Man assaults 48 religious school students after telling them he can help prevent circumcision pain

Police in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, have arrested a 22-year-old man suspected of assaulting 48 girls from an Islamic boarding school.

The suspect, 22-year-old RD, is not an employee of the school, but often attended and participated in activities there, gaining the school’s trust to care for their children.

“Most of the time, the aggressor [molested] the victims by telling them that they would feel no pain if they were circumcised. Because they didn’t understand, the victims agreed,” said Maryam, head of the Tarakan Women and Children Protection Agency.

Of some 200 female students at the school, 48 say they were sexually assaulted by RD.

“Of the 48 children, five were repeatedly assaulted by the perpetrator. Some were assaulted two to three times, others only once,” said Maryam, adding that the five people are now heavily traumatized and need intensive counselling.

RD was arrested on March 8. To police, he confessed to molesting girls at school since 2016, and that he himself had lost count of the number of victims he had abused.

RD can face at least five years in prison for each count of sexual assault on a minor.

In February, a West Java religious studies teacher was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of raping 13 of his students.

Cutting – also known as female genital mutilation or FGM – has been practiced for generations across Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world, and is seen by many as a rite of passage.

The United Nations condemns the practice and the government has already sought to ban it, but opposition from religious authorities and its widespread acceptance mean that FGM has been impossible to eradicate.

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