social media point out that no matter what your profession, nobody deserves to be tortured like that. But activists say that the way the murders were reported two years ago dehumanised the two women.

image copyrightEPA
image captionMigrant workers have held vigils in Hong Kong for the two women

"They have been incredibly stigmatised by the press as sex workers who in some way deserve to be tortured and killed," Anis Hidayah, the executive director of Migrant Care says.

"People are now not as interested as they should be in their families receiving the justice that they deserve for this horrific crime."

She sees this case as a missed opportunity.

"Hong Kong has always been seen as a safe place for our migrant workers to work in but these murders show that is not the case. This trial is very important to remind the government that they have lots of work to do to better protect our women abroad."

Fellow migrant worker Lidya says she is devastated by the lack of sympathy for her friends, adding that even the media coverage has lacked empathy.

"I can't understand why after this horrific thing has happened to them people focusing on their profession as female entertainers," she told BBC Indonesian.

Struggling with loss

Outside the Hong Kong court on Tuesday, a group representing the two families distributed statements describing how the women only wanted to seek a better life and support their families back in Indonesia, who still live in grinding poverty.

Ms Mujiasih's family described her as an "outgoing" person who had many friends.

"As a child, she had no aspirations whatsoever and only told her mother 'When I've finished school, I want to work so Mama would not be miserable'," they said.

image captionThe family still keeps pictures of Sumarti in their home

In distant Cilacap, deep in the Javanese countryside, Ms Ningsih's father Ahmad Kaliman has been deeply shocked by the updates he has received from the trial about how his daughter died.

"I didn't know before that my daughter was tortured badly before she was killed. She suffered so much and it makes the pain of her death even worse," he said.

"I wish I could go there and punish him myself. I don't care what people say about her job. For us, she is a good girl that tried to help her parents and her family."

Since her death they have been struggling to keep Sumarti's seven-year-old son in school.

"She was the one who paid for everything, I hope the judge orders her murderer to pay for the costs of Muhamad's education," says her mother, Suratmi.

"She cannot be replaced. I still can't accept that she is gone. Every time I remember her, I go to her tomb, and pray," she said, her eyes filled with tears.

image captionSumarti's family have called on the Indonesian government to sponsor a scholarship for her seven-year-old son

In the two years since her death nobody from the Indonesian government has visited them. And no-one took the time to tell them that the trial was even on. They learned that from reporters.

When the BBC arrived at their home ahead of the verdict, the family were out working in their rice fields.

They were surprised to learn this was the day the man who killed their daughter would be convicted.

image captionThe family expressed surprise when the BBC told them of the case's latest developments

It's in stark contrast to the media circus that took place in Jakarta just a few weeks ago when a wealthy young woman was found guilty of murdering her friend with a cyanide-laced coffee because she was jealous.

That trial was broadcast live on all the major news channel and both families were given hours of coverage.

But today there are no cameras standing by outside Ahmad and Suratmi's home waiting to hear their story.

Related Topics

  • Indonesia