Indonesia - Child Rights Coalition Asia
More than a decade since the supposed restoration of democracy, Indonesia remains overly dependent on its military at the pretext of terrorism, resulting to the continued human rights abuses especially in otherwise contested territories. Coupled with the apparently increasing religious fundamentalism, children, particularly girls and ethnic minorities face greater vulnerability and restrictions.
Indonesia is a party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and several human rights instruments such as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It also has national agencies, laws and plans on child protection, education and juvenile justice system.
The Indonesian Child Protection Law says that children are those below the age of 18, including the unborn. However, the age of majority varies depending on the child’s gender and certain circumstances.
One clear case of discrimination happens in marriage. While the earliest age for marriage for men is 19, for women, it is 16. Yet there are many girls who are married off even before they reach 16 or at an age when they could only be fully dependent on their husbands and their families and thus vulnerable to abuses.
Age discrepancy likewise happens on children in conflict with the law. The age of criminal responsibility is pegged at 8 years old. According to NGO reports, children in conflict with the law experience various form of violence such as torture and intimidation while in custody of law enforcers. In addition, there have been reports about lack of separate facilities for children and adult prisoners.
Civil society organizations also point out a grave bias against girls in the country’s laws on sexual abuse. Although the age of majority for girls can be as early as 16, statutory rape is limited to those below 12 years, leaving out those in between the ages of 12 to below 18 years. Moreover, the penalty for statutory rape is rather light, with a maximum penalty of nine years of imprisonment compared to the penalty for rape which carries a maximum of 12 years of imprisonment. The laws on sexual abuse against children also assume that only girls could be victims.
It is important to note that most of the victims and survivors of sexual abuse in Indonesia are children. Children also constitute a large proportion of those involved in prostitution and human trafficking. According to some CSOs, children comprise at least 30 per cent of those engaged in prostitution. As the shadow report reads, “the [government’s] ‘regulation approach’ has put the prostitution issue under local regulations that mostly ‘legalise’ prostitution in certain complexes at the same time also criminalise street prostitution and consequently the children who are involved in street prostitution are also criminalised.”
State protection to children on the streets, particularly without parents or guardians is not clear. Several cases of arbitrary arrest and detention and violent treatment by the police have been widely reported. Indonesia also lacks the institutions and mechanisms which could help children who have been abandoned and who used to be in conflict with the law, reintegrate themselves in society.
Girls’ access to education is at a disadvantage compared to boys. An NGO report indicated that girls from families that are poor or those having many children have less chance to enter school. The same report also mentioned that pregnant children are expelled from school.
In some areas, there are perceptions that madrasahs are the only education institution for girls. In its critique against the madrasahs established through a USD 50 million loan from the Asian Development Bank in 2007, Solidaritas Perempuan asserted that these schools could only lead to further gender injustices: “Under the istiqomah interpretation women are not a decision maker in the family and society but instead an object of regulations and code of moral. Madrasah is perceived as an education institution that capable to protect women’s moral, to control women’s behavior so that they won’t be the source of immorality.”
Aside from girls, children of ethnic minorities are equally affected by the combination of religious fundamentalism and military operations. Children in West Papua, Aceh and Ambon are at a disadvantage given their experience living in situations of armed conflict or communal violence. In these provinces, children have either been targeted or have witnessed atrocities by armed forces. Not only do they have to move so often with their families and live in a climate of fear but they also lose the opportunity to study and live normal lives. They are also often the last to be prioritised in government services.
Although Indonesia is a party to the CRC, it is still difficult to hold the government accountable on the basis of the Convention. Indonesia’s support to the CRC has been through a mere presidential decree which is susceptible to changes and less effective than laws. As CSOs explain in the shadow report, “According to the prevailing statutory hierarchy, a presidential decree comes fourth. As a consequence, the CRC cannot be formally be used as a reference to change or amend the existing laws nor can it be used in drafting any bill.”
Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OP-CRC-AC)
Optional Protocol to the CRC on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (OP-CRC-SC)
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
CRC Second Periodic State Report (CRC/C/65/Add.23)
CRC Concluding Observations on Second Periodic Report (CRC/C/15/Add.223)