On behalf of One Billion Rising activists, we would like to appeal to the Indonesian government for clemency for Filipina migrant worker Mary Jane Veloso, who is awaiting execution in Indonesia. We are asking Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) to spare Mary Jane’s life as she is clearly a victim of both trafficking and economic violence. Mary Jane is due to be executed on Tuesday, April 28th, for carrying 2.6 kilos of heroin into Indonesia, a crime she has pleaded not guilty to as she was deceived and manipulated into doing it. But what is not as visible to society at large and to the world are the invisible hands of poverty and grave economic need that so desperately drive women like Mary Jane out of their home countries and into worst forms of economic enslavement, exploitation and abuse in other countries. Mary Jane was first a victim of human trafficking, having been tricked into a false job in Malaysia.
She was then victimised a second time when, upon arrest, she lacked access to justice outside her home country. Faulty legal procedures and court-provided interpreters gave Mary Jane huge challenges and difficulties understanding the legal proceedings. But what has to be understood is that before she even left to work abroad, Mary Jane was already a victim of forced labor migration, pushed by poverty to seek employment away from everything she knew to be home, by any means possible and available to her, just so that could provide food and education for her two young sons. As a single mother, it must have been harrowing to leave her infant children behind. And even more harrowing is the fact that she has sat in an Indonesian jail for five years where, today, her two young sons are saying goodbye. Saying good-bye to their mother they barely knew, pulled away from them so early, only to be executed by firing squad for simply having the desire to give them a better future. People like Mary Jane should not be the ones punished for wanting only what is humanely due to people – a dignified life where aspirations for their children are cradled and nurtured in possibility and hope. The ones who should be accountable are the people who tricked her, who used her, and her government that is mandated to protect and respect her basic human rights for a dignified life. Not a single mother from a peasant family, reared in poverty caused by the exploitation of resources, who are then pushed to migrate – only to be used as cheap and dispensable labor.
We urge President Joko Widodo to save Mary Jane – and to treat her not as a criminal, but as a victim of successive and incessant exploitation. It is all our responsibility to understand the contexts of economic deprivation and exploitation and its connection to the escalating violence being experienced by women all over the world – and do everything in our power to challenge and change the system that perpetuates this violence.
We, the global One Billion Rising community, RISE in solidarity with Mary Jane. We RISE for JUSTICE for her. And we will continue to RISE for REVOLUTION for all migrant workers around the world – to demand their dignity, respect, equality and freedom.