The Jakarta Post
Three children who had reportedly been locked up by their stepmother for years escaped from their home in Makassar, South Sulawesi, on Sunday. The 11-year-old boy, 5-year-old girl and 2-year-old boy pried open a padlock on a door in the three-story shop house in Panakkukang with an iron bar.
The younger children are now under the protection of Makassar’s Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Agency, but the elder boy was missing as of Monday.
Agency head Andi Tenri Palallo said Monday that the two children were in a healing process, both physically and psychologically. She said they had both developed psychological problems because of suspected violent treatment at the hands of their stepmother.
“When we found them, both were in a bad state. They were starving and there were wounds on their bodies. The 5-year-old said they had been beaten and burned with cigarette butts. They were beaten with the iron bar they used to get out of the house,” she said.
Tenri said the three children had been adopted as babies. They had been kept indoors with several pets, including cats, dogs and snakes, and they were not allowed outside. Whenever the mother left the house, they were locked inside.
Neighbors said they had seen the three of them standing by the window on the third floor of the shop house a few days earlier. They had gestured for help, waving and pointing to their stomachs and mouths.
The 5-year-old said her brother had told her to separate from him, so that at least one of them could be free in case their mother found out about their escape.
Locals found the girl about 200 meters from their house when she was running to find her brother, while the youngest was found in front of the shop house crying.
The three children have different biological parents, and the Makassar administration has yet to find out the identities of their parents.
Police arrested their stepmother, who is known as Acci, Memei or Ginsel, on Monday afternoon.
Makassar Police chief detective Comr. Wirdhanto Hadicaksono said they were looking into the motive behind the alleged abuse. Police are also still waiting for a forensics report on the wounds of the two children.
Wirdhanto said police were checking the adoption documents to find out whether the adoptions were legal or not.
“We’re searching for the oldest child. We are distributing information through the media, so the boy can be protected,” he said.
Ardian Arnold, an official from the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, said Monday as quoted by kompas.com that he had received information that a person living in Timika, Papua, financed the three children's needs and that the woman taking care of them received money transfers from that person.
In a separate case earlier this year, a woman was arrested over alleged neglect of five adopted children. The woman was arrested on Feb. 28 in a hotel room in Central Jakarta, where she was staying with the five children, who did not attend school, the police said.
The woman, CW, denied neglecting her adopted children.
The 2014 law on child protection states that anyone who abuses or neglects a child can be punished with up to five years of imprisonment.