Sat, 25 Mar 2000

Repeal of discriminative laws on citizenship urged

JAKARTA (JP): The House of Representatives is being urged to repeal two laws on citizenship and replace them with one which is nondiscriminative.

The demand for the repealing of Law No. 3/1946 and Law No. 62/1958 arose during a round-table discussion held by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) and the Anti Discriminative Struggle Movement (Gandi) on Friday.

Hartono Mardjono, deputy chairman of House Commission II for home and legal affairs, said the laws discriminate since they use the term "native Indonesian people" in their first articles to define an Indonesian citizen.

The Crescent Star Party (PBB) legislator also conceded that the law was gender biased since citizenship is based on the father.

He said that while both laws remain effective another bill currently being drafted on citizenship also contained discriminative articles.

Komnas HAM deputy chairman Bambang W. Suharto agreed that such laws should not differentiate ethnicity or gender.

"I believe that a father and a mother should have equal right to decide their children's citizenship," Bambang said.

But the director of constitutional law at the Ministry of Law and Legislation, Aan Danu Giartono, said such gender biases remained a relevant fact of life since most Indonesian cultural traditions adhered to a patriarchal system with the father recognized as the head of the household.

"As a woman, I'd like the bill not to discriminate against women," Aan said.

She said she hoped the bill would be debated further and that the public would make concrete suggestions.

Since the resignation of former president Soeharto there has been a strong push to review many laws deemed ethnically discriminative.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Ad Hoc Committee on Constitutional Amendment, Jacob Tobing, said the bill could be proposed after the Assembly finished making the final changes to the Constitution.

"There are also some discriminative articles in the Constitution which should to be amended," Jacob, who is a legislator of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, said in the discussion.

He said, for example, Article 6 of the Constitution which states that the president must be a "native Indonesian" would be amended to a "native citizen".

He defined native citizen as a person born in the country whose parents are Indonesian citizens by birth, not by naturalization. (jun)