Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Govt, private sector faulted for failing to end child labor

City News - September 22, 2006

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Lack of commitment from the government and private sector to end child labor has made Jakarta a hotbed for the exploitation of minors as prostitutes and domestic helpers, a discussion concluded Thursday.



Jakarta's Center for Integrated Service for Women and Children's Empowerment deputy head Margaretha Hanita said there were 1,020 minors among 5,724 sex workers in the Social Affairs Ministry's rehabilitation centers, according to data from 2003.

Margaretha said her center estimated there were at least 5,100 children working as prostitutes in the capital. That figure pales compared to the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 minors working as domestic helpers here with no oversight of their treatment.

"These children are brought to Jakarta against their will. They have no choice, as usually they come along with their families to Jakarta. It's even worse when they are victims of human trafficking."

She said there were many young girls below the age of 18 who were brought to Jakarta to provide sexual services in nightclubs, massage parlors and hotels. She added that other underage prostitutes frequented parks, malls and other public places.

According to Margaretha, children from poor families were most at risk of exploitation.

Head of Atmajaya University's Research Center Irwanto said that a 2000 survey showed that a family of five relocating to Jakarta usually needed three people to work for their livelihood.

"Two of the three are the families' children."

Irwanto deplored the lack of commitment to eradicating child exploitation from both the government and the private sector.

"It's all because public services are poor," he said.

"I think the government has committed a constitutional crime by not allocating 20 percent of its budget for education."

Under the Constitution, the government is supposed to allocate 20 percent of the state budget to education. However, in the state budget draft for 2007, the government only reserved 6.8 percent for education.

He added that as children's issues were under the Women's Empowerment Minister, other related institutions, such as the National Education Ministry and the Health Ministry, were afraid of infringing on its authority.

Irwanto said the private sector also did not address the issue, noting there was no Indonesian company with good corporate social responsibility programs geared toward the problem.

"Spending money on children is not costly, it's actually an investment, so they can be independent later on. In the end, it saves the country from a big burden in the future."

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