The murder of 8-year-old Angeline has called to attention Indonesia's child protection laws. (Antara Foto/Vitalis Yogi Trisna)

Angeline's Murder Spurs Calls for Review of Child Protection Laws

BY :KENNIAL CAROLINE LAIA & ERWIDA MAULIA

JUNE 14, 2015

Jakarta. The recent murder of an 8-year-old girl in Bali, who was believed to have been a victim of neglect before she died, has renewed calls for harsher punishments for child abusers in Indonesia.

Nearly a month after she disappeared, the search for Angeline ended in tragedy last Wednesday with the discovery of the little girl's body buried in the backyard of her foster mother's home in Denpasar, Bali.

A former domestic worker for the family, Agus, 25, has confessed to sexually assaulting the 8-year-old before killing her and disposing of her body, police said.

His testimony subsequently lead to the arrest of Angeline’s foster mother, Margaret Christine Megawe, who had been named a suspect for child neglect.

The case has gripped the nation, inciting anger and regret over Angeline’s tragic life before her violent death.

Arist Merdeka Sirait, the chairman of Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), has called for harsher punishments for child sex offenders in light of the case, saying the current prison sentence of three to 15 years was not enough to protect children or halt the alarming increase in child abuse cases.

"There must be a longer prison sentence. The law must be revised to regulate a minimum 20 years imprisonment and a maximum life sentence,” Arist said last week.

He added that additional punishment was also crucial to create a deterrent for future offenders, recommending chemical castration, which had been called for in the past during previous cases of child abuse.

"A future revision [of the law] must include chemical castration to create more deterrent effects. This is how we provide justice for victims," Arist said.

"Angeline's case should be a reminder to lawmakers to make the revision. We hope [statements made by officials about the case] are not mere emotional outbursts.

"We hope lawmakers will really carry out the revision."

House of Representatives (DPR) deputy speaker Fahri Hamzah echoed Arist's sentiments.

"I think there should be a more comprehensive system for child protection. Therefore, the government must review the system we currently have," Fahri said, according to Indonesian news portal Kompas.com.

Citing the case of Angeline’s adoption, which police have found to be illegal, Fahri said a revision to the child protection law must include measures to ensure foster parents follow the required procedures before they are allowed to adopt a child.

Social Services Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa last week said Margareth and her late husband, who was a foreign national, had skipped official procedures for child adoption when they took in Angeline shortly after her birth.

Khofifah said they had not submitted any application to the Ministry of Social Services for the right to care for her. As a result, the children’s adoption permit board, PIPA, never sent an officer to inspect their home and the family‘s condition, and never issued a permit for Angeline’s adoption.

Hidayat Nur Wahid, a member of the House’s Commission VIII, which deals with religious affairs, social issues, women’s empowerment and children’s welfare, said the commission was preparing a revision on the child protection law.

Chronology

Angeline was reported missing on May 16. That day she was last seen playing in the front yard of her home, with the fence locked, according to an investigation by KPAI.

Instead of reporting the incident to the police, Angeline's foster siblings Christina and Yvonne announced the news on Facebook the day after her disappearance by creating the page "Find Angeline-Bali's Missing Child," asking for people to participate in a search for the 8-year-old.

On May 18, the family filed a missing person's report with the East Denpasar Police. After refusing on several occasions to let officers into their home, Angeline's family finally relented to allow officers to search the house.

On May 24, KPAI chairman Arist visited Margaret's house, calling the dwelling unlivable due to its allegedly "ragged" and "dirty" condition. The property also houses dozens of dogs and chickens.

Earlier in June, state minister for women’s empowerment and child protection, Yohanna Yambise, and state administrative and bureaucratic reform minister, Yuddy Chrisnandi, attempted to visit Angeline's home but were turned away by the family. A security guard reportedly asked them to leave.

Christina later claimed on their Facebook page that their mother was "ill" and "distressed" when the ministers visited.

On June 10, nearly a month after her disappearance, police discovered Angeline’s body, hugging a doll, buried in the backyard of her own home after spotting a mound covered with garbage near a chicken coop and detecting “a rotten smell.”

Medical examiners revealed they had found wounds across Angeline's body, including her face, back and limbs. Blunt-force trauma to the head was determined to be the cause of death.

Less than 24 hours later, Agus was named a suspect in Angeline’s murder.

According to police, Agus confessed to raping and killing the 8-year-old, although medical examiners had not found evidence of sexual violence. He said he had assaulted Angeline twice, most recently on May 16, the day the girl was reported missing.

“He did not want anyone to find out [about the assault] so he killed her,” said Denpasar Police chief Sr. Comr. Anak Agung Made Sudana, according to kompas.com.

Still, doubts have been raised over Agus's role in the crime, with critics questioning the involvement of Angeline's foster family, despite their public campaign on social media.

Angeline reportedly inherited her late foster father's wealth, which, along with reports of alleged abuses and neglect she had suffered prior to her death, has triggered speculation that she was killed for her inheritance.

On Sunday, police arrested Margaret after declaring her a suspect for child neglect. Her daughter, Yvonne, was detained along with her, although it is not immediately clear whether she has also been named a suspect.

Officers reportedly found a blood-smeared tissue paper in Margaret’s room and are currently processing the evidence for any connections to Angeline’s death.

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