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Indonesian Minister's Rape Comments Draw Ire

Women wearing miniskirts and tight leggings hold posters to protest against the idea that provocatively dressed women are to blame for sexual assaults, Jakarta, Indonesia (September 2011 File)
In Indonesia, the alleged kidnapping and rape of a girl has drawn international headlines for how she has been treated by school and government officials. Activists say the case reveals long-standing shortcomings in how authorities respond to violence against women.

Late last month a 14-year-old girl living on the outskirts of Jakarta was alleged to have been abducted, held captive and repeatedly raped by several men for a week. She was subsequently expelled for bringing shame upon her school.

But the girl's nightmare did not end there.

Indonesia Education Minister Mohammad Nuh drew more attention to the case after telling reporters last week that rape is sometimes the fault of the victim. The minister said sometimes rape participants "do it for fun ... then the girl alleges it's rape."

The comment provoked a flurry of criticism and a demand from the girl's mother for an apology. But the minister has refused, saying his comments were taken out of context.

On Wednesday education ministry spokesperson Ibnu Hamad told VOA the minister was only making a general comment about rape.

Hamad says the minister was referring to what he says are many cases of rape that are later proven to be otherwise.

The minister is reported to have issued an apology to online media, but has declined to issue an apology to the alleged rape victim and her family.

Activists have lashed out against the minister's comments, saying they could have some bearing on the case.

If charged with rape, the perpetrator faces a maximum 15 years in jail. But if the sex is proven to be consensual, the perpetrator faces a maximum seven-year sentence on the abduction charge.

Police are still investigating.

Andi Yetriyani from the National Commission of Violence Against Women says this is not the first time a government minister has been under pressure to retract controversial statements about women.

"We are very concerned because the statement made by the minister of education is not the first time similar comments have been conducted by other ministers," Yetriyani said. "It does show the level of understanding on the violence against women in the state and among the state apparatus. We believe that victimization, blaming the victim as well the culture of denial of responsibility from the state for the recovery of the victims is still widespread.”

Late last year, then-Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo urged women to stop wearing mini skirts on public transport if they wanted to avoid rape.

Following the public outrage generated by this case, the 14-year-old girl from Depok has been permitted to return to school.