The perpetrator was a family member and to this day I have never confronted him about it. Now that I'm older, I've finally decided not to address this incident to him because it would not do anyone any good. He was underage at the time, after all. I remember, however, when I tried to raise the issue with a close relative, and was basically told by her to move on and to stop bringing up bad memories. So I tried to erase this unpleasant event from my mind, but to no avail. Because, to be honest, I'm still pissed off about it.
One time, I tweeted this quote, “I think once you molest a child, your balls should be cut off. You should be castrated immediately.”
These words came from one of the world’s first supermodels, Janice Dickinson, who has been open about the emotional and physical abuse she suffered as a child and teenager. Janice didn't actually use the term “molested” (she used the term “abused”), but since her sister, Debbie, was sexually abused by their own father, I think she'd agree with what I tweeted.
Yes, I'm still angry about it. Until now, I think our government has done nothing to address the issue of pedophilia in the country, even when there were reports about the growing threat of child molesters, like those in Bali.
Every time a case of child sexual abuse became public (like the case of Baekuni, Robot Gedek, or the Jakarta International School saga), the news reports are either dramatized or sensationalized, but never really touches on the real issue, which is how to stop this problem and what kind of punishment child molesters should get.
But when Social Affairs Minister Khofifah Indar Parawansa recently said that the government was planning to castrate child sexual abusers, people began to talk about this issue, but not in an overly dramatized way. A part of me is pretty happy that finally the government is planning to do something “constructive” about it. (I use the term “constructive” loosely since there are pros and cons about it).
However, this is Indonesia we're talking about, where some still believe that HIV-positive people should be punished by refusing to provide them medical treatment, where some equate homosexuals with child molesters (Yes, I'm gay, but that had nothing to do with my abuse. I also have friends who were sexually abused as a child and they didn't grow up to be gay).
I read somewhere that gynecologist and sex consultant Dr. Boyke Dian Nugraha rejected the idea that child molesters should be castrated, because “it would not change anything as it is their minds that needs to be treated.” Boyke also emphasized the importance of both sex education and protecting the children instead of severely punishing child molesters.
In part, I agree with him. Yes, the little boy in me is still angry about the experience I had during my childhood and, believe me, I do think that child molesters should be punished. However, now that I've reached adulthood, what I regret most was not the fact that my family did nothing to punish the perpetrator, but the fact that no one prepared me to deal with the situation.
Also, the fact that my close relatives at that time refused to talk about what happened to me showed that a large number of people choose not to acknowledge how serious the problem really is.
Many people are not aware of the practice of pedophilia, let alone the practice of child trafficking until it happens to their family and children. And the issue of child molesters was, as far as I know, hardly touched by the government, until now that is.
I'm not going to lie, I still think that pedophiles should be castrated and I'm open to any challenge against my opinion. But I think what should be celebrated about Minister Khofifah's ballsy statement is that now people suddenly offer constructive opinions about how this issue should be treated.
I hope that her announcement means soon there will be clear and definite action from the government to deal with child abusers, no matter what that outcome will be.
Amahl S. Azwar is an openly gay writer who currently lives in Shanghai, China.
Illustration by Laurence Simon