Fri, 03 Jan 2003

Children's problems need comprehensive solution

Debbie A. Lubis, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

With the fresh spirit of the new year, the government needs to enhance cooperation with related institutions and people from all walks of life to address unsettled problems of children in 2002, a child activist has said.

Seto Mulyadi, chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection (Komnas PA), said on Tuesday that Indonesian children still had to deal with complicated problems in 2002 although the country has ratified several international conventions on children.

"The problems related to children cannot be addressed if the government, non-governmental organizations, the media, and the public continue to look for scapegoats. It is high time to unify our commitment, statements and attitude to help our children," he told The Jakarta Post.

In its year-end statement, the commission revealed that many children in the country had become the victims of violence, negligence, exploitation, mistreatment and discrimination.

Seto said the country's homework for 2003 was to settle the problems of child labor, child trafficking, child prostitution, street children, children in conflict areas, and undernourished children.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) for Indonesia revealed that currently there are some eight million out of 70.4 million children under 18 years of age doing the work of adults.

"The actual figure could be higher as there are some 11.7 million children who have dropped out of school due to financial difficulties and may have entered the labor market," Seto said.

The commission's record shows that currently there are around 40,000 children who have been forced to become sex workers.

ILO also reported in June 2002 that at least 1,500 girls from Indramayu regency in West Java had been trafficked in the past two years to Japan through fictitious cultural missions. They were forced to become sex workers, it said.

Seto said that in many child trafficking cases, many children become sex workers, beggars, domestic helpers, and even drugs sellers.

He added that some 40 percent of 1.2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are children. "They are prone to malnutrition, illiteracy, and communicable diseases," he said.

The commission also recorded that currently there were some 50,000 children living and working on the streets, while some 82.51 percent of 3,600 delinquent children had been sent to jail in 2002.

"All of the problems have their roots in poverty, backwardness, social conflict, and unemployment, but it does not mean that we cannot really implement the rulings and policies that the government has issued, including the establishment of Committee for Indonesian Children," Seto said.

The government issued a law on child protection last October and has recently established three national action plans to protect children from trafficking, the worst forms of labor, and sexual exploitation.

Seto added that it was also important for the government to disseminate national policies on children to regencies and towns since regional autonomy has made regional administrations discount children in their decision-making process.