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Indonesian church officials criticize sexual offenders law

Chemical castration is cruel and unusual punishment, they say

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Indonesian church officials criticize sexual offenders law

This picture taken on April 19, shows gang rape and murder suspects of a 14-year old girl at the police headquarters in Curup, Bengkulu. Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced harsher punishments for sexual offenders who prey on children, including chemical castration. (Photo by AFP)

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Indonesian church officials said a decree signed by President Joko Widodo allowing chemical castration for sex offenders who prey on children was unnecessary.

President Widodo signed on May 25 the new regulation, which also requires parolees to wear electronic monitoring devices. The new regulations came in response to the brutal gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Bengkulu province, which sparked outrage across the country.

"I appreciate the government's motivation to protect children from sexual violence. … However, I must criticize (the government) for issuing the new regulation," Father Paulus Christian Siswantoko, executive secretary of the bishops' Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People, told on May 26 in Jakarta.

Father Siswantoko said the government should enforce child protection laws already on the books.

"What the government needs to do is to empower its (security) apparatus so that the law can be enforced consistently. By doing so, the government wouldn't need to issue the new regulation," he said.

Holy Spirit Missionary Sister Sesilia Susana Anak Agung, coordinator of the Atambua-based Women and Child Care Forum, said chemical castration was inhumane.

"I disagree with chemical castration. It should not be implemented. The punishment should be a long prison term," she said.

However, Notre Dame Sister Maria Resa of the Secretariat of Gender and Women Empowerment of the Indonesian bishops' conference, said the secretariat supports the new regulations.

"We support the new regulation. Regarding the harsher punishment, if we asked whether it's appropriate or not, it's relative. Sexual violence is an extraordinary crime. There must be a legal instrument that can bring hope to people that there will be a deterrent effect to perpetrators and those intending to commit sexual violence," she said. 

"The church, principally, doesn't support the death penalty and chemical castration. But other punishment, it's okay," she said. 

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.

Data from the commission shows that there has been a continuous rise in cases of sexual violence against children, with 459 incidents recorded between January and June 2015, 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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