An Indonesian court on Tuesday sentenced an Islamic school teacher to life in prison for raping 13 students in a case that has spotlighted the need to protect children in the country’s religious boarding schools from sexual violence. Judge Yohannes Purnomo Suryo Adi said teacher Herry Wirawan sexually groomed the 13 girls, aged between 12 and 16, and impregnated eight of his victims, some of whom were injured in the rapes.
“Wirawan was found guilty … of the crimes of intentionally committing violence and repeatedly forcing sexual intercourse on more than one victim,” the judge told the court in the West Java city of Bandung. Herry’s attorney, Ira Mambo, said he will be speaking with his client about whether to appeal the verdict.
Prosecutors had called for the teacher to be sentenced to death or chemical castration, citing the seriousness of the crimes committed between 2016 and 2021. Indonesian officials, including the country’s child protection minister, supported calls for the death penalty, although the country’s Human Rights Commission, which opposes the death penalty, said it was not appropriate.
In 2016, an Indonesian court sentenced the leader of a gang of men and boys who raped and murdered a schoolgirl to death in a case that prompted President Joko Widodo to impose tougher penalties for assaulting children. These included an executive order allowing chemical castration of juvenile delinquents, which the president enacted in 2020 despite opposition from rights activists.
Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim majority in the world, has tens of thousands of Islamic boarding schools and other religious schools, which often provide children from poorer families with the only opportunity to receive an education. Dedeh Marlina, a 42-year-old housewife who lives near the school where Herry taught, said she was relieved the perpetrator had been stopped but the damage had been done.
“I know most of them are from poor families in remote areas…unfortunately they are now bearing the burden of what happened,” she said.
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