Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called for severe punishment of those who brutally gang-raped and murdered a 14-year-old schoolgirl, in a case that sparked widespread outrage and calls for stronger laws to protect women and children in the country.
"We all mourn the tragic passing of YY," he tweeted yesterday, referring to the girl by her initials. "Arrest and punish the perpetrators as severely as possible. Women and children must be protected from violence."
The teenage girl was on her way home from school in Bengkulu province, in South Sumatra, when she was believed to have been dragged into the woods by someone she knew, brutally gang-raped and then killed. Her body was found dumped in a ravine two days later.
The crime took place in early April but anger has grown in recent days after reports about it went viral on social media.
Police have arrested 12 suspects in connection with the case, seven of them teenage boys under 17 years old. Two other suspects remain at large.
Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister Yohana Yembise, joining 117 human rights activists in condemning the "insolent and inhumane act", has demanded that Parliament pass the Sexual Violence Bill drafted in 2014 which covers rape, sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and a host of other sex-related offences.
Activists said the new law would not only cover sex offences currently under the criminal code but also other crimes of sex violence against women.
It provides for heavier penalties, including life term for rape that results in death, and better protection for rape victims.
Ms Yohana told a news conference yesterday that current jail sentences of up to 15 years for sex-related offences were insufficient to tackle the problem.
"I hope Parliament can work quickly," she said. "We will continue to push."
"For perpetrators who have gone overboard, they ought to be sentenced to life imprisonment or simply shot dead," the clearly emotional Ms Yohana told newsmen.
Victims of sexual violence suffer very serious consequences, from lifetime trauma to death, she said.
The National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan, which drafted the Bill, documented 321,752 cases of violence against women last year, its commissioner Masruchah told The Straits Times. The number had gone up by more than 28,500 from the previous year.
She noted "an extraordinary" trend of rise in gang rapes since 2013, which she attributed to youth watching more pornography on social media and the lack of education about sexuality in schools.
Ms Mutiara Ika Pratiwi, the national secretary for women's group Perempuan Mahardhika, also urged Parliament to pass the new law as soon as possible.
"It's disappointing. The cases of sexual violence against women are rising but it seems that the government still considers this a trivial matter," she told The Straits Times.
"Come on, Jokowi, where's your voice? Hurry up and pass the law," she added. "Often when girls get pregnant, parents or community leaders make them marry their rapists. This must end."