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  Archive: 03/2001-06/2002


1) The Jakarta Post - 23 May 2002

Over 30 million Indonesian children at risk from abuse. About a dozen children, each with a piece of paper and a pen in hand, gathered together and were engaged in a serious discussion.

They may look like ordinary children but they have experiences that many people could never imagine. They are abused street children. "Nita" (not her real name), 11, a polite girl with tattoos on her right hand, said she was raped by a man last year. Another girl, "Sita", 12, wore a headscarf to cover her bald head. Her unemployed father shaved her hair as she was hung upside down by her feet last month. Her crime: She refused to heed her father's order to drop out of school to become a street beggar.

"Gino", a 12-year-old boy was sodomized by a man. Traumatized by the incident that happened last year, he became clinically paranoid. He is now able to communicate with men, but unable to hide his fear and suspicions of them.

"The grown ups like to hit us and say dirty words to us. We don't like it, it hurts," Sita told The Jakarta Post recently. Her friend, "Dwi", added that he wished he was an adult so that no other adults would abuse him any longer. "I am helpless when an adult abuses me, nobody cares, not even my family. I have to get money for food by singing and begging on the streets," he said. The 13-year-old Dwi said that in April of last year his mother forced him to leave school and make money by begging on the street. "She said that I had to earn Rp 700,000 a year. But on one day, I could only get Rp 4,000," he said. He then decided to make fast money by stealing a sidemirror from a car which stopped at a traffic light in Prumpung, East Jakarta. He was caught and was jailed for two months.

Sharing their heart-breaking stories, the children were working hand-in-hand on a project to make a documentary film about their lives on the streets. The project, facilitated by the Indonesian Women's Coalition for Justice and Democracy (KPI), is aimed at making their dream come true: To make adults stop violating children. Violations against street children are only the tip of an iceberg of rampant child abuse around the country as such cases also occur in well-educated and financially secure families.

Data from the National Commission for Child Protection showed last year there were over 60 million children under 15 years old in the country. At least 1.6 million of them are child laborers. Dian Kartika Sari, the coordinator for the public policy division of KPI, which provides legal aid for women and children, estimated that 60 percent of the children around the country are at risk for abuse, pointing to underaged workers, street children and child prostitutes. The grown ups violate children since the latter have no way to get revenge, said Dian. Most adults, too, are ignorant of children's rights. Worse, there is no place for the children to get protection as their parents, relatives and teachers, are often the people who abuse them. The police, too, usually do not take seriously a child who reports a violation case without being accompanied by an adult. Unfortunately, the state does not consider child abuse a serious crime. In fact, there are several articles in the Criminal Code on crimes against children. However, the articles of the law only cover sexual abuse. "The government has not shown its willingness to respect children's rights. We have ratified the International Convention on Children's Rights through Presidential Decree No. 36/1990, but it has never been implemented," Dian said.

The convention stipulates children's rights, including the right to adequate protection, love, sufficient education and health services. It also requires the government to protect children from sexual abuse or exploitation of any kind. The government, in this case, the State Minister of Women's Empowerment Sri Redjeki Soemaryoto, is currently trying to decide on approval of a bill on Child Protection, which was deliberated upon by the House of Representatives last year. If the ministry endorses it, the bill will once again be sent back to the legislature for final approval and possibly enacted into law. It can become a very long process.

"Our life, our country's future depends on the children of today, the government has no other choice but to prioritize children in its policies," Dian asserted. Children from around the world recently met at the United Nations children's summit to discuss their problems and demand the governments to respect children's rights.

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