Jokowi fires child protection commissioner who made 'pregnant from swimming pools' claim

PHOTO: Facebook/Sitti Hikmawatty - KPAI

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has signed a decree on the immediate dismissal of Indonesian Child Protection Commission member Sitti Hikmawatty following her scientifically inaccurate claim that "strong sperm" could impregnate women in swimming pools.

"[The decree] has been [signed]," State Secretariat secretary Setya Utama said on Sunday as quoted by tempo.co.

The presidential decree states that Sitti would be dishonourably discharged from her duty as a KPAI member. The dismissal would be carried out through the Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry.

KPAI chairman Susanto had called on the State Secretary to promptly dismiss Sitti on Wednesday.

The agency's ethical council previously recommended Sitti's immediate removal from office, saying that she had violated the commission's code of ethics by making the statement.

The ethical council also said that Sitti had been dishonest in claiming that her statement was backed up by scientific studies.

Council chairman I Gede Dewa recommended that Sitti resign voluntarily or risk being dishonourably discharged by the President himself.

Sitti nevertheless refused to resign and urged the President to reconsider her dismissal from office amid the current Covid-19 pandemic.

"Allow me to plead to the President that this is a time when every element must work together [for the country's best interests]," she said in a statement on Saturday.

Sitti became the subject of controversy in February after saying that women should exercise caution when swimming in public swimming pools for fear of getting pregnant.

"There is an especially strong type of male sperm that may cause […] pregnancy in a swimming pool," Sitti said in the interview. "Even without penetration, men may become sexually excited [by women in the pool] and ejaculate, therefore causing a pregnancy."

She initially defended her claim, saying that it was based on scientific journals, but later retracted the statement and apologised.

The KPAI itself issued a response saying that Sitti's statement did not represent the views of the organisation.