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Activists urge Indonesia to take action against child sexual abuse

Child protection activists are urging the government to take swift action to quell the growing number of child sexual abuse cases in Indonesia, after a recent spate of such cases has placed the issue in the national limelight.

JAKARTA: Child protection activists are urging the government to take swift action to quell the growing number of sexual abuse cases among children in Indonesia.

A recent spate of shocking cases of child sexual abuse has placed the issue in the national limelight.

Indonesians are still trying to come to terms with reports that a 24-year-old man from Sukabumi, West Java, had allegedly raped at least 60 boys.

The case emerged not long after another shocking case of a six-year-old boy who was raped by janitors at the Jakarta International School.

These cases are among a slew of other cases of child sexual abuse cases that grabbed headlines recently.

Child protection activists said weak law enforcement on child sexual abuse cases has turned Indonesia into one of three sexual tourism havens in Southeast Asia, besides Thailand and the Philippines.

Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman for National Commission for Children's Protection, said: "Although Indonesia has the Children's Protection Law stating a minimum of three to 15 years’ sentence, judges or law enforcers have never handed down the maximum sentence but often give light sentences. There was even a case where someone was sentenced to two years in prison for sexually assaulting a child to death. That's less than the minimum sentence."

Out of 1,600 child abuse cases last year, over half involved sexual abuse. That amounts to almost 80 children suffering from some form of sexual abuse every month.

Despite the alarming number of child sexual abuse reports, many remain unresolved due to fear and embarrassment.

Advocates said dysfunctional families, the degradation of social and religious values as well as widespread pornography contribute to the rise in sexual abuse cases.

Thus, proper sex education by parents and schools are vital in empowering children to increase their self-awareness.

Gisella Tani Pratiwi, child psychologist at Pulih Foundation, said: "We increase children's awareness by identifying their body parts early on and (urging) them to talk and reject if they feel uncomfortable when being touched by others.

“Parents should have close communication with their children each day. They should start when their children are very young as close ties are not instant. More importantly, parents need to give their children more attention."

Advocates believe the lack of a national data of sexual abuse cases shows the government needs to step up its protection of children and increase the types of penalties for convicted child abusers as a deterrent effect.

After a series of high-profile child sexual abuse cases in the media, Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for a national movement to better protect children involving police, related organisations and also the business sector.

But child advocates said awareness and child supervision has to start from the family and neighborhood level in order to really be effective.

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