15 October 2009
Syekh Puji and the Office of the Attorney General...
The Office of the Attorney General (AGO) has stated that it intends to appeal against the preliminary decision handed down by the Ungaran District Court in the case of child sexual abuse against Pujiantocahyo Widianto or Syekh Puji as he is known by his followers.
The Ungaran District Court dismissed the indictment for being incomplete and vague. The rationale of the court was that the indictment failed to detail explicitly how and when the offenses were committed. Presumably, the prosecutors failed, according to the court, to get into the nitty gritty of detailing what type of sex was had, when the sexual intercourse occurred, and where. Any amended indictment that seeks to satisfy the court in this regard is certainly going to make for interesting reading.
Albeit, it seems that the trend to explicit detail in indictments regarding sexual activity has already been started by the AGO in the case against Antasari Azhar in the South Jakarta District Court. The indictment read out by the prosecutors in the Antasari case caused some controversy as it was the first time the sexual practices of a former public official were entered into the court records. The indictment detailed Antasari's need for some hand relief (also known as a happy ending or being masturbated) from someone else's wife. For which he paid USD 500.
Back to the Syekh. The AGO is going to appeal to the Central Java High Court seeking the court to overturn the ruling. If they are successful in their appeal, then the Central Java High Court is most likely to order the matter to proceed in the Ungaran District Court. The appeal is based on a cause of action that the court / judges erred in their application of the relevant laws. Simply, the indictment is not flawed but the legal reasoning of the judges is flawed in this case.
The dismissal of the indictment against the Syekh poses an interesting dilemma. The girl in this case is a girl at just 12-years of age when the Syekh married her. So, there is seemingly a prima facie case on which to proceed. The dismissal of the indictment, by default, says that there is no case on which to proceed. Therefore, the dilemma is whether or not this dismissal can be read as condoning and legalizing pedophilia in Indonesia?
It is clear under the marriage law that a child of 12 years of age cannot marry. It is also pretty clear that the parents of a 12-year-old would encounter some legal obstacles in condoning such a marriage. The Child Protection Law explicitly states that a child is a child until they reach the age of 18. So, to allow this decision to stand unchallenged sets a bad precedent. The AGO has an obligation to pursue this through higher courts.
Interestingly, it would seem that the argument that the practice of marriage according to the rules of Islam trumps any national laws that are in place that would seemingly prohibit such practices. There is some debate about whether Islam of the 21st Century still condones the marriage practices of the 7th Century as they relate to child brides. However, the Ungaran District Court decision has added a new dynamic to the framework of the argument.
It would seem though that, at least in the interim, the Syekh is free to go about his daily business as a handicraft exporter and husband to a child bride.