Monday, 17 September, 2012 | 17:20 WIB
A Teenage Girl’s Suicide in Aceh
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:Yusri failed to hide his shock when he opened the door to his daughter’s room a few weeks ago. His daughter, Putri Erlina, 16, had a plastic cord around her neck. She was hanging from a wooden beam on the ceiling. “I immediately reported this to the police,” said Aramiah village chief Jailani to Tempo last Thursday. Aramiah is located some 13 kilometres away from Langsa, Aceh.
Birem Bayeun Police subprecinct chief First Insp. Zulkarnaen pointed to a number of factors in Putri’s death. Firstly, the wooden beam from which Putri was hanging from was just a few inches above her head. Even as the the strangulation marks around her neck left by the cord were evident, Zulkarnaen felt that other signs showing that she had died from hanging were not as convincing. Police found no signs of violence on her body. To determine the exact cause of death, her body was moved to the Langsa general hospital for a post-mortem examination. The forensic doctors of the hospital confirmed that this was a suicide by hanging.
That night, the news of Putri's suicide only reached the ears of villagers in Aramiah. A few days later, it spread outside Aceh. In Jakarta over the past days, Putri’s suicide has become a hot talking point among child rights activists.
"The Putri case again reminds us adults, on the kind of care that must be taken in dealing with children," said Seto Mulyadi, former chairperson of the National Children Protection Commission, at the National Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) last week.
Putri's suicide attracted huge attention because it came on the heels of her detention by sharia police in Aceh. In the early hours of a Monday, two weeks ago, Aceh’s Wilayatul Hisbah, or sharia police, conducted a raid at the Merdeka Square of Langsa, in search of teenagers who were hanging out at those hours. According to Aceh’s qanun (Islamic bylaw), Aceh’s religious police are authorized to oversee the enforcement of Islamic sharia law across the province, including Langsa.
Among the actions forbidden through Qanun No. 14 of 2003, is khalwat, or close proximity between members of the opposite sex. This crime is punishable in Aceh by a minimum of three lashings, and a maximum of nine lashings. Another punishment linked to khalwat is the payment of a fine ranging between Rp 2 million – Rp 10 million.
That morning, a number of women and men managed to escape being arrested by the sharia police. But not Putri. She and her female friend, along with two male youngsters, were detained and taken away by sharia police. They were taken to the Langsa Sharia Police Headquarters where their ID card details were not just taken down, both Putri and her female friend were interrogated about the nature of the relationship they shared with the two young males. "They claimed they did not know one another,” said Ibrahim Latief, chief of Langsa Sharia Police.
Police then questioned them as to why they were hanging out together with the boys during those hours at Merdeka Square. To the police, Putri and her friend said that after watching a solo performance by a keyboardist, they had missed their ride and had been left behind. There was no other ride back to Aramiah at that hour, so they stayed behind. As both the girls were teenagers and underage, the sharia police officers decided to turn them over to their parents – instead of detaining them until they were tried and whipped for their crimes. This was also the first time Putri and her friend were detained in such a raid.
That morning itself, the sharia police called the Aramiah village chief and guardians of both girls to take them home. When he questioned Putri as to who her parents were, Ibrahim said, she refused to mention the names of her parents, and asked to be picked up by her aunt instead, Jasminawati. Jasminawati lives in Matang Seulimeng, within the city of Langsa.
As they were leaving, police once again advised Putri and Jasminawati against the ills of staying late at night with mingling with the opposite sex. Police also demanded that Putri make a statement promising that she would not hang about outside during night-time. “They are still kids. If there is no prevention, it could be dangerous later on,” Ibrahim said. ******