National Children's Day
Every year on this day the Jakarta Post
has a host of images of Jakarta's street children being treated to a day's entertainment and free food.
It's a shame but the defence of Children's Rights, as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child
, is still necessary here in Indonesia, a signatory to the Convention.
On September 24th 2001, Indonesia signed two additional protocols to the main Convention, but have yet to ratify these. They are on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
As Human Rights Watch reports
, in Aceh, during the military emergency which only the tsunami brought to an end, it was reported that the Indonesian police force had lowered the age for recruitment into the police force in Sumatra (where Aceh is located) from 18 to 1 and children as young as 11 were reportedly killed by government security forces after being accused of GAM membership.
Although the Stockholm-based GAM leadership denied using child soldiers, in June 2003 military forces arrested two teenagers they said were attempting to set fire to a school building in North Aceh. According to military reports, the teenagers were forced to join GAM and had burned down 60 school buildings over the past three years.
Regarding the exploitation of children
, Indonesian children as young as 12 work 14 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, without a day off. They are also forbidden from leaving their place of employment or contacting their families.
These are almost hidden children. In Jakarta street kids are an everyday sight, whether they are begging at traffic intersections or busking on buses or trains.
Jakarta Kid has two blogs, 1
which focuses on his nine years as a former wealthy expat here encountering poor families and 2
which focuses on the wider issue of street children.Seated on the pavement in front of the flea-pit cinema, in a state of utter dejection, was a young boy. He was barefoot and dressed in a dirty ragged shirt and long trousers several sizes too big. He was moving his head from side to side like a depressed young panda in a zoo. At his feet were a few scraps of cooked rice on a crumpled piece of brown paper. Was he twelve years old? Difficult to tell as he was so undernourished.
Another personal account of direct contact with street children, albeit promoting a less altruistic and more pragmatic approach, is given by Our Man in Hanoi
.The KOTO Class One was special. It was special because they cleaned, painted and opened the first restaurant. That class is legendary, they were so proud of what they achieved and they have all gone on to great things.
Now we have a chance to repeat this with Class Six and Class Seven. We will all work together on the new KOTO. We will all have a stake in it. We will all be very proud on opening night and that pride will always be with us.
So the new KOTO won't be as swanky as maybe we occasionally dreamed. It'll be a make do and mend job. There won't be a wow factor. But, like the old restaurant, it'll be the kids that make it special - not the décor.
It's no bad thing.