I’ve had my share of sexual encounters.
A single teenage non-consummated homosexual fumbling was enough to confirm my heterosexuality. I lost my virginity at 22; I can’t recall her name. I’ve since had many one night stands, generally after the first two marital breakdowns, and am a father.
And now I’m writing about paedophilia, but not out of prurient interest.
Few can be unaware of the sexual abuse of children which has occurred in the kindergarden operated at the Jakarta International School (JIS). However. much of the media frenzy has been aimed at JIS rather than at the outsourced company which supplied the cleaners who are the (alleged) sexual perverts.
The Ministry of Education and Culture on Tuesday said that it will close down the kindergarten program of the Jakarta International School (JIS) after this school year due to lack of proper documentation. Furthermore, according to an article on page 7 in the Kompas newspaper, Saturday 26 April, (but not online: an abbreviated version is here) the Minister for Education has set up a team to investigate all 114 international schools in Indonesia.
He is quoted as saying: “Kita tidak ingin negara kita dipakai untuk praktik kejahatan kemanusiaan.”
“We do not want our country used to practice crimes against humanity.”
Yes, paedophilia is a despicable crime, but not a ‘crime against humanity’; this is defined by the International Criminal Court as acts which are “committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.”
And why investigate international schools? Would that have prevented the rape of a three year old in a kindergarten last Sunday on the island of Batam?
A friend of mine has two sons enrolled in JIS. He asks: “Am I the only one asking why the Minister for Education would choose to victimize an already traumatized school and its community by closing the early childhood department – and then extend the threat to all other international schools?
“What about an apology to the school and the international community for this awful crime, committed by Indonesian citizens against a foreigner who is a guest in this country, presumably because his family is contributing in some way to the development of the country and its economy?
“This whole story has really got under my skin. It’s a complicated and sensitive issue, but one does tire of the readiness of Indonesian media, government and community in general to blame foreigners for its own failings.”
Indeed, but then, perhaps a legacy of Suharto’s Orde Baru, Indonesians have yet to grasp the difficult concept of thinking about others, that individual actions can have wider consequences. Few accept blame or show remorse for their actions. When corruptors flaunt their wealth and go laughing to prison, it’s a matter of fate rather than bad judgement or criminal intent.
Yes, there are paedophiles in Indonesia, many of whom are indeed westerners. As reported in this article published last year, Australia’s Centre Against Sexual Assault (CASA) has estimated that as many as 3,000 local children have fallen prey to tourists in Bali.
Yet, UNICEF estimates that 40,000 to 70,000 children are victims of sexual abuse in Indonesia, and that at least 30% of female sex workers [here] are under-age.
Although the legal ages of consent in Indonesia are 16 for girls and 18 for boys (and lesbians – go figure), what constitutes ‘under-age’ is a little more complicated.
In 2010, jurists of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Muslim association, ruled that the minimum age of 16 years to marry under the prevailing 1974 marriage law is not a sharia-binding regulation for Muslims and that there was no (lower) age limitation for marriage under Islamic law. There are a few regencies which have adopted sharia rules, and Aceh, a special autonomous region, has adopted sharia law as binding for the province’s Muslims.
The experts said Muslim parents can marry off their under-age children, but strongly appealed for marriages to only be carried out after the child has reached puberty.
So yes, it is disgraceful that sexual assaults have taken place at JIS. It is also disgraceful that, western paedophiles are attracted to Bali, but surely that is in spite of the fact that Indonesia has international agreements to share information about them. Sometimes that takes the form of following up information from foreign police forces, as in the case of Henry Featherstone Parks.
The case of the American William James Vahey, the serial paedophile who committed suicide last month after being presented with evidence on a computer thumbdrive, is an indication that not all outside forces are able to do that. Vahey was first convicted of child molestation in 1970, yet graduated with a degree in education two years later. He then lead a peripatetic life as a teacher in international schools, including JIS for ten years, 1992-2002,. having left a school in Saudi Arabia.
This article suggests that suspicions about his “inappropriate” behaviour were not passed on to JIS. However, a commentator at this site is more categorical: He was fired from the Aramco [the school in Saudi Arabia] after proof was provided that he drugged and raped students. Aramco did not contact the authorities.
One must hope that the JIS authorities are completely transparent, legal actions permitting, with all concerned parties. For example, was Vahey fired in 2002? Another commentator suggests that “something happened because he left their (sic) quickly.”
However, let me be clear here: my main concern with the current issue is that the media is quick to focus on foreigners when in fact it was Indonesians working for an out-sourced cleaning company who carried out the ‘crimes against humanity’.
Will the authorities allow due process of law to be carried out? Or will there be another ‘convenient’ suicide? This has lead activists to accuse the police “of hiding facts and being discriminatory and partial in their investigation.”
This is not unknown here. Read this horror story of a case some ten years ago involving a young Australian girl staying with her parents at the Sheraton (now the Westin Resort) at Nusa Dua.
“Most of the staff had no qualifications in child care – indeed, many had originally applied for jobs as pool attendants and cleaners.”
And this: The impunity enjoyed by those perpetrating child molestation in Bali is mainly caused by the government and law enforcement officials’ lack of seriousness in tackling the issue.
Justice must be seen to be done. Child molestation is a punishable crime in Indonesia under the Law No. 23 Year 2002 on Child Protection. According to Article 82 of the law, any individual who commits sexual harassment towards children is subject to 3 to 15 years imprisonment as well as a fine of Rp.60-300 million.
I’ll leave the summation to the friend I mention above.
The one ‘good’ thing that is coming out of these terrible events is an increased awareness of the problem of child abuse and paedophilia in Indonesia. It has provided the impetus for NGOs to get their case into the public arena, prompted a review of the legislation and current penalties provided under the law for offenders, and brought up many more cases into the media.
My worry was that this wouldn’t happen if all the attention was diverted towards scapegoating JIS and the international community.
*Note: As of today (30th) JIS has severed it’s contract with PT ISS, the cleaning service provider and would run the cleaning service department and recruit cleaners itself.