Indonesia considers harsher punishment for sexual violence

President calls for chemical castration for those who abuse children
Indonesia considers harsher punishment for sexual violence

Indonesian police escort teenage suspects prior to their trial in Curup, Bengkulu province on May 10. Seven Indonesian teenagers were jailed May 10 for the brutal murder and gang rape of a 14-year-old girl that sparked a national debate on sexual violence. (Photo by AFP)

The Indonesian National Commission on Violence against Women called on President Joko Widodo to develop a plan to combat sexual violence after several recent incidents shocked the nation.

Widodo recently suggested harsher prison terms and chemical castration for those convicted of sexual violence against children, a move that drew words of caution from the commission's deputy chairwoman.

"The president must (not) make policies that are against human rights," Yuniyanti Chuzaifah told after a May 11 press conference in Jakarta.

"Chemical castration is against human rights and doesn't resolve the root of the problem. Why? Because sexual violence isn't only about rape," Chuzaifah said.

The plan for harsher penalties was announced after Widodo said May 10 that sexual violence against children should be categorized as an extraordinary crime and required extraordinary measures to combat it. 

On April 2, a 14-year-old girl was gang raped and murdered by 14 males in Bengkulu province. Seven of the perpetrators have already been convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A month later in West Java province, a 2-year-old girl was raped and murdered by a 26-year-old male neighbor. The girl's body was found May 9; the suspect was arrested the next day. 

Chuzaifah said the root of the problem lie in the absence of a fair legal system, the lack of preventive measures and impunity for those with powerful connections. 

Notre Dame Sister Maria Resa from the Secretariat of Gender and Women Empowerment of the Indonesian bishops’ conference, questioned the use of chemical castration. 

"If a punishment harms God's creation, it's not a good thing. There's a better punishment. Let’s say an isolation, which is more humane," she said.

Sexual violence could be prevented long term through strong education programs directed at families.

"It starts from families. If children are taught well, they are strong mentally and won’t be easily influenced by their surroundings," she said.

According to data from the commission, 35 women are victims of sexual violence every day.

Meanwhile, data from the Indonesian Commission on Child Protection shows that there has been a continuous rise in cases of sexual violence against children, with 459 incidents recorded during the period between January and June last year, compared to 590 reports made throughout 2013.

From 2011 to 2014, there were 2,124 cases of sexual violence against children in Indonesia.

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