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Committee on Rights of Child examines reports of Indonesia under the Convention

Committee on the Rights of the Child

5 June 2014

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today completed its consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic reports of Indonesia on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Presenting the report, Linda Gumelar, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, said that Indonesia had the fourth largest population in the world, about one third of whom were children.  Among the main challenges that Indonesia faced were geographical constraint and the need to improve capacity to deliver policies across the country and effectively utilize resources.  The Convention complemented existing domestic legislation, but had also served as an important foundation for numerous subsequent laws and regulations pertaining to the rights of the child, including the establishment of a mechanism for independent monitoring, the Child Protection Commission. 

During the interactive dialogue Committee Experts acknowledged progress made by Indonesia in achieving high levels of school attendance, but noted that the proportion of poor children out of school was disproportionately high.  They asked questions about child marriage, female genital mutilation of young girls, including in hospitals and the high levels of neonatal and infant mortality.  Discrimination faced by children with disabilities and children not belonging to one of the six official religions, as well as children of refugees and asylum seekers was also raised.  Measures to tackle child labour and street children, to support the rights of children born out of wedlock, and improve the juvenile justice system were also discussed. 

In concluding remarks, Kirsten Sandberg, Committee Chairperson, commended Indonesia for the progress made in a number of areas and said more information, for example, was needed on violence against children and religious minorities.  Challenges in understanding situations in remote areas were understandable given the size of Indonesia.
Linda Gumelar, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, in concluding remarks, said the constructive dialogue had provided the delegation with invaluable inputs on how to identify areas for further improvement, particularly on enhancing cooperation, strengthening monitoring, supporting specific groups of children and combating violence against children.

The delegation of Indonesia included representatives from the Ministry for Women’s  Empowerment and Child Protection, Ministry of Law and Human Rights,  Ministry for Religious Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Commission for Child Protection, Community Centres for the Protection of Women and Children and the Permanent Mission of Indonesia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet on Friday, 6 June at 10 a.m. to consider the combined second to fourth periodic report of Saint Lucia (CRC/C/LCA/2-4).


The Committee reviewed the combined third to fourth periodic report of Indonesia under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/IDN/3-4).  The report is available in other languages, along with annexes and addendums, the lists of issues, and written replies by the State party, on the Committee’s webpage.
Presentation of the Report
LINDA GUMELAR, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, said Indonesia was the world’s fourth most populous nation, with more than 240 million people of various ethnicities living across thousands of islands.  Around 33 per cent of the total population were children. Since starting its democratic transition 16 years ago Indonesia had undergone dramatic changes in almost all aspects and had developed legislative and institutional frameworks to promote a culture of respect for human rights. There had been substantial developments in various areas particularly education – today over 82 per cent of children attending school, a figure that was constantly increasing.   The main challenges faced were geographical constraints and lack of capacity to deliver policies and effectively utilize resources, the Minister said. 
The Convention on the Rights of the Child complemented domestic legislation, but also served as an important foundation for numerous laws and regulations pertaining to the rights of the child.  Indonesia had also ratified two Optional Protocols to the Convention. The National Human Rights Action Plan had a specific cluster dedicated to child rights, while child protection was one of many cross-sectoral issues in it.  The Child Protection Commission had been established as a mechanism for independent monitoring.  Furthermore, the private sector played a crucial role in the protection and promotion of the rights of children. 
Multiple steps had been taken to reduce the number of early marriages. Children born out of wedlock were now acknowledged as legitimate and had the right of civil relations with their biological parents.  The 2005 Law on Domestic Violence provided a stronger legal basis to combat violence against women and children.  Some 7,000 women police officers were currently being recruited to Women and Child Police Units located in every precinct.  The Government also continued to advocate and raise awareness about female genital mutilation, particularly its harmful impact on women’s reproductive health.
