The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The National Commission for Child Protection has predicted the number of cases of violence against children will increase next year in line with mounting socio-economic pressure aggravated by traditional misperceptions about child rearing.
"As long as parents are still coping with economic difficulties, children will become victims," deputy chairman of the commission, Muhammad Joni, told reporters while presenting a year-end evaluation report Friday.
He dismissed government claims that the economic situation had been improving and that people would enjoy greater prosperity next year.
The government estimates that gross domestic product (GDP) for 2008 will be up 6.8 percent, inflation will down 6 percent and unemployment rates will drop to 8 or 9 percent, all reflecting another step toward economic recovery.
"The government keeps telling us that things are better now and will be so next year as well. But just take a look at the people in your surroundings, are their lives really improving," he said.
During 2007, the commission received 1,520 complaints of physical, sexual and psychological abuse of children, up from 1,124 in 2006 and 736 in 2005.
Besides this increase, the commission cited another worrying trend. Whereas in 2005 most of the victims were abused by strangers, this year 60 percent of the reported cases involved people the children knew well, including parents, teachers and neighbors.
With child abuse on the rise, Joni urged the government to go beyond ceremonial awareness-raising campaigns and attempt to stop violence against children.
"The major concern about child abuse right now is the fact that parents release economic-related stress on their children," he said. "To stop violence against children means improving people's welfare."
Joni added that efforts, such as providing education and health assistance to children from low income families, could serve to protect children.
Addressing the same forum, head of the commission, Seto Mulyadi, said the government should replace jargon with an emphasis on educating parents on children's issues.
"Violence against children is also related to cultural misperceptions about raising children that are assimilated by parents from tradition," he said. "Parents tend to dictate their children's lives as if they were property. They neglect the fact that children are unique individuals."
He said unless the government intervened in the raising of children, the country could only expect to see a higher number of abuse cases in coming years.
Expressing similar concerns, secretary general of the commission, Arist Merdeka Sirait, said the government had yet to make a concerted effort to handle child abuse cases.
He said the government apparently considered conviction of perpetrators a complete remedy to child abuse.
"There must be a thorough handling of child abuse problems. The government must build crisis centers to help abused children recover and enforce the 2002 Child Protection Law in trials of perpetrators."
He said the 2002 law provided for longer sentences than the Criminal Code, although the Code was more often used by judges in trying abuse cases. (lln)