Photo by Human Rights Watch
Photo by Human Rights Watch

Over 57,000 mentally ill people in Indonesia have been tied, shackled, and locked up in crowded rooms, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

Amid government banning of pasung— the shackling of mentally ill to small rooms– in 1977, the practice continues in the country.

 “Shackling people with mental health conditions is illegal in Indonesia and yet it remains a widespread and brutal practice,” said Kriti Sharma, in her report, “Living in Hell: Abuses against People with Psychosocial Disabilities in Indonesia.”

“People spend years locked up in chains, wooden stocks, or goat sheds because families don’t know what else to do and the government doesn’t do a good job of offering humane alternatives,” she added.

Yet based on its government figures, at least 18,800 people are presently being shackled.

According to Human Rights Watch, these mentally ill persons “are tied down by chains—to beds, cement blocks, or in animal pens —and lack access to mental health care.”

“They are confined to unsanitary and inhumane conditions, sometimes for decades,” it said.

In one of its recommendations, Human Rights Watch urged Indonesian government to “immediately improve conditions in mental hospitals to ensure the human rights of persons with psychosocial disabilities.”

“Build the capacity of health professionals to identify and manage mental health conditions and support people with psychosocial disabilities by providing training, developing their knowledge of mental health and support techniques, and by including mental health in university curriculums,” it said.

Human Rights Watch also asked the public to join its campaign to end shackling in Indonesia.