The Government’s objective was also to ensure that children were raised by their parents or immediate family.  To achieve that it sound to improve the economic resilience of families to enable them to care for and fulfil the needs of their children.  Adoption was regulated with rigorous requirements, including the article in the Law on Child Protection which stipulated that adoption by parents of other nationalities was only allowed as the last resort.   An action plan to ensure the well-being of children with disabilities had been launched and inclusive education was actively promoted. Children with disabilities had an equal right to access health services, including immunization and reproductive health programmes.  Early education programs were also being implemented, and the number of early education institution had increased five-fold between 2001 and 2013.
National Commission and relevant legislation had guaranteed the protection for children against economic exploitation, including the worst forms of child labour.  More than 32,000 child labourers had been reinstated to school between 2008 and 2013, and the programme was targeting another 15,000 children in 2014.  The minimum age for criminal responsibility was 12 years, and marital status was not considered a basis to treating children as adults.  Legal detention used as a last resort and for the shortest amount of time possible.  Restorative justice for children committing criminal offences proscribed maximum sentences of seven years.  The rights to free legal aid and protection from inhumane or degrading treatment were in place. 
The Minister also noted that the report had been prepared with consultation with a wide array of stakeholders, including provincial governments and vibrant civil society organizations, and within the framework of the National Human Rights Action Plan. 
Questions by Experts
GEHAD MADI, Committee Member acting as Country Rapporteur for Indonesia, welcomed the delegation and thanked them for their report, and expressed his hope that Indonesia would ratify the third Optional Protocol to the Convention, the Rome Statute and other relevant conventions and treaties.  He said that the decentralization process might have had a negative impact on the protection of human rights, which was something that the State party had acknowledged.   Only a small proportion of regional bylaws which had been reviewed had been annulled and the Committee was concerned about all the bylaws which violated human rights principles.  How could it be ensured that local legislation was in line with the State party’s obligations under the Convention?
Mr. Madi asked about the legal definition of the child and child marriage, saying that the legal age for marriage was 16 years, but many girls under 16 had reportedly been forced into marriage, and those married at an early age were then automatically considered as adults according to the Indonesian law, which was a double punishment.  What age did the Government consider to constitute underage marriage?
Regarding the coordination of the implementation of the Convention, Mr, Madi asked whether the Ministry for Women Empowerment and Child Protection had authority over other Ministries, provincial districts and regional governments.  Did the Child Protection Commission have the power to hear child complaints? The report stated that efforts were still underway to strengthen the legal mandate of the Commission; could more details be provided in that regard?
Data and information collection seemed not to be coordinated in different Government bodies, including regional bodies?  Was the Government considering establishing a comprehensive data collection system across the country?  The issue of dissemination of information at local and provincial levels was brought up by Mr. Madi, who asked whether the Convention had been translated into local languages, and what human rights training was provided for local and provincial officials. 
Another Committee Expert asked what exactly had been done to do away with all forms of discrimination.  Were girl children still being discriminated against when it came to inheritance? Children born out of wedlock were also still discriminated when it came to inheritance – was the State party planning to do anything in that regard?  Many discriminatory practices seemed to be still present in Indonesia.  Were there any programs on prevention of discrimination against Christian minorities?
Did the State party think that the age was the most important criterion when evaluating the best interest of the child?  Could a child or its representative appeal against a decision which was not in its best interest?  What were, for example, the best interests of the child whose parents were in prison? 
On child marriage, an Expert asked whether having different minimum ages of marriage for men and women amounted to discrimination. Was parents’ consent enough or did the girls have to consent themselves?  He also asked whether girl victims of rape were made to marry their rapist or abuser in order to avoid shame for their families. 
What measures were taken to ensure that children’s voices were heard in the decision-making process affecting them?  An Expert stressed that birth registration should be free for all and bear no administrative costs.  Was it prohibited for local officials to charge for birth certificates?  Would children born out of wedlock be issued birth certificates like all other children, and would the names of both parents be included?  An Expert asked whether children born in and out of wedlock had absolutely same inheritance rights. 
What was being done about the status of stateless children?  Data in that area would be much appreciated.  What measures were being taken to provide for children of homeless and forcefully evicted families? 
Regarding freedom of religion, the Committee was concerned about children belonging to one of those not belonging to the official six religions, an Expert said.  Non-Muslim students in some areas were reportedly under pressure to wear Islamic outfits and follow Sharia law.  Was that prescribed by law, or was it rather social pressure?  If there were no religions officially recognized, how come then that there were six that were supported by the Government?  Did identity cards state a person’s religion, and was that the case for children?
