He was their 36-year-old teacher who was supposed to educate, support and most importantly, protect them during their time at boarding school.
But as a criminal court in the Indonesian city of Bandung heard last week, the teacher raped at least 13 female students, aged between 13 and 16, under his care at boarding schools between 2016 and 2021.
In a disturbing detail heard by the court on Dec. 7, the first time the case was made public, at least nine babies have been born as a result of the rapes, while local media outlets also reported that two more children are expected. Accounts are conflicting on the exact number of girls he impregnated, though BBC Indonesia reports at least five.
Students outside an Islamic boarding school in Bandung, West Java. Photo: Timur Matahari / AFP
Previously known only by his initials HW, the full identity of the perpetrator, Herry Wirawan, was revealed this week. The trial is ongoing and he now faces multiple charges of rape, violence and sexual assault against minors under child protection laws in Indonesia—each carrying a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
Investigators also reported that the rapes, which first came to the attention of police in May, took place at several locations in Bandung, including hotels and on the premises of several schools and offices linked to the Islamic foundations set up by Herry.
The Islamic boarding school run by Herry was found to be operating without official authorization and without a permit from the authorities.
“There is no operational permit issued,” said Tedi Ahmad Junaedi, who heads the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Bandung. He added that the schools specialized in “Koran studies” and were operating without any permit from the government.
Troubling witness accounts have emerged about the female victims and how many were “groomed and lured” to Herry’s school. A local resident, who went by the name of Roni, told the court that his three sisters, who were raped by Herry, were lured with promises of free education.
“It was a free school and [students] who didn't have money were tempted,” he said. Female students were also told to “obey” male teachers at all times.
Mary Silvita, a local activist from an organization called the Solidarity Committee for the Protection of Women and Children, assisted one of the victims. She told BBC Indonesia that concern was raised among the local community after a female student was spotted in May with a pregnancy test kit after returning home from school, prompting her family to lodge a police report.
“The defendant forced one of the victims to have sex with him even when she was menstruating,” prosecutors said. “The assault had greatly affected the psychological state of the victims. They expressed hatred and anger towards the defendant. They’re scared of him.”
The case has sent shockwaves throughout Indonesia and prompted massive public outcry. The persistence of sexual abuse within schools as a whole has led to growing calls for better oversight, as Indonesia at large is in the grips of a national reckoning of its prevalence of sexual violence. Last month, the Minister of Education Nadiem Makarim said that the country was facing a “sexual violence pandemic” in its educational institutions.
Women’s rights advocates and groups have previously raised concern over legal protections offered to victims of sexual violence in Indonesia, noting a “watered-down” Sexual Violence Criminal Act that is currently being deliberated.
In a separate case that also sparked outrage in Indonesia in 2016, a teenager named Yuyun was gang raped and killed a day before her 14th birthday. An LA Times report published on Wednesday speaking with her grieving family quoted them as saying little had changed in the five years since her death and that “we are still at the same place.”
“When Yuyun died, our country grieved,” her mother said. “Let her be the last, we said, too. But she is not. We see more and more victims every day.”
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