Wed, 23 Aug 2000

Children's rights campaign launched

BANDUNG (JP): About 40 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) launched on Tuesday a two-day campaign to raise the government's awareness of the need to protect children's rights.

The drive, sponsored by the Consortium of Media Development for Children's Rights Advocation in cooperation with The Ford Foundation, is called Pekan Hak Anak (Children's Rights Week).

The NGOs met with journalists at the residence of musician Harry Roesli on Monday.

According to the organizing committee, the event will take place at Graha Bhayangkara Hall, starting with the screening of local movies banned during the New Order era, including Eksploitasi Seksual Komersial Dan Anak Jalanan Perempuan (Commercial Sexual Exploitation and Female Street Children).

A seminar and discussion will follow the movies.

Keri Lasmi Sugiarti, an activist of the Bandung-based Yayasan Bahtera, said the campaign was focused on reminding the government of the need for concrete action to protect children from all forms of abuse.

Indonesia ratified the Children's Rights Convention on Aug. 25, 1990. But according to activists, the government's attention and political will to protect children has been very poor.

A country that has ratified the convention is subject to take any necessary steps to provide children with their rights to obtain, among other things, free basic education and protection from economic exploitation and freedom from any job, which could endanger their health and either their mental or moral development.

Keri said bureaucracy has hampered her organization's efforts to promote the rights of children under its care.

"When the children were sick one day, we found it difficult to get free treatment for them. The Puskesmas (Public Health Center) or hospital staff asked me to show health certificates (of the children), family certificates and ID cards. How can street children have all these things? They don't have any family," Keri said.

"The free school program for street children has also been improperly implemented. The (street) children are still charged fees for buying uniforms or shoes."

Harry Roesli, a noted musician who is also concerned about the children on the street, said the political elite and decision makers tended to ignore issues relating to the protection of children.

He recalled his participation in a dialog in Bali recently. "When I talked about protection of children, only Pak Hasballah responded. Everybody was talking about the lingering clashes in Ambon, unaware of the fact that we are losing our generation."

The Central Bureau of Statistics (BPS) recorded 4 million street children in Indonesia in 1997. Their survey revealed that between 40,000 and 70,000 female children were working in prostitution-related businesses in 23 provinces. This figure is about 30 percent of the total prostitutes operating in the country. (25/sur)