Sadly, child beggars can still be seen regularly in certain parts of Jakarta. Many kind-hearted people give these kids money, but child welfare experts have long advised against that, warning that children are often forced to beg for the benefit of criminals who are systematically exploiting them for their own benefit.
The problem of child begging has been such a regular part of life in Jakarta for such a long time that it rarely receives much media attention. But several arrests by police over the long weekend have revealed the true horrors faced by many of these children, which has, in turn, led government officials to vow that they would take stronger action against the abhorrent practice.
Last Thursday, two women, identified by police as 43-year-old NH and 35-year-old I, were arrested by police in South Jakarta. They are accused of exploiting and trafficking 17 children, all between the ages of 5 and 6 years old, whom the two women forced to beg in the area around Blok M Terminal.
“It’s very sad. In their daily lives, the children were forced to work from early morning until late afternoon. If they didn’t, they would be given punishments, ranging from beatings to not being fed,” said South Jakarta Police Chief Wahyu Hadiningrat on Friday as quoted by Vivanews. Fortunately, police also brought in all 17 children to be placed in protective custody.
Then, on Friday, South Jakarta Police also arrested a young couple, identified as ER, 17, and SM, 18, in connection to the previous day’s arrests. The couple has also been accused of exploiting a six-month-old baby to help earn money while begging.
Horrifyingly, police say the couple regularly gave the baby an anti-anxiety drug called Riklona Clonazepam, which worked as a sedative to keep the infant quiet. Police are currently hunting for the pharmacist who gave the couple the drug.
Police are still investigating whether the couple are the parents of the six-month-old and whether NH or I are the mothers of any of the 17 children they were exploiting. Police Chief Wahyu told reporters on Sunday that beggars usually say the children are their own as a defense.
At a press conference on Sunday, the Minister for Women Empowerment and Child Protection Yohana Yembise, apologized for not doing enough to protect Indonesia’s children, saying that she came into office a year ago with limited funding and few resources on the ground.
But she promised to work with the police to step up enforcement to put an end to the practice of child begging. Yohana said one problem was that not enough police were not aware of the laws protecting children from such exploitation.
“Many police consider the issue between women and their children to be a normal thing. But this case is proof for the police that this is indeed a serious problem,” Yohanna said, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.
According to Yohanna, under the Child Protection Act of 2014, those caught exploiting children and forcing them to work can receive up to 15 years in prison. Additionally, parents caught selling or renting their children out to others can be charged with human trafficking and sentenced up to 20 years.
Yohana also promised to form a special task force to investigate cases of child exploitation and that she would work with the the Social Affairs Ministry to create 3,000 centers across the country where people could report instances of child exploitation.
Paywall: You’re outta here, Coconuts stories are free for all
We have removed our paywall on all Coconuts stories. This does not mean the end of COCO+ Membership at all, but the value proposition is changing.
Rather than being a transactional subscription – whereby you pay for access to content – it is now a true membership program – whereby Coconuts stories are free for everyone but super-fans can monetarily support our independent journalism, and get added member benefits.
If you'd like to support Coconuts, you can become a COCO+ Member for as little as US$5 per year. Thank you!