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Indonesia: Child Protection Law Revised

(Oct. 25, 2016) On October 12, 2016, Indonesia’s parliament enacted a regulation to revise the 2002 Law on Child Protection. (Chandni Vatvani, Indonesia Passes Law Approving Harsher Punishments for Child Rapists, CHANNEL NEWS ASIA (Oct. 13, 2016).) Under strengthened provisions on child sexual offenses, defendants accused of sexual attacks on children could face the death penalty, life in prison, or, for male offenders, chemical castration with female hormones, combined in some cases with imprisonment. After release from prison, offenders could be ordered to wear a tracking device. The revised legislation does not contain details on how the new penalties would be implemented. (Chandni Vatvani, Controversy over Chemical Castration Law in Indonesia, CHANNEL NEWS ASIA (Oct. 20, 2016); Govt Prepares Implementation of Child Sex Offender Reforms, JAKARTA GLOBE (Oct. 24, 2016); Undang-undang Republik Indonesia Nomor 23 Tahun 2002 Tentang Perlindungan Anak [Law of the Republic of Indonesia Number 23 of 2002 on Protection of Children], House of Representatives website; Law on Child Protection (No. 23/2002) (abstract), NATLEX.)

On October 20, 2016, the Indonesian government announced that it is drafting regulations that will provide the necessary guidance for officials in implementing the revised Law. (Govt Prepares Implementation of Child Sex Offender Reforms, supra.) Two of the regulations will concern carrying out the new penalty provisions and will be drafted by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection. Yohana Yembise, the head of that Ministry, said that her office will work with several other ministries on the regulations and that they will include provisions on social rehabilitation of offenders. (Id.)

Background

In April 2016 a particularly brutal crime, the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl in Bengkulu, Sumatra, led to outraged Indonesians calling for more severe punishments for sex offenses victimizing children. (Controversy over Chemical Castration Law in Indonesia, supra.) As a result, increased punishments were adopted through a “presidential regulation.” On May 25, 2016, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo issued a regulation in lieu of law (called a perppu in Indonesian), Perppu No. 1/2016, that amended the 2002 Law on Child Protection, in effect operating as a place holder while the legislature worked on passing the revisions to the Law. (Ayomi Amindoni, Govt Issues Perppu on Sexual Violence Against Children, JAKARTA POST (May 25, 2016); Constance Johnson, Indonesia: Regulation on Sexual Violence Against Children Issued, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (May 27, 2016).)

Reactions

While the government has said the changes are needed to deter perpetrators from committing heinous crimes against children, the new provisions have not received universal approval. (Govt Prepares Implementation of Child Sex Offender Reforms, supra.) Magdalena Sitorus, Commissioner of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, noted that the legislators were probably “impatient to resolve the issue of sexual violence,” but that chemical castration is a violation of human rights. She added that the Commission agrees that tough measures are needed against sexually violent criminals, but that the Commission “doesn’t agree that it should be the death penalty. It should be a harsh punishment which must be also monitored strictly.” (Controversy over Chemical Castration Law in Indonesia, supra.)

In addition, the Indonesian Doctors’ Association has said that performing chemical castrations would violate their code of ethics and not solve the problem. The Association’s Chairman, Dr. Daeng Muhammad Faqih, has proposed rehabilitation instead of castration, saying, “[f]rom a scientific viewpoint, this is less effective because the intervention that is happening is hormonal, physically. Whereas according to medical studies, the cause of sexual crimes is not a hormonal issue, but a mental disorder.” (Id.) He added patients must consent to medical procedures and that the laws on practicing medicine say that doctors “must only take that action in the context of medical services. Chemical castration is not a medical service.” (Id.)