Indonesians outraged by soap opera normalizing pedophilia, polygamy

Video screengrab from Indosiar.
Video screengrab from Indosiar.

Indonesians are calling for severe sanctions toward a TV network after it aired some extremely disturbing content in a soap opera pertaining to the sexualization of a child.

A sinetron (Indonesian soap opera) series on the Indosiar TV channel has become the subject of intense criticism from the public due to its disturbing subject matter. Like bad amateur erotica, the show depicts a man in his late thirties using the powers of manipulation to marry a high school student named Zahra as his third wife, who is portrayed by a 15-year-old actress. To add some complexity into the story, the girl also happened to be dating the man’s little brother prior to the marriage.

Many were incensed by what they see as the show normalizing pedophilia, child marriage and polygamy — all of which are deep-rooted issues in Indonesian society — leading to calls for the Indonesian Broadcast Commission (KPI) to sanction Indosiar and the sinetron’s producers.


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A post shared by Ernest Prakasa (@ernestprakasa)

“Indosiar, this is way over the line. The actress portraying Zahra is only 15 years old. Fine, the gold standard for TV is ratings, but the gold standard for human beings are conscience and good sense. Did you think [this show] is appropriate?” filmmaker and actor Ernest Prakasa wrote on the post criticizing the show.

Adding to the outrage was the teenage actress’ claim that she was flown to Jakarta merely a couple of days before the shoot without having been told about the show’s premise. She said she was contractually obligated to go ahead and portray the character.

Yet the show was not without its defenders, with some saying detractors should just skip it if they don’t like it, while others pour their support on the basis of the lead actor’s good looks.

KPI, which previously ordered an ad featuring K-pop stars BLACKPINK off the air for their “singing and dancing in revealing clothing” and introducing strict broadcast guidelines leading to the censorship of cleavage and bikini-wearing cartoon characters (yes, including an animated squirrel), has yet to respond to the controversy.

Government officials have said child marriage in Indonesia is at alarming levels in recent years, leading to President Joko Widodo raising the minimum age for marriage for women from 16 to 19. Yet child marriage continues to be practiced due to religious and/or cultural loopholes, which, by the same token, are also used to justify polygamous marriages even though it’s technically not recognized by the law.

Also Read 

‘Your job is to serve your husband’: Wedding planner under fire over campaign encouraging young girls to marry 

A middle school teacher married his former student after 7 years of dating, why’d Indonesian media frame it an inspirational tale?

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