Children ‘unaware’ of their rights (The Jakarta Post, 2010)

Dina Indrasafitri, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Thu, May 27 2010, 

Can a nation protect its own children if so many of them are unaware of their own rights?

In 1990, Indonesia ratified the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

However, a coalition of NGOs have said that many of the nation’s children still feel deprived of their rights to safety and to be free from discrimination. Some of them are not aware that the nation guarantees them those rights.

A coalition of national NGOs, supported by a consortium of international NGOs including Save the Children and Plan, issued a review of the implementation of CRC in Indonesia from 1997 to 2009.

The review included a survey that involved 377 children from 14 categories, including drop-outs, street children and children who have become victims of conflicts.

However, only 62 percent of those children said that they had heard of the CRC. Out of that 62 percent, only 2 percent said they had learned of the CRC from the government. The majority said that NGOs had informed them of the CRC.

Hening Budiyawati, who led the survey, said that most of the 377 children felt that their rights had not been fulfilled, and that they felt unsafe in their lives.

“They feel that [the government] has yet to involve them in decisions that change their lives or the forming of development poli-cies that will affect their situation,” she said.

Tika Ayu, one of the children who participated in the consultation, said that Indonesian students were taught in school about human rights, but not children’s rights.

“We must admit that there have been several developments, especially in judicial aspects and also specifically to do with the rights of children,” Ahmad Taufan Damanik, head of the presidium of the national coalition, said.

He cited several examples of such progress, including the ratification of conventions and covenants, including the ratification of the 1957 ILO convention on the eradication of forced labor and the passing of the 2002 law on child protection.

But several of the nation’s laws might systematically hinder its efforts to protect children’s rights, Ahmad said.

Those laws include the 1974 law on marriage. According to one of its articles, a marriage is permitted when the man has reached the age of 19 and the woman 16.

Ahmad said that the law was discriminatory because it differentiated between men and women.

Furthermore, he said, the law also stipulates that dispensation requested by the parents of both children who plan to get married can be issued to girls of 16 or older and boys of 19 or older.

Another point highlighted by the report concerns the treatment of children accused of violating the law. This includes laws governing trial procedures and jail sentences.

Hening said the legal processes for children charged under the criminal law often stripped children of their rights, including their right to education.

“When a child is arrested, or has their case processed legally, their right to freedom is the one that is stripped, but the other ones, such as the right to education or health, must still be fulfilled,” she said.

The juvenile court law sets the minimum age at which a child can incur sanctions at 8.

Wahyu Hartomo, the assistant deputy for Children’s Social Problems at the Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, said that the government had already made its own report this year on the implementation of CRC in Indonesia.


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