Protesters rally outside the presidential palace in Jakarta to demand parliament pass an anti-sexual violence law in March 2018. (Photo: Konradus Epa/UCA News)
Police in Indonesia's East Java province have arrested and detained the head of an Islamic boarding school for allegedly abusing and raping underage girls at the school.
The 50-year-old cleric, who was identified as Subechan B, allegedly had sex with 15 students aged 16-17 at the school in Kauman village of Jombang district.
Jombang district police chief Agung Setyo Nugroho said he was arrested on Feb. 15 after being reported by parents on Feb. 8-9.
“Previously, we received reports from their parents that there were six victims but after being investigated and based on the information of witnesses, there are 15 underage girls molested and raped by the perpetrator,” Nugroho told reporters.
However, he said the number will increase. Police are still investigating.
Nugroho said the teacher's modus operandi was to control and hold routine activities every night by using his status as a cleric to ask students to pray.
After praying, he said, the cleric, who has a wife and children, entered the girls’ rooms and molested and had sex with them.
“The victims prefer to remain silent and they are afraid to make a report. And even they followed the perpetrator when they were molested and raped repeatedly,” he said.
The boarding school, which was built in 2010, has 300 students who are studying the Islamic religion.
However, Nugroho said all the alleged victims have left the school and gone back to their families following the case.
Meanwhile, Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, said the case has shocked people because it involved a role model who is supposed to protect the children instead of destroying their future.
“We hope the police investigate the case thoroughly because there may be other victims,” he told UCA News.
Under Indonesian law, sexually abusing a child usually carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and a fine of about US$360.
However, according to Sirait, if the offender is a teacher, an additional three years can be imposed.
Aan Anshori, coordinator of the Pious Muslims Alumni Network in Jombang, said law enforcement agencies must punish the teacher severely if he is found guilty because it is a shameful case that could destroy the students' future.
“The police must investigate transparently and the victims’ rights must be recovered because they are still in trauma,” he told UCA News.