A teenaged girl sentenced to six months behind bars for aborting a pregnancy after being repeatedly raped by her older brother was released from prison on Monday after her conviction was overturned by a higher court in Jambi, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.
The conviction, seen by many as a travesty of justice, was only one of a series of controversial court rulings that have shaken people's faith in Indonesia's criminal justice system. The girl, aged 15, was previously found guilty of illegally aborting a fetus at nearly six months, in violation of the nation's 40 day cut-off point for legal abortions in the case of rape.
While that 40 day deadline — an incredibly tight and highly unrealistic window to tell if you're actually pregnant or not — is already the source of plenty of criticism in Indonesia, it's also one of the few instances where abortion is legal in this country. The girl's mother, who allegedly helped her daughter terminate the pregnancy, told the courts that her daughter was scared and confused at the time.
Her 18-year-old brother routinely sexually assaulted her, and would threaten her with physical violence if she told anyone. Their mother only found out after the teen girl fell pregnant.
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The brother was sentenced to 24 months behind bars. His sister, and victim, received six months for breaking the law, a sentence that initially received the support of the prosecution and the Indonesia Child Protection Commission (KPAI), which basically said, "hey, the law's the law." That's a commission tasked with protecting children that was more concerned with an unborn fetus than an actual child victim of rape, but it's pretty much in-character considering the problematic history of the KPAI.
On Monday, the High Court in Jambi overturned the prior conviction, explaining that "the panel of judges said [the defendant] was proven to have had an abortion, but it was done under forced circumstances," according to court spokesman Hasoloan Sianturi.
A local women's rights activist, Mirna Novita Amir, of the Jambi Women’s Consortium (KPJ), told reporters that jail was no place for a rape victim. The girl will instead receive psychological counseling and then resume her schooling, Mirna told local media.
While this might seem like an important victory, remember what it cost. This girl, while now released, already spent one month behind bars as a convicted felon. She also had her name dragged through the press, and was even banished from her village by the local council for committing incest. So this court ruling might just be the first in a long list of stuff that needs to be fixed before we can truly call this justice.