1. Home
  2. Asia
  3. Indonesia

NGOs push for stronger child protection laws

Boys in Riau Province, central Sumatra island. NGOs have called on the government to do more in safeguarding the rights of children
(Angela Dewan/IRIN)

Millions of Indonesian children remain vulnerable to abuse, exploitation and discrimination because the government has not prioritised children’s rights, says a coalition of NGOs.


On 25 May, the National NGO Coalition for Child Rights Monitoring launched its review report on the implementation of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) between 1997 and 2009, making a number of recommendations to better protect Indonesian children.


“The government has shown a lack of initiative in integrating the CRC with Indonesian law,” said Ahmad Taufan Damanik, executive coordinator for the National NGO Coalition for Child Monitoring in Jakarta.


Among the recommendations are for the government to ratify protocols against the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution; to amend the constitution to include all rights of the child; and to develop a mechanism whereby legislation conflicting with the CRC can be overturned or revoked.


Contrary to the convention, Indonesian law allows children aged 12 to consent to sex, while the age for criminal responsibility is eight.


“Children as young as 12 can be tried as adults and be imprisoned with adults,” Setiawan Cahyo Nugroho, programme manager for child rights at Save the Children Indonesia, told IRIN.


According to the National Commission for Child Protection, 89.8 percent of children sent to court in 2009 were sentenced to prison. Data from the social welfare department at the University of Indonesia shows that 57 percent of those children were placed in detention with adults.


Indonesia ratified the convention in 1990 and in 2002 issued a presidential decree to protect children. The coalition has dubbed the decree inadequate and is calling for a law to address all children’s rights, such as the right to free education, freedom of religion and the guarantee of healthcare.


“The decree criminalises perpetrators, but does not protect victims. A law for the protection of children will ensure victims receive counselling and appropriate compensation,” Damanik said.


The report is the result of a two-and-a-half year study that consulted 377 children in 14 provinces across the archipelago nation. Among the children surveyed were school dropouts, children from indigenous and religious minorities, survivors of sexual violence and street children.


The government is obliged to submit a progress report to the Committee of the UN CRC every five years; however, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection did not submit its third or fourth report on time.


“We’ve merged the two reports and submitted it to the Foreign Affairs Ministry last month,” said Wahyu Hartomo, assistant to the child protection deputy at the ministry.


The coalition’s report is a stepping stone toward its alternative report, to be submitted to the Committee of the UN CRC for comparison with the government’s findings.


“The government will only report the good things,” Damanik said. “But our report gives a voice to children. Children should be part of the decision-making process in areas that affect them.”



This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

We uncovered the sex abuse scandal that rocked the WHO, but there’s more to do

We just covered a report that says the World Health Organization failed to prevent and tackle widespread sexual abuse during the Ebola response in Congo.

Our investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation triggered this probe, demonstrating the impact our journalism can have. 

But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking. 

We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone. 

The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and do more of this. 

Become a member today and support independent journalism

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.