Indonesian President Joko Widodo has issued a new law allowing convicted prisoners to be sentenced to death, chemical castration and maximum prison sentences.
The new law approved on Wednesday came after social media was flooded with calls for child sex abusers to be given harsher penalties, following the sentencing of seven teenagers to 10 years in prison last month for gang raping and murdering a 14-year-old schoolgirl on the western island of Sumatra.
The incident drew comparisons with the fatal gang rape in 2012 of a female university student in Delhi, which triggered protests and a change in India’s laws.
"Sexual violence against children is an extraordinary crime," Widodo told a news conference at the presidential palace.
"This regulation is meant to overcome (such) incidents, in which we have seen a significant rise," he added, although the official number of child sex abuse cases is currently unknown.
In addition to the death penalty, convicted pedophiles could now face chemical castration and be tagged with an electronic chip to track their movements.
Prison sentences for child sex offenders have also been increased to a maximum of 20 years from 10 years.
"We hope that this law will be a deterrent for offenders and can suppress sexual crimes against children," Widodo noted on his official Twitter account.
Hari ini Perppu perlindungan anak ditandatangani. Penanganan kejahatan seksual pd anak harus dg cara luar biasa -Jkw pic.twitter.com/MlZaNsWIBU
— Joko Widodo (@jokowi) May 25, 2016
However, rights activists have warned against the move.
"In most cases the perpetrators know the victims, and these punishments are so severe that it may discourage victims from reporting the rapes," said Andreas Harsono of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
There are various forms of chemical castration. The procedure involves administering drugs through injection or pills with the intention of suppressing sexual desire and sexual activity in the subject.
Indonesia will now join several countries – including Argentina, Australia, Estonia, Israel, Moldova, New Zealand, Poland, Russia as well as some US states – in which punitive chemical castration is either carried out on a voluntary basis, often in return for sentence reduction, or is a possible punishment.