For Indonesia’s avenue kids, coronavirus means extra hazard

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Depok, Indonesia – In town of Depok, West Java, a gaggle of youngsters collect collectively exterior an outdated constructing.One of the teenage boys strums his ukulele and sings an outdated love track.
Beside him, the youthful kids sing alongside whereas they play – two of them increase linked arms – the opposite kids cross beneath their arms like a bridge and chortle.
These kids would in any other case spend all day on the streets with little to do, nowhere to go and susceptible to exploitation.
The constructing is a shelter run by a non-profit organisation. It is a small nook of a sprawling metropolis the place they’ll really feel protected.
The rooms on the shelter are almost totally naked, with just some beds and chairs. It isn’t meant to be a college or a everlasting place to reside but it surely does give them someplace to go, the place they are often collectively.
Life has all the time been harmful for youngsters on the streets however the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted simply how weak they’re. 
While the kids of Depok can proceed to come back to their shelter, in lots of elements of the nation, shelters have closed due to issues about COVID-19 and younger folks have been compelled to fend for themselves.
In March, many provinces throughout Indonesia imposed COVID-19 restrictions, together with the closing of colleges and a few public websites. Indonesia is essentially the most critically affected nation in Southeast Asia and has greater than 93,000 confirmed circumstances of the illness and 4,576 deaths. Children collect exterior the shelter in Depok in West Java. The constructing provides a spot of refuge [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera]  “Street children are very much at risk of sexual violence. That’s why we have to be patient, embrace them and protect them,” Sulaeman, a volunteer on the shelter, instructed Al Jazeera.
There is not any idea of social distancing. The kids have extra urgent issues than the chance of COVID-19 akin to meals, water and a protected place to relaxation. 
Unreported circumstances
Icha volunteers on the shelter. She is aware of how harmful life on the streets could be for youngsters and the way perpetrators of sexual abuse attempt to benefit from their poverty.
“Living on the streets is not nice, sleeping in front of shops is not nice. If suddenly, someone offered you access to an apartment’s facilities … who would refuse?” she stated.
“If someone promises to help you get a better life by helping you become a model, no one would say no.”
The 20-year-old instructed Al Jazeera lots of her mates have been sexually abused, after accepting provides of meals and lodging from adults whereas they had been alone on the streets.
“Here in Depok, it has happened to so many of them. They are tired, they cannot get anything living on the streets.” 
According to Arist Merdeka, Head of the National Commission for Child Protection, there have been greater than 800 studies of violence towards kids since March, and almost 60 p.c of the circumstances relate to sexual abuse. 
Many extra circumstances go unreported, particularly these involving kids on the streets or the place the abuser is an in depth relative of the sufferer.
“Before the coronavirus, the number of cases of abuse against children was already high. But the situation is now made worse … there are more opportunities for abuse to happen,” Merdeka stated. Indonesia is the hardest-hit nation in Southeast Asia by the coronavirus. Experts say measures launched to manage the pandemic have made avenue kids much more weak [File: Wahyu Putro/Antara Foto via Reuters] “Children in Indonesia are vulnerable to violence, abuse and trafficking … underage sex slavery is also a problem … even toddlers have become victims.”
Alarming circumstances
In current weeks, various baby abuse circumstances throughout the nation have sparked calls to raised defend weak kids.
Late final month, a French nationwide was arrested for allegedly abusing 305 minors in Jakarta. Most of the victims had been avenue kids, who he lured to his resort room by pretending to be a photographer. The accused died by suicide in his jail cell.
In a separate incident, in Central Kalimantan, police arrested a village chief and two village officers for the alleged rape of a 17-year-old woman.
In Depok, a church caretaker was accused of molesting greater than 20 boys.
In the identical week, police arrested a 54-year-old man for the alleged rape of a teenage woman. She had already been raped by her uncle and cousin. The rooms are naked and have little furnishings however the kids welcome a respite from the streets [Jessica Washington/Al Jazeera] [Al Jazeera] Indonesia isn’t the one nation going through a rise in circumstances of sexual violence towards kids.
In March, as many nations started implementing COVID-19 restrictions, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned that a whole bunch of thousands and thousands of youngsters would face threats to their security, together with sexual violence.
UNICEF famous that whereas restrictions akin to faculty closures and motion constraints had been needed, they might additionally disrupt kids’s routines and minimize off entry to assist techniques.
Despite this, in early July, Indonesia’s legislators dropped a sexual violence eradication invoice from their coverage agenda for the yr.
Although the invoice was nonetheless within the early levels of dialogue, there was hope it might enhance on the present laws’s deficiencies.  ‘No time’
Perpetrators of sexual abuse are at present charged beneath the prison code (KUHP). However, in its present type, the KUHP doesn’t even confer with sexual abuse or harassment, as a substitute criminalising “obscene acts”.
Advocates for victims of sexual abuse have lengthy criticised Indonesia’s present laws round sexual violence for being simplistic and never recognising the multi-faceted nature of abuse.
Activists say the present laws makes it troublesome for victims to take a case to court docket and at the very least 90 p.c of recorded sexual violence incidents don’t make it to trial, based on the Legal Aid Foundation of the Indonesian Women’s Association for Justice.  #Indonesia ’s prevailing legal guidelines don’t acknowledge the definition & complexity of sexual violence. @ValentSagala w/ an intensive breakdown of the so-called ‘difficulties’ stopping the Sexual Violence Eradication invoice from deliberation. #GBV #SexualViolence
— Donor Direct Action (@donors4women) July 7, 2020 Statement of the Representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), Yuyun Wahyuningrum, on the Withdrawal of the Sexual Violence Eradication Bill from Indonesia National Legislation Program 2020.
— AICHR Indonesia (@AICHRIndonesia) July 7, 2020 The new invoice would have allowed new types of proof akin to digital information, sufferer impression statements and psychological studies to be introduced in court docket and assist the abused battle their circumstances.
But Supratman Andi Agtas, the Head of House of Representatives Legislative Body, stated legislators merely didn’t have time to think about the laws given the necessity to cope with the pandemic. In complete, 16 payments needed to be delayed.
“It’s not that we don’t think this bill is important – but it’s more about technical considerations. We are finishing a bill about how to handle COVID-19. We don’t have time to finish the other bills,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
“We are taking it out of the national priority list for this year but we are committed to bringing it back in 2021 because we know it’s important.”
For many, prolonging dialogue on the invoice – at a time when sexual abuse is on the rise – is a disappointment.
“If they refuse to discuss the bill, it means they fail to understand the need for protection for women and children against sexual violence,” Merdeka stated

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