Tourists do 'walk of shame' on Indonesian island


Two Australian tourists were paraded with signs saying that they were thieves on the Indonesian island of Gili Trawangan after allegedly having stolen a bike.

A Facebook page for the islands posted a photo of the pair on December 10, but it only gained traction on social and news media over a week later.

“I AM THIEVE – DON’T DO WHAT I DID…!!!” warn the homemade cardboard signs slung around the tourists’ necks. The pair had reportedly stolen a bike from a hotel on the island, and were caught on CCTV. Island authorities then apprehended the pair and paraded them through the island with the signs in a “walk of shame” punishment that is traditionally used for petty crimes like stealing in Indonesia. France 24 has not been able to find out the identity of the tourists.

Our Observer was holidaying on the island and saw the parade.


"They weren't held or forced – it wasn't a spectacle"

It was our last day there and we were at the harbour checking into our boats. We saw a little bit of a commotion up ahead on the road – there’s just one main road – with people separating out of the way. There aren’t cars on the island, so we thought that was weird. Then we saw the guys dressed in black, and walking up the street surrounding someone.

[The two tourists] were given a wide berth, they weren’t being held or forced. One of the policemen had a baton, but that was just part of his uniform. They were all just casually walking. They weren’t ringing a bell trying to call attention to it; it was just a march through the centre of town. It wasn’t a spectacle. People would look at them as they went past, but it wasn’t a big deal. They didn’t point and laugh, and they weren’t ridiculing them or shaming them.

I know that if I were in their place, I would be humiliated, but they were just walking normally. They didn’t have hunched shoulders or heads looking down. They were just taking a stroll. It really didn’t seem newsworthy.

They just paraded them once up the main street, and meanwhile we went and sat down to wait for our boat. They [the two tourists] joined our group that was getting on the boat maybe 15 minutes later. I didn’t want to speak to them – I thought it had probably been embarrassing enough. But they seemed fine, they had served their punishment and it was done.


"Seeing white tourists marched up and down is a novelty"

Gili Trawangan is one of a triad of small Indonesian islands east of popular tourism destination Bali. A fast boat from Lombok, the nearest large island, takes only 35 minutes. Because the islands are so small, there is no local police force. Such parades are a usual form of punishment for theft, and have taken place for years. Ray Montgomery, a British journalist that lives on Gili Trawangan, told France 24 a bit more about the island’s “walk of shame” custom.


The practice is confined to small-scale crime like petty theft. A more serious crime would go through the police on Lombok. The custom is a deterrent more than anything else. What normally happens is they have to wear a placard, they are marched up and down for a bit and then they usually spend half a day cleaning up the island or doing community service of some sort before being kicked off the island permanently.

There is no permanent police force, so the people surrounding the tourists are a private security force. They do have the right to detain people if required, but it’s not really arrest. They would have been called by the head of the village, and it would have been him who would have made the decision.

It’s not due process, to be honest – it’s a decision by the authorities that takes place in 20 or 30 minutes. There is very little support for anyone who is accused. They do have the right to go through the proper process with the police on Lombok, but that option is time-consuming and expensive, so usually they would rather do the walk.

I would say a parade happens probably about 3 or 4 times a year, and it’s becoming more frequent. It’s usually the locals who have to do it. Seeing white tourists marched up and down is a novelty, although it’s not the first time it has happened, and locals will gather round and watch.