Another Expert noted that children were still victims of violence in all settings.  What efforts had been made since 2004 to combat violence and sexual exploitation and abuse?  Was there disaggregated data on that matter?  Were there laws in place explicitly prohibiting physical violence?  Were children involved in sexual exploitation always considered as victims?
Huge proportions of surveyed families expressed support for female genital mutilation.  It was often performed in health institutions under the supervision of health practitioners, but that did not make it any less harmful.  Could the delegation update the Committee on recovery programs for the victims of that practice?  What concrete measures were taken to end it as soon as possible? The Expert commended the State party for establishing a help-line for children, and asked about the scope of its coverage.
An Expert commented that it was worrying that many by-laws had been annulled years after they had been implemented.  The Human Rights Commission of Indonesia said some 3,200 by-laws contravened human rights.  What was the legal status of the Convention in the domestic legislation of Indonesia?  Were its provisions incorporated in domestic laws?
Response by the Delegation
Answering the question on the ratification of the third Optional Protocol, the delegation explained that two years earlier Indonesia had ratified two Optional Protocols.  Indonesia was considering ratifying the Third Protocol as well.  Regarding the Rome Statute and the Refugee Convention, there was a hope that within the following few months those two would be looked at, in accordance with the plan of action.
On the issue of decentralization, a delegate stated that there was room for improvement.  There were 505 districts and 34 provinces in Indonesia at the moment.  The Government was continuously making efforts to harmonize local by-laws with the central legislation.  The central Government had the right to do review local laws; more than 20,000 of them had already been considered and several hundred had been corrected and annulled.
A delegate explained that the Ministry of Home Affairs had the authority to do investigations and clarifications of local by-laws. Those had to be clarified within 60 days of the placement of request.  Local law centres had the task to help local governments in law-making, helping ensure that by-laws were in line with central laws before they were adopted by local parliaments.  Each district and municipality had the right to consult with such law centres; in some cases consultation was optional and in most cases mandatory.
There were 184 districts going through the process of establishment of child-friendly cities. That process had to be in line with the Convention and the central Government’s legislation.
It was explained that children born out of wedlock had the legal ties with both mother and father and their respective families.  If a blood connection could be scientifically established with the father, a child would have inheritance rights.  Children born outside of wedlock had the same inheritance rights as those born in wedlock if it could be proven that they were indeed biological children of their parents.
All citizens had the right to choose and freely practice their religion.  There were six major religions regulated by the Government and a number of other practices.  Discussions were still underway on regulating other religions and providing them with government services.  There was an option of picking one of the six religions to be stated on the identity card, or leaving it blank. The Government had decided to include religion on identity cards for the purpose of marriages, testimonies in courts, rights of remissions in prisons, etc.
Regarding the National Human Rights Action Plan, it was explained that the issue of children had been included in the mid-term planning development. Horizontal coordination was being conducted regularly to discuss the implementation of relevant legislation, elimination of child trafficking and child labour. 
On data collection, coordinating efforts were being made among various Ministries and local governments to improve comprehensive data collection and analysis, including the provision of disaggregated data.  The Ministry for Women Empowerment and Child Protection had the full powers of coordination when it came to the data collection on child-related issues.  Specific guidelines on data, women and children had been issued. 
A delegate explained that there were three human rights institutions in Indonesia – National Human Rights Institution, National Commission on Violence against Women, and the Child Protection Commission.  Answering the question on the mandate of the Child Protection Commission, a delegate stated that it could take and look into public complaints, mediate in cases when it was deemed necessary, monitor and provide recommendations.  In 2012, for example, there had been some schools regulations to expel pregnant female students, when the Commission had intervened with the Ministry of Education and adjusted the problematic provisions. 
Children of evicted families were moved to the nearest schools or given the rights to choose a new school by themselves.  Before a forced eviction was conducted, analysis and assessment were done with the view of minimizing the impact on children.
