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Report: Indonesia's mentally ill shackled and confined

Practice remains widespread despite being declared illegal in 1977

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Report: Indonesia's mentally ill shackled and confined

Divine Word Father Aventinus Saur visits a shackled mentally ill man in Indonesia, April 13, 2014. A report by Human Rights Watch says that more than 57,000 mentally ill people in the country are kept in similar conditions. (Photo supplied)

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Indonesia has shackled and locked up in small, confined spaces more than 57,000 mentally ill people, according to a report by Human Rights Watch. 

At least 18,800 people are currently being shackled, based on the latest government figures. Although pasung — the shackling of the mentally ill to confined spaces — was banned in 1977, the practice remains widespread, according to the 74-page report released March 21 in Jakarta. 

"Shackling people with mental health conditions is illegal in Indonesia and yet it remains a widespread and brutal practice," Kriti Sharma, disability rights researcher at the group and author of the report, "Living in Hell: Abuses against People with Psychosocial Disabilities in Indonesia," said in a statement.

"People spend years locked up in chains, wooden stocks, or goat sheds because families don't know what else to do and the government doesn't do a good job of offering humane alternatives," she added.

Divine Word Father Aventinus Saur, coordinator of the Community of Charity for Mentally Ill People based in Ende district of East Nusa Tenggara province, said mentally ill people are routinely treated inhumanely.

"In general, they are shackled in their own houses. Some are even shackled in rooms which are built outside their houses and look like livestock cages," he said.

"The government doesn't pay a serious attention to the issue. In this province, for example, there's only one psychiatrist who lives in the provincial capital of Kupang and the only hospital with a clinic for mentally ill people is located there," he said.  

Father Saur said his organization visit clients in their homes after getting information from local people. 

"We help them by giving them food and clothes. We also try to communicate with them," he said, adding that the community has taken care of 36 mentally ill people living in the district since its establishment in February.

"As persons with psychosocial disabilities, they are ignored. If they are treated, they are surely shackled without any medication."

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