No Birth Certificate, No Rights for Orphans in Indonesia

A boy prepares for the Friday prayer at a pesantren in Rembang, Central Java. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

By : Dames Alexander Sinaga | on 6:10 PM March 15, 2018
Category : Life & Style, Community

Rembang, Central Java/Jakarta. The Roudlotun Nasyi'in Ash-Shiddiqiyyah Islamic boarding school in Dadapan, a village in Rembang, Central Java, looks after 134 foster children, most of them orphans. Out of the 85 boys and 49 girls, 6 don't even have a birth certificate, which makes it difficult for Muhammad Abadi, the head of the school, to get support and assistance for them from the state.

This is despite Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution guaranteeing that all orphans are in the care of the state and entitled to be given social security support.

Children at the pesantren sleep in cramped rooms just like this one. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro) Children at the pesantren sleep in cramped rooms just like this one. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Abadi, who still keeps his day job as a farmer, opened the school – called a "pesantren" locally – in 1995 when he was only 17, after his religious teacher told him that it is the responsibility of all Muslims to help and take care of abandoned children.

He converted his house into a school and then later expanded it into a boarding house and a shelter for the children.

The 40-year-old said he still pays for the school's upkeep with his own money, but also receives donations from parents (some of the children are sent to the school by poor farmers since its fees are cheaper than at a normal state school), the Central Java social security agency (Dinsos) and other donors.

The six children who don't have a birth certificate have never even seen their parents.

"They don't have birth certificates, they don't even know their parents' names," Abadi said.

Not having a birth certificate means these children won't be able to get their national ID cards (KTP) and will run into a lot of difficulty claiming their rights as citizens.

Nine-year-old Izzul Iswan has never seen his biological parents. He also has no birth certificate. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro) Nine-year-old Izzul Iswan has never seen his biological parents. He also has no birth certificate. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Abadi said he had gone to the local district court to appeal on behalf of these children so they can get state assistance, but since he is not biologically related to them his efforts so far have been in vain.

He had even jokingly threatened the officials "not to blame me if these children later become terrorists" – referring to reports that terrorists target young people with no family to recruit.

"I’ve met with court officials, civil registry officers and the police, but there seems to be no way out," Abadi said.

Birth Certificate is Child’s Right

Jasra Putra, one of the commissioners at Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI), said the country's 2002 Law on Child Protection stated that birth certificate is every child’s right.

"The state has to record every birth of a child in Indonesia and issue a birth certificate for the baby, immediately," Jasra told Jakarta Globe in an interview at the KPAI headquarters in Central Jakarta on Friday (09/03).

Jasra said if a charity institution like Abadi's pesantren is already registered with the social service agency, the foster children there should not have any difficulty getting the birth certificates.

"If it's still a problem for them, they should lodge a report with us. They can do it online," he said.

Jafra said every time KPAI receives reports about children having difficulties obtaining birth certificates, "we send a letter to the civil registry to speed up the process, because having a birth certificate is every child's right."

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