Indonesian child protection group reports preacher to police for marrying 7-year-old girl

Syekh Puji, an Indonesian preacher who allegedly married a 7-year-old girl in 2016. Photo: Komnas PA
Syekh Puji, an Indonesian preacher who allegedly married a 7-year-old girl in 2016. Photo: Komnas PA

The National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas PA) is demanding the prosecution of a preacher named Syekh Puji over violation of Indonesia’s child protection laws by marrying a 7-year-old girl recently.

Syekh Puji, already a controversial figure for illegally marrying a 12-year-old girl in 2010, for which he was convicted with statutory rape and sentenced to four years in prison, has allegedly reoffended by marrying an even younger girl in Semarang, Central Java.

The Central Java chapter of Komnas PA said that it reported the 54-year-old religious boarding school owner to the police in February after receiving reports that he married a 7-year-old girl in 2016. She is now 11.

“What he did was inhumane. A child that deserves to grow up was instead wed [to him]. A child who needs friends and learning instead became a victim of his desires under the guise of nikah siri,” Komnas PA Central Java Chairman Endar Susilo said, as quoted by Liputan 6.

Nikah siri refers to marriage that is recognized by tradition and/or religious customs but not by state law. With the minimum age for marriage for women is 16, nikah siri has been used to justify numerous child marriages in Indonesia.

The Central Java Police says it is questioning witnesses related to the accusations and has conducted a medical examination on Syekh Puji’s alleged young bride.

“Her hymen is still good. There are no signs of sexual assault,” Central Java Police spokesman Iskandar F Sutisna said today, perhaps unaware that an intact hymen does not necessarily indicate that the subject has never experienced sexual assault.

Nevertheless, police say an investigation into Syekh Puji is ongoing.

Since Syekh Puji’s last conviction in 2010, Indonesia introduced harsher penalties, including the death penalty and chemical castration, for pedophiles and child sex offenders in 2016. However, activists say that the threat of severe punishment has not been as successful a deterrent as the government hoped, as sexual assault against children continue to be a serious problem in Indonesia.

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