Indonesian judge sparks outrage with rape remark

BAD JOKE::Asked if the death penalty is a suitable punishment for rape, a Supreme Court candidate said it depends on whether the victim ‘enjoyed’ the act

The Guardian, BANGKOK

Fri, Jan 18, 2013 - Page 6

An Indonesian Supreme Court candidate has sparked public outrage after suggesting that women may enjoy being raped.

Muhammad Daming Sanusi made the remark on Monday before a parliamentary selection panel, during which he was asked whether the death penalty was a suitable punishment for rape.

Sanusi said that since both the rapist and the victim “might have enjoyed it, we have to think twice about imposing the death penalty.”

Members of the panel reportedly laughed at his comments, which drew immediate criticism from rights groups and on social media.

Sanusi apologized on Tuesday and said his remark was intended to “ease the tension” of the interview.

He tearfully told a press conference he was “out of control” and said: “I apologize to the Indonesian public from the bottom of my heart. I realize those words shouldn’t have come out from anyone, let alone a justice hopeful.”

Several political parties — among them the Democratic party, which holds the highest number of seats at the parliamentary commission overseeing the appointment — have since vowed not to support Sanusi’s supreme court candidacy.

The judicial commission is also investigating whether his comments constitute an ethics violation.

Various rights groups have called for Sanusi’s dismissal, among them the Indonesian Child Protection Commission, which described the judge’s comments as “extremely inappropriate.”

An online petition has been launched calling for his disqualification as a Supreme Court candidate.

Sanusi, a judge for the past 24 years who is currently chief of the High Court in Palembang, Sumatra, has found supporters amid the furore, among them the supreme court spokesman Ridwan Mansyur, who said: “Judges are only humans [and] can make mistakes — and he already apologized to the public.”

Activists claim that government officials too often fail to take rape seriously, pointing to last year’s outrage over comments by Jakarta’s then-governor Fauzi Bowo, who warned women not to wear miniskirts on public transport as such clothing “could arouse male drivers and passengers” and lead to “unwanted consequences.”

An editorial in the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday called Sanusi’s views “beyond shocking” and said: “If we have judges [who] make light of rape, we will only encourage more attacks on women and children.”

Rape is often unreported in Indonesia because the blame too often focuses on the victim, rights groups said.

Heinous sexual crimes often make national headlines, the most recent being that of an Indonesian girl aged 11 who died earlier this month of infections believed to have been incurred after repeated sexual abuse.