Viral photo of policewoman, unable to adopt abandoned baby because she’s not from ‘majority religion’, pulls heartstrings in Indonesia

The picture above shows a policewoman holding a baby who was found, abandoned near a ditch, in the city of Binjai, North Sumatra, about one month ago. The image, and the heartbreaking story it tells, has gone viral in Indonesia as netizens decry the religion-based law that prevented the officer from adopting the child.

On October 5, Facebook user Johannes Surbakti Surbakti posted the photo along with a caption explaining that the law in Binjai only allows abandoned babies to be adopted by citizens from the majority religion.

“For that reason, the head of Binjai social services, H T Syarifuddin, said an infant who was found almost frozen to death in a cardboard box and dumped in a ditch, may not be adopted by a Christian policewoman. The boy was then handed over to an orphanage in Medan.”

The post has been shared over 3,200 times and has been commented on over 7,000 times, with many expressing outrage that such a law could exist in Indonesia.

But indeed it does, and not just in Binjai. A national law, Government Regulation no. 54/2007 on Adoption, states in article 3, “In cases in which the origin of the child is unknown, then the child’s religion is conformed to the religion of the majority of the local population.”

And because in Indonesia, adoptive parents can only be given custody of children from the same religion, members of minority religions are effectively barred from adopting abandoned babies.

Although the identity of the policewoman in unknown, it turns out that the man who posted her story on Facebook, Johannes, is a reporter for local newspaper Sinar Indonesia Baru. In an article from the paper with more details on the case, Johannes can be seen holding the baby as well.

According to the report in Sinar Indonesia Baru, the policewoman, who asked not to be named, said she had initially been given approval to adopt the baby and for one month visited him every afternoon while preparing to bring him home.

“I had taken care of all the paperwork for the adoption, asked for legal permission and permission from my hula-hula (brother in Batak culture). When everything was ready, suddenly I was rejected by Binjai Social Service on the grounds that I needed to be of the majority religion,” the policewoman told the newspaper.

According to the article, published on October 3, the baby was still in an orphanage as nobody else had come forward to adopt him.

A representative of the Institute on Child Protection in Indonesia (LPAI) said the policewoman’s desire to do good should be admired but also defended the majority religion regulation and said the officer should respect the law.

He added that the policewoman could still adopt a child. “It’s easy, she just need to go to an orphanage that is in accordance with her religion. However, if there is an orphan whose original family is unknown, please adopt using the existing procedure,” LPAI representative Reza Indragiri told Jawa Pos.


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