Indonesian prosecutors on Tuesday called for the death penalty for an owner of an Islamic boarding school accused of raping at least a dozen students since 2016, in a case that grabbed national headlines.
The prosecution also demanded that the court order Herry Wirawan, 36, founder of an Islamic boarding school in West Java province, to be chemically castrated and pay compensation of 331.5 million rupees (23,000 $ US) to its alleged victims.
The sentencing demand came as parliament is set to deliberate on a strict sexual violence bill that has been delayed due to opposition from Muslim groups.
“We find that the action of the accused is a very serious crime,” prosecutor Asep Nana Mulyana told reporters after the hearing at the Bandung District Court.
“We call for the death penalty for the defendant chief prosecutor to demonstrate our commitment to deter… such crimes. “
According to local media, at least eight babies have been born to the victims, aged 14 to 20, as a result of the accused’s alleged actions since 2016.
Herry’s attorneys are expected to respond to the prosecution’s request during his next court appearance scheduled for January 20. The trial which began in December has been closed to the public from the start.
Chief prosecutor Asep said Herry used his position as founder and guardian of the Islamic boarding school to prey on his victims.
“The accused used religious symbols to manipulate, and as justification, his evil deeds,” Asep said.
The prosecutor also asked the court to dissolve and order the sale of the school and a foundation created by the accused, so that the funds received can be used to support the victims and their children, a statement from his office.
The alleged incidents came to light last year after the parents of a victim filed a police complaint against Herry after learning their daughter was pregnant, police said.
Herry was arrested in May and has been in Bandung custody since.
Bill against sexual violence
After public outcry over a series of sexual assaults against minors in 2016, including the murder of a schoolboy on the island of Sumatra, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo introduced an emergency bill authorizing new penalties, including chemical castration and / or the death penalty for child sex offenses.
Since then, deliberations on the bill have been delayed due to opposition from Islamic groups who claim it promotes promiscuity. In addition, conservative lawmakers want the bill to include bans on extramarital and same-sex sex.
A watered-down version of the bill released in August recognizes five forms of sexual violence – forced sex, sexual harassment, forced use of contraceptives, forced abortion and sexual exploitation – up from nine in the original draft.
Jokowi last week called on parliament to pass the bill, which aims to prevent all forms of sexual violence, including marital rape, and gives victims more rights.
“I hope that the sexual violence bill will be passed soon, so that it can offer maximum protection to victims of sexual violence in the country,” Jokowi said.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Puan Maharani has said the bill will be on the parliamentary agenda for next week.
Drafting of the sexual violence bill is complete, Puan told parliament on Tuesday.
Moeldoko, the president’s uniquely named chief of staff, said the government would consult the public during parliamentary deliberations.
“We will solicit ideas (…) from members of civil society and take stock of the issues,” he said in a statement.
Mardani Ali Sera, a member of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said his faction would vote for the bill on condition that it banned extramarital and same-sex sex.
“PKS supports it as long as it doesn’t promote free sex. We are opposed to both sexual violence and sexual liberalism, ”Mardani told reporters.
“There must be a legal umbrella that protects our culture. Extramarital sex is bad, either with coercion or with consent. “
Thousands of cases of sexual violence
Activists said women are often blamed when they are victims of sexual violence. At least 8,800 cases of sexual violence occurred between January and November 2021, according to the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection.
In November, three women’s rights activists – Sharyn Davies, Alegra Wolter and Dédé Oetomo – wrote in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs that the revised sexual violence bill offers little protection to victims of sexual violence.
“There is little that law enforcement officials can do to help the victims, and that only perpetuates the terrible position in which the victims find themselves,” they wrote.
“The revised bill also provides little to ministries or institutions to support survivors. Governments are not mandated to support victims and there are no regulations obliging them to support victims.
Despite their concerns, the authors supported the bill.
“His passing will become the first step in ensuring the safety of citizens in their own country,” they said.