With regard to child marriage, there were provisions that marriage could be performed at the age of 21, but under special circumstances it could be 19 for men and 16 for women.  Parental consent was necessary.  However, there were examples of underage marriages, for which those who performed such marriages had been prosecuted on several occasions.   The age of marriage was being reviewed, with the goal of making it the same for both sexes.  Parents’ consent was important, but people entering the marriage also had to agree to it by their own free will. 
Giving birth outside of wedlock was considered as a matter of shame in some communities in Indonesia, but pregnant girls could not be forced into marrying anyone against their own will, a delegate added. 
Regarding children with disabilities, Indonesia had established 169 coordination forums across numerous provinces, with the view of eliminating all types of discrimination against such children.  Special vocational training had been conducted for children with disabilities above the age of 15.
Questions by Experts
An Expert asked if there were any family-based childcare policies to help parents with rearing children. Were there any measures to assist extended families who were often taking care of children?  Was polygamy still allowed in Indonesia, and what was its impact on children?
While the number of children living in institutions had been reduced, what were the conditions for placing children in alternative care?  What body was deciding on that matter?  Were foster families considered as an option?
The number of illegal adoptions in Indonesia was reportedly still very high.  How far had Indonesia come in taking all the necessary measures to address that issue?
An Expert noted that there was a systematic lack of data on children with disabilities.  How did the State party identify such children?  What steps were taken to promote positive image of such children?  Was there data on children in prisons with their mothers?  How often were children over the age of three allowed to visit their imprisoned mothers?
While in the 1990s, Indonesia had been making progress in reducing neonatal and infant mortality, but the advancement had seemingly slowed down in recent years.  What was the Government doing in that regard?  Infant mortality was particularly high in certain provinces.  Were there any baby-friendly hospital initiatives in Indonesia?  What was the State party doing to promote breastfeeding?
The Expert asked whether adolescents and unmarried couples had access to reproductive health services.  What preventive and rehabilitation measures had the Government put in place to combat drug abuse?
More information was requested on female genital mutilation, which was apparently promoted in state hospitals.  Were Sharia law judges were aware of the Convention provisions regarding child marriage?  What measures had been put in place to address the rise of HIV/AIDS, also among children?
Another Expert commended the Government of Indonesia for high levels of attendance in schools and free education for children under the age of 18.  Nonetheless, several million children were out of school, many of them in Java.  What measures were undertaken to address the root cause problems which kept those children from enrolling in schools?  Did the grants and scholarships reach the poorest children, including those without birth certificates, children of migrant workers and those who did not belong to the six official religions?
What teacher training programmes were in place? How was the student-teacher ratio?  How were the sanitation conditions in schools? Were schools accessible to children with disabilities?  What recreational and cultural activities were organized for children across the country?  Were parents and teachers aware of the importance of leisure for children?
Regarding children of asylum seekers, an Expert wanted to know if they were kept together with their parents in asylum centres, and how the general conditions were.
While the national plan to eradicate worst kinds of child labour had shown some results, there was still no clear legislation to prevent economic exploitation of children between the age of 15 and 18.  There were still many children under the age of 15 who continued to work in informal sectors, the Expert noted and asked what measures the Government had taken to tackle that issue. 
Was the age of criminal responsibility lifted for children under the age of 12?  Were children in prisons always kept separately from adults?  What reintegration measures were there for children released from prison?  
Trafficking of children was not criminalized under all circumstances, the Expert noted.  What measures were being taken to address sale, exploitation and pornography of children?
Response by the Delegation
Since 2014 all children across Indonesia were entitled to a free birth certificate.   All local governments had to follow the law, or face criminal sanctions.  All babies born in hospitals were directly registered, as officials from local administration were contacted by midwives.  In 2013, around 72 per cent of children possessed birth certificates.  The statistics was the result of the cooperation of eight different Ministries, through a coordination forum on birth certificates, a delegate added.
For children born outside of wedlock it had to be proven that they had a biological (DNA) link to the supposed father.  The initiative had to come from the mother’s side, whose
name was automatically written on the certificate.  Children could also submit a request to have their father’s name on their birth certificate on their own, once they came of age.
