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Head of Medan orphanage charged for exploitation of children on TikTok

Medan orphanage faces child exploitation allegations via TikTok with its administrator arrested.

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INDONESIA: A Medan-based orphanage is under scrutiny for allegedly exploiting children through live broadcasts on the social media platform TikTok.

The case of child exploitation at this orphanage has gone viral and garnered widespread attention.

The police have identified Zamaneuli Zebua, the administrator of the Yayasan Tunas Kasih Olayama Raya Medan orphanage in North Sumatra, as the suspect behind the child exploitation.

Zamaneuli faces charges under Article 88, in conjunction with Article 76i of Law Number 35 of 2014, concerning child protection, with a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

He was apprehended on the evening of Tuesday (19 Sep). It is alleged that Zamaneuli exploited the children in the orphanage through his TikTok account, soliciting donations for his personal gain.

Over the course of a month, he reportedly amassed profits ranging from IDR 20 million (US$1,300) to IDR 50 million (US$3,200).

According to Kombes Pol Valentino Alfa Tatareda, Chief of Medan City Police, the illegal orphanage was managed by Zamaneuli and his wife.

A total of 26 children were in their care, including four infants and toddlers, with the others attending school. Some of the children were in junior high school, and a small number were still in primary school.

Zamaneuli’s actions came to light at the beginning of 2023 when he began uploading videos of the orphanage children displaying sadness, with the intention of receiving donations from netizens.

Valentino explained, “Especially when the babies cried, he would upload it on social media, particularly TikTok. He had an account, and from there, he requested donations. These donations poured in, and this is something we can verify. They came not only from Indonesia but also from overseas.”

Currently, out of the 26 children at the orphanage, 20 have been placed in the care of the Ministry of Social Affairs’ Sentra Bahagia in Pancing, Medan. Two children were returned to their parents, while four others were entrusted to the Deli Serdang Social Services.

Police received information suggesting that some children came from outside Medan, and there were financial agreements after the children were handed over to the perpetrator.

Valentino stated, “Initial information suggests some sort of financial transaction, but we are still investigating.” Currently, the suspect is detained at the Medan City Police headquarters for further legal proceedings.

Medan orphanage faces child exploitation allegations via TikTok; administrator arrested. Politicians and child protection agencies call for strict action. (Photo: Detikcom)

This case gained prominence after a viral video showed the perpetrator feeding a two-month-old baby during a live TikTok broadcast.

Following the video’s circulation, the Medan City Social Services and the police intervened and apprehended the suspect.

Meliana Waruwu, the wife of Zamaneuli Zebua, has denied allegations of exploiting the 26 children at the orphanage. She claimed that the donations obtained from social media were used for the needs of the orphanage’s children, not for personal gain.

She stated, “Yes, my husband did live broadcasts on TikTok, but not for personal gain (donations). It was for our children in the orphanage—for their education and other necessities, not for personal use.”

Regarding the amount of money received through live TikTok broadcasts, Meliana claimed to be unaware of the details as Zamaneuli managed everything.

She also denied knowing when her husband began conducting live TikTok broadcasts to receive gifts.

Meliana refuted the existence of monetary transactions when families entrusted their children to their orphanage.

However, she did acknowledge that many of the orphanage’s children came from outside Medan, stating, “Our children here come from Kerinci, Pekanbaru, Padangsidempuan, Tanah Karo Regency, and Nias.”

Ace Hasan Syadzily, Deputy Chair of Commission VIII of the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) from the Golkar faction, called for stringent action against the administrators of the Yayasan Tunas Kasih Olayama Raya Orphanage.

He emphasized that child exploitation should not be tolerated and expressed concern over infants and children being used by orphanages to solicit donations.

He stated, “I agree that law enforcement should take strict action against those who exploit children through TikTok. Especially when it involves infants intentionally being used as a means to obtain donations from the public.”

Ace asserted that every orphanage should have proper authorization from the Ministry of Social Affairs and should adhere to clear legal guidelines.

He stressed, “Orphanages must be registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia as Social Welfare Institutions with clear legal status. There should be no shortcuts when it comes to providing services to children.”

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) considers these actions as potential human trafficking offenses.

Diyah Puspitarini, a KPAI Commissioner, stated, “This report has been submitted, and it falls under the category of exploitation and child trafficking.”

She emphasized the need for swift action and support for the children who have become victims.

According to Diyah, the affected children should receive legal protection and psychosocial support.

She said, “Children who become victims, as stated in Article 59 of the Child Protection Law, must undergo a quick process, receive psychosocial support, social assistance, and legal protection. Parents must also be provided with guidance.”

Diyah urged that the perpetrators be punished severely and suggested that the orphanage administrators could be charged with multiple offenses, including child abuse and human trafficking.

She stated, “They must be punished firmly, as this involves exploitation and possibly human trafficking, in addition to child abuse for feeding a two-month-old baby. Multiple charges could be applied, perhaps under the Criminal Code (KUHP) as well.”

KPAI has committed to closely monitoring this case and ensuring that the children at the orphanage receive proper support.

Diyah added, “KPAI’s role is oversight, so we ensure that children receive oversight from local Child Protection Institutions (UPTD PPA) or DP3AP and social workers from the Department of Social Services.”

“We make sure they are doing this, and if they are not, it is our duty to push the relevant parties with this responsibility to act promptly. But in this case, KPAI will monitor and support until the case is fully resolved.”

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