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Jakarta Post

Handle with care: Rights of violated teen murder suspect must be protected, watchdog says

  • Made Anthony Iswara
    Made Anthony Iswara

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, May 21, 2020   /   07:46 am
Handle with care: Rights of violated teen murder suspect must be protected, watchdog says A 15-year-old girl who is accused of killing her 5-year-old neighbor in a shocking murder case in March was allegedly the victim of sexual abuse and is currently 15 weeks pregnant. (Shutterstock/File)

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) has called on law enforcers to protect the rights of a teen murder suspect who is also pregnant, allegedly as a result of rape, in a shocking case that has elicited both sympathy and revulsion.

The appeal follows the revelation that the 15-year-old murder suspect was herself a victim, of sexual abuse, and is currently 15 weeks pregnant.

The girl stands accused of killing her 5-year-old neighbor in Jakarta, after turning herself in to the Taman Sari Police Station in West Jakarta on March 6, the day after the murder.

“We have to first consider that in the context of child protection, the child suspect is also a victim,” said Putu Elvina, the KPAI commissioner for children’s legal cases.

“Children’s actions are usually linked to their upbringing, the influence of parents, their environment and the media.”

Law enforcement should therefore ensure that her rights are protected throughout the legal process, Putu said.

Read also: Teenage girl suspected of murdering child is 'rape victim', now 14-weeks pregnant

Under the 2003 Child Protection Law, children involved in legal cases must receive special treatment, including the right to a companion in court and other necessary safeguards.

And while the police have available the charge of homicide under the Criminal Code, they also have to consider a number of principles laid down by the 2012 Juvenile Justice System Law, including the presumption of innocence, special custody and procedures during investigations and trials.

Putu said the girl could still become a victim of the justice system, unless the legal process was carried out optimally and with respect to her rights. She urged the government to eliminate any factors that could lead minors to commit similar crimes.

The number of children involved in criminal cases remains high in Indonesia, with the KPAI recording some 1,251 cases among the 4,359 cases of children’s rights violations last year.

And even though the 2003 Child Protection Law and the 2012 Juvenile Justice System Law serve as the basis for handling similar cases, activists have long argued that the regulatory framework has yet to comprehensively address the rights of child victims and witnesses.

Critics have also pressured lawmakers to ratify the sexual violence eradication bill, but heated debate between progressive feminist and conservative groups have set back this agenda, leaving many child-abuse victims lacking legal support during their trials.

Read also: Sexual violence bill remains on back burner despite House’s end-of-term rush

Criminologist Hamid Patilima condemned police officers and officials on Monday for exposing the case to the media and the general public before the court could reach a verdict, which he said could lead to the victim being discriminated against or even encourage others to commit similar crimes.

Hamid urged the Correctional Board (Bapas) to further trace the case history in a bid to support a fair settlement.

He also suggested that the court refer to a 1976 judicial ruling, in which former court justice Bismar Siregar sanctioned the Film Censorship Board for negligence in showing a movie in cinemas that had inspired a child to murder an adult woman.

Police have found evidence suggesting that the girl liked to watch horror movies and “idolized” Chucky – the main character in the movie Child’s Play, about a murderous, possessed doll – leading them to believe that this preference for horror movies could have been a factor in her decision to commit murder.

The police also surmised that the teen's mental health was a major motivational factor in the alleged murder.

“If her condition does not improve, she may repeat her actions as a result of [traumatic] memories,” Hamid said.

The girl is currently undergoing therapy at the Handayani children’s rehabilitation center in Jakarta while awaiting trial, the Social Affairs Ministry revealed on May 12.

It noted that the junior high school student was physically healthy and took care of her personal hygiene.

“Socially, [the suspect] has started to open up and share her problems with caretakers [...] she even asked to remain in the rehabilitation center and said she wanted to take care of her child after the birth,” the ministry said in a statement.

Clinical psychologist Liza Marielly Djaprie said that while only a few sexual abuse victims resorted to abuse themselves, it would be “unwise” to leave a traumatized 15-year-old girl to care for her own child.

“Past trauma and environment-induced characteristics could emerge in anyone who is under immense pressure and is at their lowest point,” Liza told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

Putu said the girl would need to undergo psychological assessment to determine whether she would be fit to take care of her child. If she is declared unfit, the responsibility could be shifted to her family or to a government-run institution.

“Under normal circumstances, no mother would instinctively harm her own child, but it might be different if the pregnancy was unintended, as is the case with [...] rape,” she said on Wednesday.

The ministry’s director general for social rehabilitation, Harry Hikmat, acknowledged in a recent focus group discussion that there was still much to learn from the case, and that future discussions would revolve around more “progressive” preventive measures.

Education Ministry officials also stressed they would not deny the girl her education and health-related rights, while Central Jakarta prosecutors’ representatives said they would continue to supervise her and the legal process.