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Indonesia’s Child-Porn Gap

By webadmin on 07:36 pm Jan 30, 2011
Category Archive

Alex Walls

“Do you sell child pornography?” I ask the bewildered sales girl at the DVD store politely. She looks confused, and I repeat the words a fraction louder, looking around the store with embarrassment and mentally cursing the moment I decided to investigate the loophole in the controversial Pornography Law that allows the possession of child pornography.

Passed in 2008 amid protests from political parties and women’s and children’s rights nongovernmental organizations, the Pornography Law has been ruffling feathers for some time now. The law, which was in the works for around 10 years, has been criticized for its vague definition of what pornography actually is and the loophole concerning ownership of child pornography.

While Article 6 of the Pornography Law prohibits possession of pornography, an elucidation to this article states that prohibition does not include possession for oneself or for one’s own purposes. Article 11 has prohibitions about engaging children, either as subjects or objects, in pornography, but does not mention possession of pornographic material. In effect, this means that the Pornography Law does not criminalize the private possession of child pornography.

Ahmad Sofian, the coordinator of the National Coalition for the Elimination of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Indonesia, said the country’s laws only pay lip service to the idea of protecting children.

He blames the lack of expertise for the loophole in the Pornography Law. “If experts had been involved in the law-making process, possession of child pornography would have been prevented and criminalized.”

Studies in five Indonesian cities conducted by Ahmad found that no person in possession of child pornography has ever been arrested and tried.

Eva Kusuma Sundari from the opposition Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), one of the parties to walk out on the drafting of the Pornography law, said the PDI-P had wanted the law to focus on the protection of children and to take very specific steps to make this possible.

“It is the children that need the protection, not the adults,” she said. “We failed to put notes explaining that even though you have the right to watch pornography [in possession] for one’s own purposes, there is an exception — child pornography.”

She said the law had become more of a political than a protective undertaking for those behind it, and the gap regarding the private ownership of child pornography reflects this.

“I think there was concern, genuine concern that, OK, we must have this pornography bill, but then it was a lack of skill, a lack of knowledge — and [lawmakers] found they were influenced by people who had political intentions.”

Eva added that pressure from outside the parliament contributed to the flaws in the law. “I think somehow there was huge pressure from Islamic groups who had been waiting for the first draft for 10 years.”

Arist Merdeka Sirait, the chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Anak), said the Pornography Law should be revised to include a better definition of what pornography actually is.

Sirait said education is the key to helping eradicate child pornography and Komnas Anak planned to give students, teachers and families more information about how to protect children.

“We not only need the support of the people, but also international cooperation, because pornography is a crime.”

In 2010, Komnas Anak received 2,335 reports of commercial sexual exploitation of children, 18 percent involving children and pornography. While Sirait said this was just a small amount of the abuse that actually occurred, he added that the Pornography Law has been effective in decreasing DVD sales of child pornography and was a good first step.

Unicef too supports the harmonization of laws to strengthen the legal protection of children, it’s Indonesian office said. The UN fund pointed out that Indonesia has not yet ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which covers the prohibition of child pornography, and stated that this could provide a good framework for harmonizing Indonesia’s child protection laws.

But others are not so sure that amending the Pornography Law is the best way forward.

Ade Armando, lecturer of mass communication at the University of Indonesia, was one of the people who helped to draft the law and talked to vendors as part of his research. He said that before the Pornography Law was passed, DVDs containing child pornography were freely available at Jakarta’s markets, such as the Glodok Market, but not anymore.

There is a huge sign, he said, that hangs above the DVD market announcing that the buying and selling of pornography is not allowed. “I think they are afraid now.”

While Ade acknowledged there is indeed a loophole in the law, he said much progress has been made to combat child pornography distribution since the law has been enacted.

“I know it is not 100 percent successful in fighting child pornography but at least the amounts decreased … at least we achieved some significant change and progress in fighting child pornography.”

Sundari thinks that rewriting the law is not an option for any political party — now or in the future. They are exhausted, she said, and the topic is a sensitive, divisive one. But she insists amendment is necessary if the government wants to strengthen the protection of children.

Next time around, she said, more time and less outside pressure would help avoid loopholes, as well as human error.

“Please don’t bring religion into these public discussions. It is really counter-productive, not only for the maturity of democracy. We should learn from the Pornography Law — there are loopholes because the starting point was moralistic.”

While the loophole in a law that was touted as a way to keep children safe may never be closed, the good news is that the Pornography Law appears to have decreased the distribution of child pornography. But if a law that was meant to cover all the bases when it came to children’s welfare cannot get it right, Indonesia may need to once again tackle the problem of child pornography in the not so distant future.

The sales girl at the DVD store, however, probably thinks I’m just a crazy bule when I ask her whether people come to her looking for child pornography, and points to a row of glossy covers sporting exotic trees and plants.

“National Geographic?” she asks.