It was the horrific rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Sumatra by a gang of 12 men and boys in May that drove Indonesian President Joko Widodo to push for drastic changes to the country’s child-protection laws.
The vote in the House of Representatives on Wednesday makes Indonesia the first Southeast Asian country to use chemical castration on sex offenders, following in the footsteps of Russia, Poland, South Korea and some American states. Convicted paedophiles in the UK can also undergo the procedure voluntarily.
Repeat offenders or those convicted of sexually abusing family members face a minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years (up from five to 15 years). A court can also order their chemical castration and tagging with a chip.
Perpetrators can be sentenced to death if their victims are killed, sustain permanent physical or psychological trauma, or contract sexually transmitted diseases.
The country’s National Commission for Child Protection chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait welcomed the move. “The law will put a smile on the faces of children across Indonesia because finally those who have fallen victim will get to see their abusers justly punished and those who could be future victims are finally protected,” he told The Australian.
Indonesian Child Protection Agency commissioner Asrorun Niam said the new law would make paedophiles think twice.
“Providing harsher punishments is not the only solution to address the problem but it is a good step in preventing and minimising sexual abuse against minors, which has become increasingly rampant across Indonesia,” he said
But there has been harsh criticism of the laws from the Indonesian Doctors Association and Amnesty International, with calls to repeal it immediately.
The IDA has prohibited its members from administering chemical castration.
“Numerous studies have shown that castration is not an ¬effective deterrent, because sex crimes are not caused by hormonal impulses but by behavioural disorders,” chairman Daeng Muhammad Faqih said.
“It would be unethical for doctors to be the ones executing the sentences. A doctor’s job is to save lives.”
Amnesty International has called for a halt to the laws with its researcher on Indonesia Papang Hidayat saying:“The sexual abuse of children is indescribably horrific. But subjecting offenders to chemical castration or executions is not justice, it is adding one cruelty to another,” said, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Indonesia.
Amnesty’s statement said that imposing chemical castration by law without informed consent as a punitive measure would be a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
“Forced chemical castration is a violation of the prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under international law,” said Papang Hidayat.
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