Indonesia school abuse scandal sparks soul-searching

Indonesia school abuse scandal sparks soul-searching
Jakarta International School head Timothy Carr speaks to journalists about child abuse in Jakarta on April 24, 2014.

JAKARTA - A sex abuse scandal at one of Indonesia's most prestigious international schools has sparked a heated debate about the failure to protect youngsters in the country and prompted calls for harsher punishments for paedophiles.

Accusations that a six-year-old boy was sexually assaulted by cleaning staff at the nursery of the Jakarta International School, a favourite with the capital's expatriates and wealthy Indonesians, sparked widespread anger this month.

A second child has since come forward claiming to have been assaulted at the nursery - which the government has now ordered to be closed - and the school has also disclosed it used to employ an American teacher who was suspected of being a prolific paedophile.

Police have arrested six cleaners contracted from an outside company over the recent abuse accusations, one of whom has committed suicide, and the school has pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

Beyond public anger over the alleged abuse at the elite school, the scandal has focused attention on a subject previously little discussed in Indonesia - the high incidence of child sex attacks, particularly in schools.

The national commission for child protection says it received around 3,000 reports of sexual abuse of minors in 2013, double the figure from five years ago, with some 30 per cent of cases in educational institutions.

Commission member Seto Mulyadi said the figures were "only the tip of the iceberg".

"Many cases still go unreported because victims' families feel ashamed," he added.

There has been much soul-searching in the national media on the subject following the Jakarta case, with commentators demanding that more action be taken to guarantee the safety of youngsters.

The Jakarta Post newspaper said in an editorial that the controversy had raised the question of "how safe our children are, including at reputable schools.

"Law enforcers, educators and parents alike still have much to do to guarantee the safety and welfare of our children."

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