High school students in an anti-violence against children protest in Tegalrejo, Yogyakarta. (Antara Photo/Hendra Nurdiyansyah)

Violations of Children's Rights Continue Under Jokowi: KPAI


DECEMBER 11, 2019

Jakarta. The Indonesian Child Protection Commission, or KPAI, says children continue to have their rights violated while the country is under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's much-praised leadership.

KPAI commissioner Retno Listyarti said in Jakarta on Wednesday that children's rights abuses can be divided into three categories.  

First, abuse in public spaces, particularly in school. Aside from the high number of sexual abuse cases that happen in the private sphere, most of them committed by family members, the KPAI pointed to an alarming increase in the number of abuses that happen in schools.

A KPAI report released in 2019 noted that 88 percent of sexual abuse cases in schools were committed by teachers and 12 percent by school principals.

Other forms of abuse, including unnecessarily harsh physical penalties for students, are also rampant in Indonesian schools.

Retno pointed to a case in Manado, North Sulawesi, when a student died from a heart attack after being told to run around the schoolyard 20 times for turning up late. 

Doctors later found out the student had been suffering from a heart condition before he died.

Second, abuse of children's religious beliefs.

In a recent case, two students were expelled from their school because they refused to salute the national flag. The children were Jehovah's Witnesses who believe that saluting a flag is tantamount to idolatry.

"Police and soldiers had to get involved to resolve the problem," Retno said.

Third, violations of the children's rights to freedom of expression, particularly during the wave of student demonstrations in September to protest amendments to the Criminal Code and crippling revisions to the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) Law.

Hundreds of high school students were injured when police attempted to disperse large crowds at demonstrations across the country, Retno said.

The incidents could have been avoided if the police had procedures in place to handle children involved in street protests. 

"The police knew they were children, but they continued to fight them off as if they were adults," she said.

In some cities, police even threatened to refuse giving students involved in demonstrations a letter of good conduct (SKCK).

"[But what they did] was not a crime. Children could be traumatized by the experience, that exercising their rights to freedom of expression could result in legal consequences," Retno said.

Some schools had also threatened to expel students who were involved in the demonstrations. However, Retno said the KPAI had made every effort to make sure no child was denied their right to education.