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Rape victims 'enjoy it,' Indonesia Supreme Court hopeful suggests

January 17, 2013|By Emily Alpert

An Indonesian Supreme Court hopeful may have torpedoed his chances at the job after suggesting that women might enjoy being raped, infuriating a wide array of critics.

Daming Sanusi made the inflammatory remarks Monday while being interviewed by a parliamentary panel for a seat on the Supreme Court.  When asked whether rapists should be put to death, Daming joked that because both the rapist and the victim “enjoy it,” the court should think twice about imposing the death penalty.

Daming later apologized after his words set off an uproar in Indonesia, saying it was a poorly considered joke meant to ease the tension during his interview. In a tearful news conference Tuesday, Daming told reporters his statement was “out of control.”

His words have already turned two political parties against Daming and spurred condemnation from the Judicial Commission, which recommends possible justices to Indonesian lawmakers. Thousands of people signed online petitions to stop him from being chosen for the top court.

“Is it to be believed that a judge, who is supposed to uphold the law, made the victims of rape a laughingstock?” Primastuti Handayani wrote in an incensed commentary in the Jakarta Post. On top of that, “what should have been a long, embarrassing silence upon hearing Daming’s answer shockingly turned into a big joke, as [officials on the panel] laughed along with the judge.”

Others have stepped forward to defend him. “Nobody’s perfect — it was just a slip of the tongue,” Constitutional Court Justice Akil Mochtar told the Jakarta Globe.

Daming has been a judge for more than two decades, according to Indonesian media. The Judicial Commission is investigating whether Daming ran afoul of its code of ethics with his remarks.

Indonesian politicians have repeatedly gotten into hot water over remarks about rape in recent years. Less than 18 months ago, after a reported sharp increase in rape cases, a Jakarta official said women shouldn’t wear miniskirts while riding on public transportation, lest they arouse men and end up with “unwanted consequences.” Infuriated protesters took to the streets in short skirts, hoisting signs that denounced him for blaming the victims.

A year earlier, another politician in Aceh, an autonomous area governed under religious law, was mocked after telling the Jakarta Globe that “when women don’t dress according to sharia law, they’re asking to get raped.”

Indonesia's National Commission on Violence Against Women said victims often avoid reporting rapes because of such attitudes. More than 4,000 sexual assault cases were reported in 2011, but many more probably went unreported, it said Wednesday.

The outcry in Indonesia follows furor in India over the deadly gang-rape of a 23-year-old student, who was blamed for the crime by some politicians and spiritual leaders even as protesters thronged in the streets.

It also echoes a political controversy on the other side of the globe: Controversial statements about rape and pregnancy dragged down the campaigns of U.S. Republican candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, both of whom lost elections last year after their remarks.

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