PETALING JAYA, June 4 — Indonesian drama Suara Hati Istri is catching heat on social media for featuring an underage actress in the role of a wife.
The soap opera, which premiered on May 24, shows Lea Ciarachel Fourneaux playing Zahra, a teenager who is duped into becoming the third wife of a wealthy businessman after he offers to pay for her ailing father’s medical treatments.
Fourneaux is 14 years old and was born on October 5, 2006 in Bali.
Social media users were shocked to find intimate scenes of the young actress with her 39-year-old co-star Panji Saputra being promoted on television station Indosiar’s YouTube channel.
This included a scene of Zahra and her husband spending their first night together as a married couple and another scene of them being physically affectionate with each other after finding out that Zahra is pregnant.
The clips were removed from Indosiar’s channel after Suara Hati Istri sparked backlash online but they still managed to get over 200,000 views before being deleted.
One of the drama’s most prominent critics was Indonesian comedian Ernest Prakasa, who took to Instagram to call out Indosiar for casting a child to play the role of a wife.
He added that it was important for him to lend his voice to matter as many people in the industry are aware of the issue but are not able to speak up for various reasons.
“Many of my peers would like to bring up this problem but they are bound by ethics, work contracts, or bad feelings, so let me be the one to speak out.
“Indosiar, this has crossed the line. It’s gone too far. Zahra's actor is still 15 years old.
“Okay, the standard for TV is ratings, but the benchmark for humans is conscience and common sense. Do you think this is reasonable?” wrote Ernest in a post on June 1.
Children’s rights foundation Yayasan Plan International Indonesia also slammed Suara Hati Istri for “glorifying child marriage” in a tweet.
Several people are also calling for the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission to investigate Suara Hati Istri and Indosiar for allegedly romanticising underage marriage and paedophilia.
Plis dont normalize child marriage, we are double burden country where mom and children living under the standard,malnutrition stunting high risk pregnancy even pregnancy lead to dead are quite high here.child marriage is one of risk factor to that situation, #zahra— f (@SFKyu4799) June 2, 2021
Mmmm... May I speak up?— CAUSE OF DEATH: CHANSOO (@theblessedfg) June 2, 2021
Okay, look. I know the fact that there are a lot of open minded Indonesians and I know that soap opera is still a part of creative industry but do you guys realize that pedophilia is a sickness that needs to stop? #zahra
News portal Kompas reported that KPI spokesperson Mulyo Hadi Purnomo has held discussions with Indosiar and that the television station will replace Fourneaux with an older actress to play Zahra.
“KPI has just requested an explanation from Indosiar.
“The station has agreed to replace the actress playing Zahra for the next three episodes,” Mulyo was quoted as saying.
Actress Hanna Kirana, 18, has already been roped in to fill Fourneaux’s shoes in the drama.
The writers weaved the change in actress into the show’s plot by making Zahra get into a serious car accident, which then forced her to have reconstructive facial surgery.