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Indonesian Catholic lawyer calls for stricter action against child abusers

A Quran teacher has been arrested for raping underage girl students in Central Java province
A vigil against child sexual abuse that was held in West Manggarai district of Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province in 2018

A vigil against child sexual abuse that was held in West Manggarai district of Indonesia's East Nusa Tenggara province in 2018. (Photo supplied)

Published: July 13, 2022 10:04 AM GMT
Updated: July 13, 2022 10:05 AM GMT

A Catholic lawyer has called for stricter punishment for those guilty of child sexual abuse after Indonesian police arrested and charged yet another teacher with raping at least four girls at his home in the country’s Central Java province.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan, who deals with cases of sexual violence against children, said law enforcement officers must ensure strict punishment for the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.

“They must be brave enough to sentence the guilty to life in prison,” he told UCA News on July 13.

He further appealed that Catholics in the country must file police reports if they know of any cases of sexual violence against children.

“Never sweep it under the rug. Let us open our eyes and deal with it. By doing so, we show our stance in siding with the victims,” he added.

Magelang District Police chief Mochamad Sajarod Zakun said a 31-year-old Quran teacher, who was not named, was arrested on July 12 after the family of a victim filed a police report.

Preliminary investigations revealed that the culprit had committed the crime over a six-month period from December last year. All four victims were minors who visited his home to study the Quran. One of them is pregnant, the police chief said.

Retno Listyarti, a commissioner at Indonesia's Child Protection Commission, felt the “power relation” between the teacher and students may have contributed to the crimes.

“Teachers threaten their students. In many cases, teachers force their students to do what they want by saying that they can just give bad marks if they refuse to do so,” she said and suggested that parents should monitor their children even when they’re out pursuing their studies.

She said many victims do not file police reports out of fear or shame. “But when they do not speak up, it means there are more children falling victims,” she said.

Earlier this month, Mochamad Subchi Azal Tsani, a 42-year-old son of a well-known Islamic cleric in Jombang district, East Java province, was arrested and named a suspect in a case of molesting a female student back in 2019.

In April, a 39-year-old Quran teacher at an Islamic school in Bandung district, West Java province, was arrested on charges of raping at least 12 boys.

In the same month, Herry Wirawan, a 36-year-old religious teacher and Islamic boarding school owner, was sentenced to death after being convicted of raping 13 students and impregnating at least eight of them.

“It is tip-of-the-iceberg. What we see is only a small part, there are still many cases which have not yet been revealed and reported,” Nahar, deputy chief of the child protection desk at the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, told UCA News.

The ministry’s data recorded 6,980 sexual violence cases out of 11,278 violence against children cases in 2020, and 8,703 out of 14,517 in 2021. About 3,266 sexual violence cases were recorded between January and May this year.

“The ministry has taken measures including prevention, handling, and reinforcement of related institutions. Prevention includes making regulations and building a child-friendly environment within the family and the society,” Nahar said.

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