Indonesia: Child Protection a Low Priority


Last year, 12-year-old Riri was sent from her village in Central Java to live with her uncle and aunt two provinces away, in Jakarta, the capital. Over a period of four months, she was repeatedly raped by her uncle, who threatened to kill her and possess her with evil spirits if she reported the abuse. He then forced her to become a sex worker.

For two weeks, Riri was forced to charge US$21 per sexual encounter in East Jakarta, according to the head of the shelter where she is now recovering. After fleeing from her uncle’s house, she happened to rest mid-escape near the home of a local community leader, who brought her to the government-run shelter.

The extent of such abuses is unknown, Basuni said. Even if they are reported, they rarely make it up to the national level for recording. Efforts to protect children in Indonesia from abuse are obstructed by barriers to crime reporting, which may worsen with the threatened closure of police-run units that handle crimes against women and children.

Usman Basuni, assistant deputy minister for child participation at the Women Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry, told IRIN these specialized police units - known by their local acronym, PPA - are at risk of closing because crimes against women and children are rarely reported, which has led police to shift their resources elsewhere.

Attitudes to abuse

According to the National Commission for the Protection of Children (Komnas PA), a child-rights NGO based in the capital, Jakarta, there were 2,637 reports of domestic abuse against children in 2012, up from 2,509 the previous year.

World Vision’s child protection specialist in Indonesia, Pitoyo Susanto, said child abuse is severely underreported, what he called an “iceberg phenomenon”, because of the public’s view of child abuse as something to be resolved in the home.

“People still believe it’s a private thing,” said Susanto. “If neighbours know what’s going on next door, they won’t intervene. Even in the cases that are reported, we see that the abuse has been going on for years.”

And should family members or survivors make a public claim, they risk being stigmatized, said Santi Kusumaningrum, co-director of the Centre on Child Protection at the University of Indonesia (UI).

“Families have been asked to move out of villages by the rest of the community, with schools even refusing to accept the child.”

In addition, Kusumaningrum said parents often turn to violence when disciplining their children. “The only way many parents know to deal with their children, if their child is misbehaving, is to hit them,” she said.

Influencing parent behaviours at the national level is near impossible, said the government’s Basuni.

“When the government says ‘don’t beat your child’, parents say it’s their business, and the number of people who think this way is huge,” he said. “The ministry doesn’t have enough resources to make 240 million people aware of this issue.”

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