Why we should care about the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl

Kate Walton
Why we should care about the rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl
Why did no one know? Why isn’t the nation outraged by what happened to YY? Are women’s rapes and murders simply not interesting enough?

In Bengkulu in early April, a young girl in her first year of junior high school was gang raped to death on her way home from school. Although she was previously reported as being 14 years old, local media now says YY was just 13. (READ: 14-year-old student found dead, raped by 14 men)

I am no longer using YY’s full name, even though it is in the press, because it is not clear if her family has agreed to the usage of her name. After all, she deserves respect.

YY went through enough when 14 boys and men – the majority just teenagers themselves – raped her multiple times each in the forest before killing her, burying her, and pretending not to know anything about her disappearance. (READ: 14-year-old raped by 14 men was top student)

Some of them even ‘helped’ to dig up her body when it was discovered. None have showed any remorse for what happened. Instead, they have blamed alcohol and peer pressure.

The law on child protection (Undang-Undang No 35 Tahun 2014) states that the men who raped and killed YY can only be jailed for up to 15 years. Those under the age of 18 can only be jailed for half of that time. Even if the maximum sentence is handed down, and YY’s killers are punished, many of them will be out of jail by the time they are 25.

Can this really be called justice?

Common occurrence

YY is not the only women to have been killed by a man in Indonesia in 2016. In fact, she’s not even the only teenager. Including YY, 43 women and girls were murdered by men in just the first 4 months of the year – 7 of them were aged 18 or under.

They include a 16-year-old stabbed to death in Nias in April; a 17-year-old drowned in mud by her boyfriend in Jember in March; a 15-year-old from Bandung whose boyfriend smashed her head in with a hammer in January; and a 15-year-old from Cirebon who was raped by her boyfriend until she fainted, before being thrown in front of a train.

Around the world, the vast majority of women are killed by men they know, often their husbands or boyfriends. Indonesia is no exception to this. At least 30 of the 43 women and girls killed in 2016 were murdered by their current or former intimate partners.

That’s more than two thirds. YY was one of these – her ex-boyfriend was one of those who raped and killed her.


Many cultural and social norms demean women. Unfortunately, despite having made so much progress in terms of rights and representation, women remain seen as objects and not people.

Objects to be used by men as they like, then literally thrown away.

One friend mentioned on Monday that a male (Indonesian) acquaintance just laughed when she told him about Y, and said “It must be nice to be raped by 14 men!” It is this sort of attitude and casual acceptance of rape that leads to further violence against women.

I only heard about YY because I actively search for news like this. Since the beginning of 2016, I have kept a database of women and girls killed by men in Indonesia.

YY’s story was so horrific, I was shocked that it had only been briefly covered in Kompas, and that no other national media had reported on the story. Additionally, none of my feminist and activist friends knew about her. 

So I started wondering: why? Why did no one know? Why isn’t the nation outraged by what happened to YY? Are women’s rapes and murders simply not interesting enough?

We must act


Indonesia furiously discussed the alleged sexual assault of JIS students for weeks, and their supposed abusers have been jailed. Why has there been no similar outrage for YY?

Is it because she was from somewhere far away from Jakarta, from a district that many of us had never even heard of? Is it because she was not from the privileged classes? Was what happened to her simply not ‘dramatic’ enough? How much more dramatic do rapes and murders need to be before people care?

If we are truly horrified by YY’s death – and we should be – then we must act. We must reach critical mass and demand action from the Indonesian government, the police, and the community. This sort of violence is unacceptable. We cannot stand idly by as another woman or girl is killed every three days.

We must demand an Indonesia free from violence against women and girls, starting with the ratification of the Law on the Elimination of Sexual Violence. Only then can we begin to realize a world where no more YYs are killed. – Rappler.com

Kate is a queer feminist activist in Jakarta. She has a Master of Human Rights from Curtin University, and has lived in Indonesia for four years.

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.