A protester holds up a poster during a demonstration in March 2018 outside the presidential palace in Jakarta to demand parliament and the government pass an anti-sexual violence law. (Photo: Konradus Epa/UCA News)
Indonesian police have arrested the head of an Islamic boarding school in Serang, Banten province, for allegedly raping underage girls at the school.
The 52-year-old cleric, who was only identified by the initials JM, allegedly had sex with 15 students aged 14-17.
Serang district police chief Indra Feradinata said he was arrested on July 29. “We have charged him and are collecting more evidence from witnesses and victims,” he said.
He did not comment on claims by the victims' parents that police were slow to respond to their complaints.
Anton Daeng Harapan, one parent, said they had reported the school head on July 22 following complaints by several students.
The police’s perceived inaction led to a protest at the school on July 28 involving hundreds of people including students and victims' families.
“We were angry because this man’s actions have destroyed the reputation of Muslim clerics and the lives of the victims,” Harapan told reporters.
It is alleged the school head, who has three wives, began attacking the schoolgirls last year by threatening them with black magic.
“He prayed over the girls and as payback he would ask them to have sex with them. He then said he would use black magic to hurt them if they refused," Harapan said.
Meanwhile, police in Sukabumi in West Java are hunting for a 70-year-old grandfather accused of sexually abusing 12 underage girls at his home.
The man has evaded police since learning that one of his alleged victims had reported him to the police.
“The grandfather lured the girls with candy and a small amount of money,” Sukabumi police chief Sumarni said on July 28.
The two cases come on the heels of a child abuse case in Jakarta in which a French national was accused of abusing at least 305 young girls before being caught and committing suicide in his jail cell.
Putu Elvina, commissioner of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, said these cases have shocked the entire nation and highlighted the need for authorities to act to protect vulnerable children.
She also called on parents to monitor their children’s online activities because sexual predators are increasingly using the internet to go after their prey.
She also demanded schools implement zero tolerance policies and report suspected acts of child abuse to the authorities.
Under Indonesian law, sexually abusing a child usually carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. However, according to Elvina, if the offender is a teacher, an additional three years can be imposed.