JAKARTA: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo approved Wednesday tough new punishments for child sex offenders, including a maximum penalty of death and chemical castration, after the brutal gang-rape and murder of a schoolgirl.
Convicted pedophiles could also be forced to wear electronic monitoring devices following their release from jail under new rules introduced in an emergency decree.
“This regulation is intended to overcome the crisis caused by sexual violence against children,” Widodo said at the presidential palace in Jakarta. “Sexual crimes against children are extraordinary crimes, because they threaten the lives of children.”
The presidential decree brings the new punishments immediately into effect, although parliament could later overturn it.
Widodo was spurred into action after the murder and gang-rape in April of a 14-year-old girl, who was set upon by a gang of drunken men and boys as she walked home from school on the western island of Sumatra.
Her battered body was found three days later in woods, tied up and naked. Seven teenagers, aged 16 and 17, were jailed earlier this month over the assault.
The attack sparked a national debate on sexual violence, led to calls for harsher punishments for child sex offenders and prompted protests in the capital Jakarta.
The case has drawn comparisons with the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012, which sparked mass protests and led to an overhaul of India’s rape laws.
Indonesia is likely to draw fire for expanding its use of the death penalty. Jakarta has faced criticism for use its use of capital punishment against drug traffickers, and sparked international outrage last year when it put seven foreign drug convicts to death by firing squad.
Under previous laws, the maximum sentence for rape—including of a minor—was 14 years in jail.
By introducing chemical castration, Indonesia joins a small group who use the punishment worldwide, including Poland and some states in the US. In 2011, South Korea became the first Asian country to legalize the punishment.
Widodo did not give further details about tagging suspects with monitoring devices. Local media previously reported that a microchip could be implanted in child sex offenders’ legs on their release from jail.