Jokowi to toughen laws on child sex offenders

An activist holds a banner during a peace rally against sexual violence on children and on women. Movements against sexual harassment and violence have increased following last month's gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by 14 males in Bengkul
An activist holds a banner during a peace rally against sexual violence on children and on women. Movements against sexual harassment and violence have increased following last month's gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl by 14 males in Bengkulum South Sumatra.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Men convicted of sex offences against children in Indonesia could soon face tougher penalties, including chemical castration, electronic tagging with an implanted chip, even death.

President Joko Widodo decided in a Cabinet ministers' meeting yesterday that he will soon issue an emergency law - known as a perppu - that allows courts to increase penalties especially for repeat criminals. Currently, the maximum sentence for men for such offences is 15 years' jail, according to a minister.

Yesterday's move comes after the media highlighted a growing number of sex crimes against children in Indonesia, prompting concern on social media.

Last month, 14 males gang-raped and murdered a 14-year-old girl in Bengkulum South Sumatra. Last October, the body of a nine-year-old girl was found wrapped in cardboard near the Soekarno-Hatta airport outside Jakarta. The girl had been abused sexually and suffocated.

Indonesia's Constitution gives the President the right to issue a rule in lieu of law (perppu) when he determines one is necessitated by an emergency in the country. Perppu is immediately effective after the President signs it, and Parliament can either let it remain effective or end it within a year after the perppu is issued.

"Child sex offences are extraordinary crimes, therefore, we need extraordinary measures to address that," Human Development and Culture Coordinating Minister Puan Maharani told reporters after the Cabinet ministers' meeting led by Mr Joko. "The perppu will also give judges room to decide on publishing the identity of the convicted offenders to alert the public."

Mr Asrorun Niam Sholeh, chairman of the Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), who participated in yesterday's meeting, said: "There were debates during the meeting on whether ethics or human rights would be breached, but we were reminded by the fact that even democracies with strong human rights records also apply castration.

"This tells us that child sex offences are serious crimes, and the victims' rights must supersede offenders' rights. The public feelings and anger about repeated child sex offence must be responded to. A democratic country should do that."

Sweden, Denmark, Canada and eight states in the US perform chemical castration on some sex offenders. Results from Scandinavia show that the procedure can reduce repeat offences to 5 per cent from more than 40 per cent.

Chemical castration involves the administration of drugs that reduce testosterone levels, but the process is reversible, unlike surgical castration, in which a man's testicles are removed to eliminate his sex drive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2016, with the headline 'Jokowi to toughen laws on child sex offenders'. Print Edition | Subscribe