A teacher in Indonesia was handed down a death sentence on Monday for raping 13 girls in an Islamic school, after he had initially been sentenced to life in prison. Herry Wirawan was sentenced to life in jail by a court in the city of Bandung in February but prosecutors who had called for the death penalty filed an appeal.
Wirawan was sentenced to life in prison in February after sexually grooming 13 girls between the ages of 12 and 16 and impregnating at least nine of his victims, according to the court. Wirawan's case has shaken the country and brought attention to the need to protect children in religious boarding schools from sexual violence.
Setting an Example
Wirawan's life sentence was turned into death penalty to set an example for gruesome crimes like rape, child abuse and sexual exploitation. Indonesia has not carried out any executions in several years, with the most recent known killings occurring in 2016.
"(We) hereby punish the defendant with the death penalty," the judge said in a statement on Monday posted on the Bandung High Court's website.
Wirawan's lawyer, Ira Mambo, declined to comment on whether an appeal would be filed, citing the need to see the whole court judgement.
Before reacting, a representative for the local prosecutor's office said the office will wait for the final verdict.
Wirawan sexually groomed the 13 girls, ages 12 to 16, between 2016 and 2021, and impregnated eight of his victims, according to a judge in February. His rape caused injury to some people.
Wirawan's pattern of abuse at the school, which is located in Bandung, was exposed last year after the family of a female student accused him of raping and impregnating their teenage daughter.
Unlike a Teacher
Many of the victims did not report their rapes for fear of having to relive the painful experience, according to officials, and their parents had trusted that the boarding school was guiding their children to become decent and holy individuals.
Wirawan's victims had also sustained injuries as a result of the rapes.
During his earlier trial, it was found that Wirawan had assaulted female students over a five-year period, many of whom were from low-income households and were attending the institution on scholarships.
However, Wirawan pleaded guilty and asked for leniency before the lower court, saying that he wanted to be around to raise his children.
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim majority country, includes tens of thousands of Islamic boarding schools and other religious schools, which are often the sole means of obtaining an education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
While the chairman of Indonesia's Child Protection Commission said the initial verdict meant "justice for the victims has been served," according to a DailyMail report, a family member of one of the victims told that he was "very disappointed" that Wirawan did not receive a harsher sentence, warning that leniency would embolden other abusers.
"This wound will never be healed as long as we live, maybe until we die. The pain we are feeling is indescribable. We don't feel heard,' said Hidmat Dijaya, an uncle of one of the 13 victims. If the sentence is lenient like this, there will be more Islamic teachers who will abuse children," he added.
"We will let God as the highest judge punish him. We can only pray because those judges failed to represent our hurt and pain."