nuhA prominent teachers’ union has demanded that Education Minister Mohammad Nuh resign for suggesting that a 14-year-old girl who faced expulsion from her school after being raped may have engaged in consensual sex.
Retno Listyarti, secretary general of the Federation of Indonesian Teachers Unions (FSGI), said on Sunday that the minister’s remarks violated articles in the 2002 Child Protection Law on protecting the dignity of all children and preventing discrimination against them.
“As the person in charge of education in this country, he should familiarize himself with the law,” she said.
She added it was hugely regrettable that Nuh had sought to deny that the girl had been raped when he was not even familiar with the case of the Depok teenager.
In a press conference at his office on Thursday, Nuh said there was no reason to believe that the girl had really been raped.
“Sometimes it’s intentional, sometimes it’s consensual, yet later they claim they were raped,” he said.
His statement immediately drew the ire of child-rights activists like Muhammad Ihsan, chairman of the Task Force on Child Protection, who demanded a retraction and an apology from the minister.
“The minister’s statement hurts the feelings of the victim, the parents and all Indonesians,” Muhammad said. “He must apologize to the thousands of rape victims across Indonesia who have not been given closure by the government.”
He added that if Nuh refused to apologize, child rights activists should push President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to immediately evaluate the minister’s place in the cabinet.
Nuh’s statement is the latest in a series of outrages against the young rape victim, who last week was briefly expelled for “embarrassing” the school by getting raped.
The girl, who was kidnapped and raped repeatedly over a seven-day period in September, finally returned to the Budi Utomo Junior High School last Monday, only to be kicked out by principal Renata Parhusip in front of the whole school.
The school on Monday announced that she was expelled because “she had embarrassed the school and sullied the good name of the school.”
“The principal said she must resign because the school does not accept trafficking victims,” her mother said at the time. “I fought hard to persuade my daughter to go back to school and when she finally did, she was humiliated like this.”
Following a massive public outcry and severe criticism from groups including the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), the school made an about-face and said it would take the girl back.
However, Komnas Anak chairman Arist Merdeka Sirait, who took part in the talks between the school and the family, said the damage had been done when the school vilified the girl for getting raped.
“Even though the expulsion has been annulled, the school must restore the child’s good name and announce to the other students that she is the victim and not the criminal, as had been announced during the flag-raising ceremony there,” he said on Tuesday.
Police have still not arrested the suspect, a public minivan driver who the victim met through Facebook.
Additional reporting from Antara