Children from minority religious groups did not face discrimination and all services were provided to them in an equal manner.  If children were not registered within the first year of life, there was no longer a penalty for late registration, and all local by-laws had to follow that rule.
The region of Aceh enjoyed special autonomy based on religious grounds, and there non-Muslims were not obliged to wear Islamic attire.  Central Government ensured that the by-laws were in line with central legislation.
Answering the question on citizenship, a delegate explained that children born in legal mixed marriages between Indonesian and foreign citizens were also given citizenship.  The same applied to children born in the marriage of Indonesian and stateless parents.  A child could also gain citizenship if born in Indonesia and both of its parents were unknown or stateless.
On violence against children, the delegation stated that there were differences in settlement of various types of cases, depending on the relevant local government.  Since 2013 human rights mechanisms had focused on tackling child pornography and violence, which had increased nationwide attention to the issue.  The local government in Jakarta was particularly committed to combating violence against children.   Integrated services units had been established across the country and dealt with complaints about violence against women and children. 
Turning to education, a delegate explained the six principles which had to be met by all educational institutions across the country, without exception.  Education was supposed to be democratic, empowering and continuous.  Corporal punishment or harassment against children was not allowed, but it was not explicitly prohibited.  Some educational institutions were perhaps not fully applying the six principles in their regulations and were thus breaching the law, said the delegate, added that whenever violence took place it was considered a criminal offence, and violence in schools was considered a police matter.
Information on reproductive health was provided to children with disabilities. Counselling programmes for parents of such children were also provided.  Neonatal screenings were organized free of charge, along with special treatments for children with disabilities. 
There was still no accurate data on maternal and infant mortality rates, a delegate said, adding that the assessed rates from demographic surveys tended to overestimate the rates.  There was contradictory information on whether Indonesia was on the right track to meet the Millennium Development Goal on maternal and neonatal mortality.
Efforts were being made to send more medical personnel to remote areas, through a sister-hospital programme, and to increase the number of trained midwives across the country.  Medical students, after completing their studies, were supposed to return to their home regions to work as doctors. 
There had been a national breastfeeding programme in place since 1990, promoting breastfeeding until six months of age.  Nevertheless, the rate of early breastfeeding in Indonesia admittedly still remained low.  Provision of lactation rooms was also high on the agenda.
A delegate said that Indonesia had increased funding for HIV/AIDS programmes, partly financed by the Government and partly by the Global Fund.  Provision of anti-viral therapies, safe syringe programmes and prevention of transmission from mother to child were all being strengthened.
Since 2010, there had been some 37 registered cases of children who were born in prisons, all of those children had been taken care of, a delegate said.   
Drug abuse prevention efforts were coordinated by the Ministry of Health and the Anti-Narcotics Agency.  The list of synthetic narcotics was being constantly expanded. 
It was explained that the healthy village development programme meant that there should be a doctor and a midwife in every village, as well as clean water and sanitation across the country.  The percentage of rural households with access to sanitation had increased multi-fold over the recent years.
Answering a question about how young girls who had been victims of rape could access health services without being stigmatized, a delegate said that any such girl could receive free health care across the country.  Services for all victims of sexual violence included both physical and psychological treatment/counselling, and minimum standards of care had been in place since 2010.  Efforts for trauma healing were also being undertaken. 
Regarding female genital mutilation, the delegation said Indonesia supported efforts to eliminate all violence against women, including female circumcision.  There was a clear provision by the Government which prohibited all such practices in hospitals, including the so-called “scratching” practice.  Instructions on how to perform mutilation had also been revoked.  Nonetheless, there was still no comprehensive law which unambiguously banned female genital mutilation and other such practices.  The delegation stressed that so-called “birth packages” including ear piercing and female genital mutilation did not exist.    
A children’s hotline had been opened in 11 provinces, and had been called by around  12,000 children so far, half of whom had made complaints regarding their rights.  Those cases were followed up.  Furthermore, a free of charge text-message or SMS hotline for text messages was also being established. 
