Editorial: Protecting Our Children

JUNE 23, 2015

More and more children in Indonesia are facing threats of violence, sexual abuse and even death despite the presence of national laws that should be protecting them. The first layer of threat is poverty. Though the archipelago has achieved middle-income status from the World Bank, nearly 44 million, or close to 50 percent of Indonesian children still live on less than $2 a day. While fighting poverty is a complex and a multidimensional effort, the state should provide more aid to underprivileged families to keep their children in school and prevent them from going hungry and becoming malnourished. The second threat comes in the form of violence and abuse. According to government data, one in 12 boys between the ages of 13 and 18 experience some form of sexual violence. The figure stands at one in 19 for young girls in the same age group. Their assailants are often people who are close to them, making these children vulnerable at home and school. We propose the government establish a specific procedure to handle such threats, including an early warning system involving neighbors, family members and the police. The third major threat comes from organized crime, with scores of children, including toddlers and babies, being exploited on busy city streets and forced to work as beggars by a syndicate — and it seems there is nothing the authorities or the public can do to stop it. The former should have the ability to easily crack down on these criminals, but they only seem to condone the practice. Despite an alarming increase in the number of child abuse cases in recent years, many Indonesians still believe their own children could never be exposed to these threats, resulting in an almost lax approach to enforcing child protection laws. We urge the government to review the current regulations and allow the courts to take a tougher stance on crimes against minors by enforcing longer jail terms. More importantly, we simply cannot continue to do nothing and allow these threats to escalate.