The Jakarta Post
On this National Children’s Day, let’s hear the voice of one child — Rosalinda, or Oslin, a 14-year-old, from East Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara who represented her village’s Child Forum at last week’s United Nations meeting on the Sustainable Development Goals. Oslin called for the collective arrangement of birth certificates, as she described difficulties in acquiring certificates in her village.
Local NGOs advocating for children’s rights, including Wahana Visi Indonesia, which facilitates the above Kombapari Village Child Forum, have continued to bring attention to the problem of birth certificates, which at least 17 percent of Indonesians under 18 lack, according to the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef).
Parents’ lack of marriage papers and birth certificates for themselves and their offspring not only hampers their children’s access to health and education services but also exposes them to higher risks, such as child trafficking.
Oslin also described children’s efforts to stop violence against fellow children — part of it no doubt in the name of “disciplining” the young.
While the nation’s very future relies on Oslin’s generation, neglect and abuse against them is still rampant.
The mosaic of the Indonesian child ranges from one shocking extreme to the other. As in several other countries, they face the risk of not only malnutrition but also obesity. To protect them in their first 1,000 days after birth, critical in curbing both extremes, the government long ago introduced an intensive program to monitor infants’ nutrition. Still, toddlers nowadays face an increasing threat of the antivaccination movement, partially blamed for dangerously low percentages of basic vaccinations in a number of provinces, thus exposing millions of infants to several preventable diseases.
Among other lurking dangers, the latest survey revealed that one in two survivors of sexual harassment in public places experienced it when they were still minors. The survey, conducted late last year by various women’s rights organizations, involved 62,000 respondents across the country.
The survey discovered how such abuse has been allowed to fester amid low awareness of what constitutes harassment and its lasting traumatic impact on an individual, with an even worse lasting impact on a child, mostly girls.
Abusive patterns and crimes start young — last week, hazing at a Palembang high school in South Sumatra claimed the lives of two students during “orientation week”, even though hazing is supposed to be violence-free.
Indonesia’s children also wait for the realization of policymakers’ promise to raise the legal marriage age to 19, while under the Marriage Law courts can rule “dispensation” for children to marry even younger than the lawful age of 16 for girls and 19 for boys. Too many studies have shown the detrimental impact of child marriage, often conducted with the encouragement of parents who are not necessarily poor.
After nearly 65 years of independence, today’s children have every right to expect much better lives than their forebears. They are digital natives with so many possibilities within their reach. The elders should listen to them, rather than fail them.