A delegate stated that there was a national movement for family development, initiated by numerous women’s organizations.  Care for orphans had largely shifted from orphanages and care homes to family homes.  The Ministry of Social Affairs had conducted that shift in stages, starting with trainings of orphanage staff on how to reunite children with their families.  The emphasis was now on kinship care; residential care was considered a last resort.
The goal of the child welfare programme was to strengthen the role of families; the programme involved direct cash transfer to families of marginalized children. There had been some cases of illegal adoptions in Indonesia, including instances of abduction of children and their neglect, a delegate said, adding that the Government was working to tackle the issue.
The Indonesian Government guaranteed the rights of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and their children, from the moment they arrived to Indonesia.  Standard operational procedures were in place for providing education, counselling and health care to such children.  Implementing partners were granted access to provide necessary services, and a presidential declaration on refugees and asylum seekers was being currently drafted.  Together with the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Government was facilitating issuance of birth certificates to refugee children born in Indonesian hospitals.
Indonesia applied the principle of non-refoulement even though it was not a State party to the Refugee Convention. Indonesia was normally not a country of destination but rather a transit country, so further cooperation with countries of origin and final destination was needed.
A delegate informed that the State party had ratified basic conventions of the International Labour Organisation on the worst forms of child labour and the minimum age of work; a basic law on manpower had also been put in place.  The total number of child labourers was estimated to be 2.2 million.  Indonesia was currently processing the ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention 189.
Based on the presidential instruction from 2010, street children were guaranteed minimum cash transfers so that they would stop illegal economic activities on the streets and return to schools, and they also received counselling from social workers.
Answering questions on the juvenile justice system, a delegate explained that in 2012 Indonesia had increased the age for criminal responsibility from eight to 12 years of age.  It would thus not be easy to further increase that age for now, but that was something the Government would consider for the future.  Under the new law, only children over the age of 14 could be imprisoned.  The delegation stressed that imprisoning children was a measure of last resort.
Children in prison were always kept separately from adults, even if in same establishments.  There were currently 16 child detention centres, but they were not present in all provinces.  Efforts were underway to construct more separate detention centres, so that all child prisoners could be kept in separate buildings. The main current focus of the juvenile justice system, which involved the work of several Ministries, agencies and non-governmental organisations, was to ensure the proper implementation of the new law. 
With respect to human rights education, the Indonesian Government was aware of the importance of its inclusion in school curricula at various levels.  Civic education comprised of subjects closely related to human rights.  Human rights education had been tested in various schools, and a national curriculum had been developed.
Regarding recreational facilities, a delegate said the Ministry for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection together with local governments were making efforts to provide facilities such as playgrounds, green areas and children libraries countrywide.  Provisions were made at the community level to make it easier for children to enjoy leisure activities.
A delegate informed that Indonesia was now the tenth largest economy in the world, and had dedicated significant resources to the education sector.  Many children of school age had to work because of economic pressures, but the Government was doing its best to return them to their families and schools.  While education itself was free of charge, the Government was not in a position to provide free textbooks and school materials to all schoolchildren. 
The Convention on the Rights of the Child had been ratified through a presidential decree and not through a law, which was the case because of historical provisions at the time.  However, that did not lower the status of the Convention in the domestic legal system, and the two Optional Protocols, when ratified in 2011, were accepted through laws.
Concluding Remarks
KIRSTEN SANDBERG, Committee Chairperson, commended Indonesia for the progress it had made in a number of areas.  Its clear intentions were obvious in other areas but had not yet been put into practice.   For example, the Committee would have liked more information on what needed to be done to tackle violence against children and support religious minorities.  There was an impression that the central Government did not always have a good understanding of what was happening in remote areas, which was understandable given the size of the country, she noted.
LINDA GUMELAR, Minister for Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection, expressed gratitude for the very rich discussion with the Committee members.  The constructive participation provided the delegation with invaluable inputs on how to identify areas for further improvement.  The importance of enhanced cooperation, strengthening monitoring, paying particular attention to specific groups of children and combating violence against children would be among Indonesia’s priorities for the immediate future.  Indonesia was fully committed to further promoting human rights, and the Committee’s concluding observations would help enhance the condition of children’s rights in the State party.

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