Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Ministry observed National Children's Day (HAN), celebrated every July 23, with this year's theme: "Children are Protected, Indonesia is Advancing" and bearing tagline "Indonesian Children are Happy at Home."

HAN 2020 was commemorated amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic that has compelled children to stay indoors and study from home, as their schools have remained shut since March 2020 following the government’s announcement of the country's first confirmed cases.

A total of 329 representatives from 34 provinces, 69 representatives of the Children's Forum, and 44 performers at the Happy Concert at Home took part in the celebration held via the Zoom application.

Women's Empowerment and Child Protection Minister I Gusti Ayu Bintang Darmawati Puspayoga, who led the virtual celebrations, pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic having restricted everyone's activities, though it had failed to dampen the Indonesian children’s enthusiasm to commemorate HAN 2020.

"Today is your day. Today, all Indonesian children must feel a sense of joy and happiness, although a pandemic is sweeping across the world," Puspayoga told the Indonesian children.

The minister, however, pointed out that several problems encumbering Indonesian children in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic range from parenting issues presented on account of either they or their parents having contracted the virus to a reduction in learning and playing times owing to being homebound.

Social Affairs Minister Juliari P. Batubara organized a similar celebratory event with some eight thousand children from all Indonesian provinces in a function called "One Day for Children" held via videoconferencing on July 23.

"Keep away from cigarettes, pornography, and bad associations, such as biker gangs," the minister told the children.

The minister believes that the future of the Indonesian nation lies in the hands of children as the next generation, for which they must be protected from now on.

Meanwhile, Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) Bambang Soesatyo highlighted the urgency for Indonesian people to make a commitment and build collective awareness that child protection is everyone's responsibility.

Hence, the government must be present and take sides with children, while parents must become role models, and the society must offer support to children, Soesatyo noted in his remarks during a function to observe HAN at the Parliament complex in Jakarta on July 23.

"It is our shared responsibility to guard and protect our children, so that their rights and nature can be guaranteed and guarded," the MPR chairman affirmed.

Families and the surrounding community must ensure that children feel safe, physically and psychologically, he emphasized.

Child protection was in accordance with the 1945 Constitution of the Republic of Indonesia in its Article 28B, paragraph (2), which stipulates that "Every child has the right to survival, growth, and development and is entitled to protection from violence and discrimination."

Furthermore, Article 34, paragraph (1), emphasizes that the state is tasked with caring for abandoned children. Child protection has also been regulated in Law No. 23 of 2002 on Child Protection and Law No. 35 of 2014.

However, Soesatyo expressed concern while citing the results of a national survey on Indonesian children in 2018 that showed two out of three children and teenagers aged between 13 and 17 years, or 67 percent of them, had experienced emotional, physical, or sexual violence in their lifetime.

"Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we must be concerned about the increasing number of incidents of violence against children," he stated.

The senior politician of Golkar Party called for serious response to prevent violence against children and teenagers.

"Providing sufficient knowledge about protection for our children must be instilled in families, schools, and the society around us," he affirmed.

Furthermore, the Commission for Protection of Indonesian Children (KPAI) stated that the number of child abuse cases had reached 2,178 in 2011 and continued to increase to 4,885 cases in 2018.

Furthermore, data of the Online Information System for the Protection of Women and Children (SIMFONI PPA) showed a total of 3,928 cases of violence against children from January 1 to June 17, 2020, which included 852 cases of physical violence, 768 cases of psychological abuse, and 1,848 cases of sexual violence.

Most importantly, news surfaced in June 2020 of the Jakarta Metro Police's Criminal Investigation Unit having arrested Francois Abello Camille (FAC), alias Frans, 65, at a hotel room in Jakarta where two underage girls were kept.

The French citizen had allegedly molested at least 305 minors. He, however, later died in a police hospital after attempting suicide in Jakarta Police's detention.

Although the pedophile criminal died, the police must continue investigations to catch those involved in supplying minors to the predator.

Minister Bintang Darmawati Puspayoga had earlier confirmed that children were subject to forms of violence, including sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. However, almost 55 percent pertained to sexual violence, she noted.

While drawing reference to the prevailing data and facts, the minister expressed concern and called on one and all to give serious attention to children and their problems.

"This is since such data is (based on) reports. It means that the number of actual cases could be far more than what meets the eye," she pointed out.

The minister reminded that efforts to safeguard children would be effective only if inter-sectoral institutions worked in tandem, which is in accordance with Law No. 35 of 2014 on child protection.

In addition to sexual abuse and violence, Indonesian children are also facing the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Indonesian Pediatrician Association (IDAI) highlighted the trend of some 70 percent of children dying of COVID-19 being below six years of age.

"This is the COVID-19 data on children collected until July 20, 2020," IDAI Chairperson Dr Aman Bhakti Pulungan noted on July 23, 2020.

During the period from March 17 to July 20, a total of 2,712 Indonesian children had tested positive for COVID-19, while 51 of them had succumbed to the disease.

Moreover, the number of children suspected of having contracted COVID-19 reached 7,633, of which 290 had died.

"Indeed, the highest cause of mortality among children in Indonesia today is pneumonia. However, sadly, our COVID figure among children is higher than those of India, Myanmar, and Pakistan," he pointed out.

In addition to applying health protocols, boosting the children's immunity is one of the most effective ways to keep children healthy.

The COVID-19 pandemic has, however, caused a decline in the people's purchasing power, including to purchase food, as millions of people have lost their jobs.

Hence, the government has ascertained that pregnant women and those in the early childhood stage obtain adequate nutrition through the disbursement of social aid under the Family Hope Program (PKH).

PKH is disbursed monthly, so that beneficiary families can utilize the funds to procure nutritious foods, such as eggs, fish, vegetables, and fruits.

As many as 60,908 pregnant women and 2.9 million early-age children are registered to receive the aid funding, with each eligible for Rp3 million annually. The aid funding has increased, from Rp2.4 million each given last year, according to the Social Affairs Ministry.

The ministry has disbursed Rp24.08 trillion of the PKH funds to beneficiaries nationwide, with the largest chunk going to West Java, East Java, and Central Java. Related news: Some 70 percent below 6-year-old children succumbing to COVID-19: IDAI
Related news: COVID-19 pandemic fails to dampen children's enthusiasm: minister

Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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