Indonesia’s women ministry head asked: free Mary Jane

Media Release
20 April 2023

In time for Indonesia’s Women Emancipation Day on April 21, an open letter signed by 186 organizations around the world was submitted to the head of the country’s ministry on women, asking her to help secure the freedom of Mary Jane Veloso, the Filipina who has been imprisoned in Indonesia over drug trafficking charges since 2010.

The open letter, which includes a letter from Mrs. Celia Veloso, Mary Jane’s mother, was addressed to Indonesia’s Minister of Women Empowerment and Child Protection, Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati, and was signed by Migrante International together with migrant and different organizations from the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries. 

The letter expressed solidarity with Indonesia’s celebration of Women Emancipation Day, stated that Mary Jane was a victim of human trafficking who carried a suitcase she did not know contained drugs, and asked for cooperation with the ministry in working for clemency for Mary Jane.

“The fight for Mary Jane’s freedom continues. Migrants and migrant advocates will continue to unite and find ways of working for our just demand. We trust that Indonesian authorities see the justness of our call and hope that they act on it soon,” said Joanna Concepcion, Migrante-International chairperson.

The open letter, available in English and Bahasa Indonesia, also cited the stay of execution granted to Mary Jane in 2015, the life imprisonment sentence handed down to her traffickers in 2020, the Philippine governments’ appeal for clemency in 2022, and the old age of her parents who want to be reunited with her in the soonest possible time.

“Women human trafficking victims like Mary Jane should be protected,” the open letter said, “while the real perpetrators of serious crimes such as illegal recruitment and human trafficking… should be prosecuted and convicted.” The signatories said, “We hope we can work with you in combatting human trafficking and protecting women and girls across the world.” 

Mrs. Veloso, for her part, cited the stalling in hearings on Mary Jane’s case as the reason for her letter, saying “It is difficult to accept that one of my children has not been by my side for almost 13 years. My daughter has suffered for a wrong she has not committed.”

Among the open letter’s signatories are: the Good Shepherd Sisters and Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesia, the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development or APWLD, the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women, the German NGO Network Against Trafficking in Human Beings , the Carmelite NGO-United States, and the International Migrants Alliance or IMA. 

“We vow to never stop until Mary Jane is free and reunited with her family. She and her family have already suffered so much. We appeal to the Indonesian Women’s Minister to give attention to the pleas from the global community calling for clemency and Mary Jane’s immediate freedom,” Concepcion said.###