Thu, 05 Oct 2000

Administration told to make regulations on child welfare

JAKARTA (JP): In a campaign to help overcome the problem of street children, activists called on the city administration on Wednesday to set up regulations on child welfare.

As home to around 11,000 street children under 16 years old who sell goods and beg for money and where student brawls occur almost every day, Jakarta is definitely not a child-friendly city, they said.

Executive director of the National Commission for Child Protection Arist Merdeka Sirait said the administration only referred to City Bylaw No. 1/1988 when discussing street children.

The bylaw prohibits children from being on the streets as they spoil the beauty of the city.

"Prohibiting them will only mean sweeping the kids off the street," Arist said on the sidelines of a seminar on How to Make Jakarta a Child-friendly City at City Hall.

He said the administration should also provide education and protection for them.

"There are some shelters for these kids, but they have been proven ineffective and lack an educational mission," Arist said.

He said the regulations should stipulate measures to prevent children from becoming street children and include measures to protect them.

The regulations should also stipulate the necessity to provide rehabilitation for the street children and facilitate the reintegration of the children with their families, he said.

"But if the administration fails to facilitate the reunion of the children with their families, then we have to redefine the meaning of 'state' children," Arist added.

Addressing the same seminar, children's rights activist Mohammad Farid said the administration should focus on providing more spaces for children to play.

"There should be more playgrounds and parks, but they must be accessible to the public from all walks of life," said Farid, a coordinator of the Yogyakarta-based Indonesian Free Children Secretariat (Samin).

"The next priority is to establish procedures and regulations on child welfare," he added.

He said the administration should first launch its ideas through effective campaigns.

"And then, the administration has to stipulate an enforcement scheme, recovery program and educational program," he said.

"The scheme and programs should not only be established for the children, but also for the police and public order officials ... so that they carry out their job with a child- friendly approach, rather than a violent one," Farid said.

Deputy Governor for Social Welfare Affairs Djailani admitted that the administration had yet to maximize its efforts to increase the children's welfare.

"The problem is that the children are on the streets also due to economic problems," he said. (09)