The president of Indonesia has signed a legal directive which will allow judges to rule that convicted pedophiles must undergo chemical castration, have a microchip implanted in them to allow complete government monitoring, or — in extreme cases — face the death penalty.
The directive, known as a perppu in Indonesia, will go into effect immediately, but to become a permanent law, it must be passed as part of a larger bill aimed at cracking down on the sexual abuse of minors in the near future. President Joko Widodo said in a statement that he believes “this regulation will resolve a significant number of crisis caused by sexual violence against children. I condemn violence against children as an extraordinary crime, as it harms personal life and growth of the victims.”
“Extraordinary crimes need to be handled in extraordinary ways,” he added.
The directive applies to all rape and sexual abuse of minors by those of age and sets the minimum prison time for such a crime at ten years. Judges can enforce a maximum of 20 years in prison for repeat offenders or rapists who are related to the victims or in any way trusted with the care of the children involved. They can also choose to issue the death penalty or force convicts to have a microchip implanted that will allow police to track them for the rest of their lives.
Those found guilty will also undergo chemical castration, a process which does not involve the physical removal of genital parts, but the continual use of drugs to curb the libido of the person undergoing the process. Chemical castration is believed to remove any sexual desire from the person being issued the treatment, making them less likely to commit sexual crimes.
The Indonesian government under Widodo had called for an introduction of chemical castration as a criminal deterrent in May 2015. In October of that year, Widodo’s government had made a new push to implement chemical castration as a tool for courts to punish and deter crime. “We are very concerned about child molestation abuse cases. This phenomenon has reached extraordinary levels,” Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo said in October. Last year, the government released statistics showing an increase of nearly 3,000 cases of sexual abuse of minors between 2011 and 2015.
Indonesian media and many in the nation’s legislature appear to support the move. “More and more horrific and brutal rape-cum-murders have been reported across the country lately even as the public and the government continue to debate harsher punishments that should be meted out to the criminals,” a column in Indonesia’s Antara News reads. “Sexual assaults against children and women are crimes that have caused trauma and have had a wide-ranging impact on the victims. Hence, the perpetrators deserve severe punishment.”
“We support heightened punishments imposed on rapists of children, including a maximum sentence of the death penalty, and additional punishments, such as chemical castration, publishing the identities of perpetrators and up to Rp 5 billion [US$367.51] in fines,” Abdul Malik Haramain, deputy head of House of Representatives Commission VIII overseeing religion and social affairs, said Thursday, suggesting the legislature would agree to cement Widodo’s directive into law.
While some Western human rights groups have called chemical castration a human rights violation, critics within Indonesia appear more concerned that the new law emphasizes punishment of the criminals more than rehabilitation of the victims. “We’ve noted that in the Perppu, the state is not there for the victims of sexual crime. This means [victims] don’t have funding for rehabilitation and counseling,” Rahayu Saraswati, a member of House Commission VIII overseeing religious and social affairs, offered this week. Widodo or his party have yet to respond to that criticism, though his directive will become law through the legislature as part of a larger and more complex bill that could be amended to include more resources for victims.