Indonesian teacher found guilty of raping students for years

The owner of an Islamic boarding school in Indonesia was found guilty on Tuesday of raping 13 of his underage students – fathering nine ...


The owner of an Islamic boarding school in Indonesia was found guilty on Tuesday of raping 13 of his underage students – fathering nine children with his victims – and was sentenced to life in prison.

A court in the city of Bandung on the island of Java found Herry Wirawan, 36, guilty of raping the girls, aged 11 to 16, repeatedly and systematically over a period of five years.

The allegations against Mr Herry have outraged Indonesians and drawn national attention to the issue of protecting children in private religious schools, which number in the tens of thousands. Officials said President Joko Widodo had been following the case closely.

The three-judge panel decided not to impose the death penalty and chemical castration, as requested by the prosecution. President Joko signed a regulation in 2020 authorizing the chemical castration of convicted child rapists.

Mr Herry, who had taught Arabic at a primary school, founded the girls-only Madani Boarding School, orponderren, in Bandung in 2016 and attracted students from poor families by offering scholarships.

The rapes came to light last year after one of the victims returned home and her family discovered she was pregnant.

Eight of the girls became pregnant – including one twice – and gave birth to nine children. The babies were delivered at a local clinic or at the home of midwives and then cared for by Mr Herry’s parents and sisters, said his lawyer, Ira Margaretha Mambo.

The eldest child is not yet 5 years old, she said.

Mr Herry pleaded with the court for leniency as the sole provider for his wife and their two children.

In their verdict, the judges concluded that Mr Herry, who also taught religion at the school, had brainwashed pupils so effectively that ‘they couldn’t even tell right from wrong’.

Mr Herry cared for his victims, the court found, isolating them from their families, making them dependent on him as a provider and providing them with safety and comfort.

“They are too young to understand the process of what they were getting,” the judges concluded. “The girls even seem to feel they owe him a debt of gratitude.”

In seducing the girls, the judges said, Mr Herry would start by asking for a massage and then tell his victim he couldn’t have sex with his wife because she didn’t want to have many children.

He also told the girls that their teacher should be ‘obeyed and respected’, the judges concluded. If his victims resisted, he tore off their clothes.

When a student told Mr Herry she was pregnant, he told her she didn’t need to have an abortion because he would take responsibility for the baby.

He promised other girls he would pay for their education, and in at least one case told a victim he would marry her.

The judges said the life sentence was not intended to exact revenge on the accused but was intended to protect the public from similar crimes in the future.

The case, which highlighted the widespread problem of sexual harassment and abuse of women in Indonesia, renewed calls for legislation to be passed to reduce sexual violence and harassment of women. Women’s rights activists say current Indonesian laws do not sufficiently protect women and have lobbied for nearly a decade to get the measure passed.

In 2019, a school accountant who recorded his boss’ obscene phone call as proof that she was being harassed, the Indonesian Supreme Court ordered her to serve at least six months in prison for distributing obscene material. His boss, the school principal, went unpunished and was promoted several times. President Joko later granted him amnesty.

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