Seven months after the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) declared the country to be in a state of emergency over its rampant violence against children, the Indonesian government has announced that it's currently drafting a government regulation-in-lieu-of-the-law, otherwise known as Peraturan Pemerintah Pengganti Undang-Undang or perppu, that would serve to create harsher punishments for child sexual abusers—including convicted rapists and pedophiles.
On May 10, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, reiterated that plans to severely punish sexual abusers against children will have his blessing, going so far as to declare the crime as an "extraordinary" one, recognizing it as on par with terrorism, corruption, and drug abuse. As quoted by Indonesia's national newspaper Kompas, the president said, "As this type of crime is on the rise, in the cabinet meeting we have included the crime as an extraordinary crime and it must be tackled with extraordinary means, as well. Our attitude and actions will have to be extraordinary, too."
Formulated by the Indonesian government through the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, the regulation will warrant a heavier prison sentence (bringing the 15-year maximum imprisonment time up to 20), a possible life imprisonment or death sentence if the abuses end in death, and the implantation of an electronic chip in the ankles of newly released prisoners. The new regulation will also include a punishment that has drawn both public support and ire: chemical castration for convicted pedophiles.
According to Indonesia's law and human rights minister, Yasonna Laoly, the presiding judge will be the one to decide whether a convicted pedophile should receive the non-mandatory punishment, based on the testaments by experts in the court [link in Indonesian]. Meanwhile, the new prison sentence will update the existing law—passed in 2014—on child protection that stipulates that perpetrators of child abuse that end in the victims' death get a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.
The regulation, which dates back to October 2015, came after a string of incidents over the past month. While the discovery of the brutal gang rape and death of a 14-year-old girl known as Yuyun in the remote Bengkulu province became a symbol of how the media can no longer turn a blind eye to sexual abuse cases, further cases shed light on the epidemic in the country. On May 12, for instance, a woman was raped and murdered by three men after refusing a sexual encounter in the city of Tangerang. (The men are in police custody.)
Many have gamely supported the castration provision. Indonesia's social minister, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, said that the punishment could teach a lesson to the perpetrators. And several other organizations, including KPAI, voiced their support for the plans. "It's not a matter of agreement or disagreement," KPAI's leader, Asrorun Ni'am Sholeh, said [link in Indonesian]. "Let's take the most extraordinary step for this extraordinary issue."
But the louder cries come from those who disagree with the plan, citing human rights violations and ineffectiveness. Sri Nurherwati, a member of the the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) specializing in law and policy reforms, told me that many victims' cases never even make it to court because the costs become too burdensome for their families. She believes regulations should focus on that aspect. "If the state's response is to make the law a lot more severe than it is, then it'll only apply to [the] small number of abusers that could make it to the court. How can you teach a lesson that way? How do you get rid of sexual violence?" she said.
In its press release [link in Indonesian], Indonesia's Community Legal Aid Institute said that although the plan looks tough, "Castration is a punishment that's predicated on vengeance and hate, and not on the philosophy of modern jurisdiction that will help abusers reintegrate themselves with the community." The institute recommended that the country should amend the existing laws against sexual abuses.
While the move has repeatedly been criticized for its knee-jerk overreaction and misplaced solution, the government has not backed down. As of today, Indonesia's coordinating human development and culture minister said that the plan had not been accepted by the government, but deliberation was still underway.