Column: Indonesian Justice, UPI Asia Online
Just a few days prior to the New Year, Indonesia’s National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas Perlindungan Anak Indonesia) published its annual report on child protection. Surprisingly, the capital of Jakarta was found to be the most unsafe city for children in the country.
Throughout the year, KPAI recorded 365 cases of child abuse in Jakarta. Of these, 136 cases involved physical abuse, 117 concerned sexual violence and the other 112 comprised mental and psychological assaults on children. One would have imagined a more advanced system of child protection in Jakarta, being the capital city of the country, but KPAI’s report reveals a different picture.
A number of causes are identified as contributing to this serious situation. The first, according to the report, is the vastness of the city’s slum areas. This explanation is followed by uneven development in the city as the poor are compelled to live in miserable conditions while the rich get richer.
This reflects the uneven distribution of resources. Exposure to this discrimination affects not only the pattern of thinking of the children but also their patterns of behavior. They all commence life as the discriminated against, the unwelcome, and are compelled to live at the edges of society.
A few weeks ago in this column the author noted how appalling conditions, due to economic deprivation in Indonesia’s cities, have led to a high incidence of suicides. Discrimination, deprivation and apathy by state representatives have contributed to an increasing level of frustration and anger that might explain a corresponding high level of crime or even suicides.
Parents living under extreme pressure often tend to transfer this stress to their children. Thus, children also suffer the burden of their socio-economic environment and of their personal sense of discrimination and denial.
This aspect has not been adequately considered by KPAI’s report despite the fact that it is this grave situation that leaves lasting scars in the hearts and minds of children. The report, however, makes reference to common incidents of ill-treatment by parents, relatives, friends and even teachers. In fact, their research found that violence against children is largely committed by their own parents or relatives.
For example, in mid-2007, Nur Fadilah, a two-year-old baby, died due to a severe assault by her uncle and aunt in Jakarta. She had been left in their care while her parents worked in Saudi Arabia as migrant workers. A few times she was tied to a small chair and beaten by her uncle. According to the post-mortem report, scars and bruises were found all over her body, from her face to her thighs. Her left shoulder was also broken, and her brain was damaged due to the assaults on her head. Her tragic story is but one illustration of the violence directed at children.
The failure on the part of KPAI to go beyond the symptoms of the neglect of child rights in Indonesia, namely, violence by parents, is not conducive to the adoption of appropriate
measures. It would have been more cogent for the report’s authors to look for more explanations for the behavior of parents. Why do parents tend to be violent, for instance?
Until the causes are identified, the agency will be just scratching the surface of the problem. If KPAI is serious in addressing the issue of violence against children, preventive actions need to be taken based on a proper analysis of the causes.
The gravity of these childhood experiences becomes clearer once it is realized that the victimized children can tend to imitate and reproduce violence in a similar or even greater degree. Some of these children end up in prisons where, unfortunately, their exposure to adult criminals leads to more deformation of their characters than reform of them.
The Indonesian government has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to Article 27 of this convention, states are required to “recognize the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child’s physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.” The reality in Indonesia, however, is far from that.
In Jakarta it is common to see children begging. They can be as young as one year old. Babies are rented for begging on a daily basis. In addition, children knock on the closed windows of cars with outstretched hands and at times even spit at the windows if they are not opened. When vehicles stop at traffic signals, hordes of children with newspapers, water bottles and other items will rush up to them.
It is not uncommon for parents to punish children, even corporally, if enough money is not collected. Moreover, children found in the street at night can easily fall prey to sexual deviants or pedophiles.
These are just simple examples that exemplify the denial of protection of children by the government. The number of 365 cases recorded in Jakarta equals one case per day. If the unreported cases are taken into account, the number would most likely be more than 10 times this figure. KPAI and state agencies need to consider this tragic situation as a priority and devise effective measures to both prevent violence against children and to punish the offenders.
It is by punishing the offenders that a strong signal can be sent regarding the gravity with which these violations are treated by the state. Such punishment may hopefully deter the offenders, but unfortunately, it will not eliminate the psychological and physical traces of the denial of affection and inequality in treatment.
To overcome such personal calamities, there is a need for affirmative action in the areas of housing and education and subsidies for food, transportation and medication with the active participation of the members of the communities, even in the slums. KPAI must be in the forefront, not only in recording cases of violations, but even more so in advocating affirmative action so that violations are prevented and the dignity of children is respected and protected.
Meanwhile, from an insider’s point of view, according to Article 13 of Act No. 23 of 2002 regarding child protection — the Child Protection Law — every child has the right to protection from any form of violence, assault and other form of abuse. Article 22 of the same law states that the government has the obligation and the responsibility to provide measures for the protection of children.
Despite ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Child Protection Law, children’s rights continue to be denied, which ultimately indicates that the government has failed to recognize the nature of child protection. This failure is evidenced from the fact that the existing law allows a child from the age of 12 to be held criminally responsible even though the U.N. convention requires that children under the age of 16 cannot be held accountable for a crime.Those who have followed human rights problems in Indonesia will know that laws and U.N conventions are nothing more than beautiful words, like a poem, and that there is no government intention to implement them. Let it not be the case with child rights, however, as children are the future of Indonesia. How they are nurtured now is the guarantee of what Indonesia will be in the future.
DR WIDODO JUDARWANTO
SAVE INDONESIAN CHILDREN
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