The Jakarta Post
A landmark ruling by the Jambi High Court has exonerated a 15-year-old rape victim of all criminal charges, but it will be some time before she can return home.
In a controversial case that captured the attention of local and international news media, the teenager, who was raped by her 18-year-old brother, had been sentenced to six months in prison by the Muarabulian District Court after she was found guilty of aborting her eight-month pregnancy.
The Jambi High Court on Monday changed her fate and acquitted her of all charges, saying she had the abortion while under extreme duress.
An official from the Jambi Social Affairs Agency, Tuti Rosmalinda, said she and her team were ready to return the girl to her home in Pulau village in Batanghari regency, Jambi, but they were concerned about her safety as her mother was her sole guardian but was on trial at the Muarabulian District Court for abetting in her daughter’s abortion.
The girl and her brother have been exiled from their village.
“Although the villagers have said that they are willing to accept her return, we are still waiting for the verdict in [the mother's] case. The girl needs her mother after such an ordeal,” said Tuti on Tuesday.
If the district court acquits the mother, Tuti said the girl could return to her village. However, if the court sentenced the mother to more than two years in prison, the girl would stay at Alyatama, a social institution in Jambi run by the provincial social agency.
Tuti said the social agency was looking for a school for the 15-year-old to attend.
The Muarabulian court declared the girl guilty of abortion her pregnancy as stipulated in Article 77 of the Child Protection Law, while her brother was found guilty of abortion and sexual assault as stipulated in Article 81 of the same law.
According to the 2009 Health Law, rape victims can legally abort their pregnancies within 40 days after conception. However, the pregnancy in the teenager's case was aborted after eight months.
The girl and her lawyer appealed the court’s decision, citing Article 75, Paragraph 2b of the Health Law, which stipulates that a woman who aborts a pregnancy caused by rape that resulted in psychological trauma is exempt from criminal punishment.
The 15-year-old has been staying at Alyatama since July 30, after being removed from the Muarabulian Women’s Penitentiary. She is accompanied by officials from the Jambi Social Affairs Agency.
The high court ruling has been praised by human rights activists and advocates who have been assisting similar rape victims.
Uli Pangaribuan, a lawyer from the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice (LBH Apik), lauded the court decision, saying the judges had answered public calls for justice.
“Many of the cases that we handle usually end in the victim being sentenced to a facility to receive counseling,” she said. “So this ruling could be considered extraordinary.”
In 2017, LBH Apik handled the case of a 16-year-old rape victim who was found guilty for aborting her pregnancy and sentenced to a counseling facility in East Jakarta for 18 months where she receives counseling and continues her education.
Pulau village head Daman Huri said he was glad the high court had acquitted the 15-year-old. He guaranteed that the girl would be safe in the village.
“We will welcome her. We will not reject her,” he said.
Daman Huri said, however, that if the girl's mother was incarcerated the girl would have to stay with relatives, because the village officials did not want to be accused of mistreatment. (ris/wit)