|What, no job?|
Rape is a dreadful crime, even when it isn’t accompanied by additional acts of brutalisation and violence. It is an act based not on desire but on hatred, on the worst forms of human depravity. Women everywhere deserve the protection of the law. Potential rapists need to understand that, if caught and convicted, they face the severest of penalties. Instead the law, as in Morocco, simply adds to the crime, often by stupid insensitivity on the part of judges and senior legal officials.
The whole world was shocked by the savagery of the Delhi attack, which saw the victim disembowelled. One would have thought that a new sobriety would have descended, at least for a time. Alas, the whole world did not include Indonesia, or at least it did not include Judge Muhammad Daming Sanusi.
Daming, a judge for twenty-four years, serves as head of the South Sumatra High Court. Earlier this month he was in Jakarta, the capital, being interviewed by the House Commission for a possible place on the country’s Supreme Court. This is clearly a serious position for serious people, and who could possibly be more serious than a senior lawyer? After all, they are the guardians and upholders of the law, the protectors of the innocent. Who could possibly be more serious than Daming? Well, the answer has to be, just about anybody.
During the course of the interview he was asked whether the death penalty in rape cases was a necessary change to the law, which at present carries a maximum sentence of twelve years imprisonment. "Both the victims and the rapist", he responded, "might have enjoyed their intercourse together, so we should think twice before handing down the death sentence." Apparently, after a moment’s silence, the panel laughed. It was all a great joke, a joke that just happened to have been made not long after an eleven-year-old girl died after being gang raped in broad daylight in the streets of Jakarta.
Unfortunately the ordinary people of the land, those without sound legal sense, or a sense of humour, failed to see the joke. Thousands took to Facebook and Twitter. The condemnation of Daming was damming. Those who previously laughed discovered, on reflection, that it wasn’t so funny after all. Politicians from the country’s main parties said that they would not support his candidature. He himself, in a contrite and tearful public statement, said that his remark was merely intended to ‘ease the tension’.
"I have three adolescent daughters", he said, ‘and one of them told me that she is very embarrassed and that she felt as if she did not know me at all." He knows her, though; he knows that she might enjoy being forced to have sex. Oh, but wait a minute; it’s never one’s own that are the subject of such observations; it’s the children of others, those who do not matter.
Commenting on his words, the Indonesian Child Protection Agency said;
Has Daming felt what it’s like to be a rape victim or a member of the victim’s family? It’s extremely inappropriate for a Supreme Court judge hopeful to joke about the suffering of people and their feelings.
The sad thing is that this is not the first time that a senior public official has been responsible for such crass insensitivity. Rape is a crime, you see, where the victim is at fault. Last year Fauzi Bowo, the governor of Jakarta, advised women against wearing ‘provocative clothes’ while using public transport just to avoid being raped. This came in the wake of a series of sexual attacks on public minivans, including that of a university student who was subsequently murdered.
Apologies, tears and family disapproval notwithstanding, it’s all too late for Daming. On Wednesday the House Commission appointed eight new justices. He received not a single vote. But the matter does not stop there. On Friday the Judicial Commission, Indonesia’s highest legal authority, recommended that he be dismissed from his existing post. Imam Ashori Saleh, the Commission’s deputy chairman, said that Daming should be removed because his rape remarks breached the judicial code of ethics. The Supreme Court now has fourteen days to decide his fate.
The fact of the matter is that he has become a political embarrassment. Personally speaking, I have little doubt that if this business had been confined to Indonesia’s old boy network of lawyers and politicians the whole thing would have passed without repercussion. It just a little levity, after all, no need to let some casual words detain us unnecessarily - Judge away, Judge Daming. Alas, the levity made an ass of the law and a laughing stock of the victims of crime. Sometimes, just sometimes, ordinary people can make a difference, if their voice is joined in common purpose.