The Clearinghouse on International Developments in Child, Youth and Family Policies




(Last updated February 2007)


Introduction and Overview

Indonesia is the largest archipelago and the fourth most populous country in the world. Consisting of five main islands and 30 smaller islands, the archipelago has a total of 17,508 islands of which about 6,000 are inhabited. It stretches 3200 miles between the Australian and Asian continental mainlands and divides the Pacific and Indian Oceans at the Equator. The name Indonesia is derived from "nesos" meaning islands. Indonesia was one of the countries that were hit the hardest by the economic crisis that began in July 1997. 1998 saw the devaluation of the Indonesian Rupiah by some 80% against the US dollar. Its economy is still recovering from the crisis and unemployment remains high. The World Economic Forum ranks Indonesia 69th out of the 104 countries, far behind such regional rivals as Malaysia, Thailand and China.  

The main islands in Indonesia are Sumatra, Kalimantan, Irian Jaya, and the smallest but most populated Java. Indonesia shares the islands of Kalimantan with Malaysia and the island of Irian Jaya with Papua New Guinea. Indonesia is divided into 30 provinces and special territories and classified geographically into four groups. First is the Great Sundas, comprising the larger islands of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan and Sulawesi; second is the lesser sundas consisting of smaller islands from Bali eastward to Timor; third is Maluku which includes all islands between Irian Jaya and Sulawesi; and the fourth group is Irian Jaya in the extreme eastern part of the country. The strategic position of the archipelago, the history of Indonesia and its political and economic development, has been conditioned by its geography. [Population Resource Center]

Over the past six years, the Government has transitioned from a repressive and authoritarian rule to a more pluralistic and representative democracy. However, ordinary people have little to show for it.

Indonesia has a presidential system and three branches of government - executive, legislative, and judicial; and various independent agencies. The President is head of state and serves a 5-year term for a maximum of two terms. The country’s upper legislative body is the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), which convenes once a year and has the power to amend the constitution. Routine legislative affairs, including enacting legislation, are the responsibility of the 500-member House of Representatives (DPR).

Following independence the nation was centrally governed from Jakarta in a system in which the lines of authority, budget, and personnel appointment run outward and downward. Regional and local governments enjoyed little autonomy. Since 2001, however, the central government introduced a major move towards regional autonomy. Regions now hold almost all the powers previously under central government control in Jakarta.

Each province is administered by a provincial government with its own representative assembly (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah or DPRD). The provincial government is headed by a Governor, who is appointed by the President. Provinces are divided into districts (there are 268 districts) headed by a regent or municipalities (there are 78 municipalities) headed by a mayor; which are further divided into sub-districts (there are 4,085 sub-districts) headed by a sub-district head; and finally villages (there are 66,946 villages) headed by a village chief. [The Economist]

In 2005, the services sector contributed more than half of the GDP (54.6%), followed by industry (30.6%) and agriculture (14.7%). The contribution of agriculture to the GDP declined from 56% in 1965 to 14.7% in 2005;  contribution from the services sector  increased from 39.3% in 2003 to 54.6% in 2005. As in other countries in Asia, agriculture is the largest employer, with 46.5% of the labor force involved in agriculture, despite contributing the lowest to the GDP. The services sector employs 41.7% and industry employs 11.8% of the labor force. Between 1995 and 2001, women (between the ages of 15 and 64) made up 55.6% of the total labor force, 42% of which are in agriculture, 16% in industry and 42% in services. 47.6% of the total female working age population was employed during this period. The unemployment rate was estimated at 8.7% in 2003. [CIA World Fact Book]

Indonesia has made great strides in achieving the goal of providing universal primary education to all children. The adult literacy rate was 87.9% in 2002; 92.5% among males and 83.4% among females.  The adult literacy rate increased from 79.5% in 1990 to 87.9% in 2002. The youth literacy rate also increased from 95% in 1990 to 98% in 2002. Primary School Enrollment ratio declined from 97% in 1990/91 to 92% in 2002/03. This decline may be attributed in part to the external costs of education which parents cannot afford. However, secondary school enrollment rose from 39% to 47% between 1990/91 and 2002/03. Public expenditure on education (as percentage of GDP) increased from 1.0 to 1.3 between 1990 and 1999-2001. [HDR,UNDP]

National expenditure towards health has increased and so has life expectancy from 62 years in 1992 to 69.26 years in 2004. Maternal mortality was estimated to be 230/100,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate in Indonesia is still very high compared with other Southeast Asian countries (average: 210/100,000). Some of the reasons for this high rate are culture, tradition, socioeconomic aspects, gender inequality, inadequate education services, and lack of health facilities.

On 22 October 2002, Indonesia enacted the Law on Child Protection, which guarantees children the rights to survive, grow, develop and participate optimally and with dignity in society.  Specifically, the law guarantees children the rights to: a name and personal identity; religion; medical services and social insurance; education, including special education for the disabled; free expression of opinions; protection from discrimination, sexual or economic exploitation, brutality and violence, injustice and other kinds of mistreatment; family nurturing; protection from involvement in armed conflict and war; and protection and legal assistance when a child has committed a crime.  The state is obligated to respect and guarantee the human rights of every child without discrimination based on race, religion, sex, ethnic group, culture, language, status of birth, sequence of birth or physical or mental condition.    

The law sets forth principles on and measures to deal with parental responsibilities, including the responsibility to prevent a child from being  married before the legal age; and limitation of parental authority and transfer of custody to other persons or to an institution in cases where the parent neglects his or her responsibilities. It also addresses the government's responsibility to provide nine years of basic education; a ban on recruiting or using children for military purposes; health care for children, including free health care for families with financial difficulties; protecting children from being used for unauthorized organ transplantation; measures against sexual or economic exploitation, trafficking, sexual abuse and mistreatment of children; adoption and foster care; and
children in the criminal system. 

The Indonesian Child Protection Commission is to be created in accordance with this law to enhance the effectiveness of child protection efforts. [UNFPA]

Overall, in addition to the recent and immeasurable devastation of the 12/26/04 Tsunami, Indonesia confronts several major challenges:
- corruption
- tension between central and regional governments
- internal ethnic and tribal conflicts
- a rise in religious extremism.

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Government Agencies

A number of federal ministries are involved in child and family welfare policies. They include:

  • The Federal Ministry of Health is the administrative body for all policies, programs and legislation on health-related issues. The main functions of the department are elimination of locally endemic diseases, improving access to health care, expanding health care infrastructure, strengthening health care education and reducing cases of commonly occurring diseases.
  • The Ministry of National Education has been responsible for maintaining a social security net to ensure that the quality and access to education does not deteriorate as a result of the economic crisis Indonesia has faced since 1997. It develops and implements all education –related legislation and programs.
  • The National Commission for Child Protection: The National Commission for Child Protection enacted and is responsible for implementing the National Child Protection Act which aims at protecting children from all forms of abuse and rights violation.
  • The National Commission for Violence against women and the State Ministry for Women’s Empowerment work towards eliminating all forms of violence against women such as trafficking, and domestic servitude. [Government of Indonesia Websites]

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Non-Governmental Agencies

There are over 8000 Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working across provinces in Indonesia involved in a range of activities from family planning to community development. NGOs in Indonesia can broadly be classified into three groups:

  • National-level Development/grassroots’ development: NGOs in this category deliver services, such as education, health and economic development activities, to marginalized populations and are not involved directly in the political process. They do, however, advocate for greater people’s participation in the development process.
  • National-level politics/grassroots mobilization: NGOs in this category work directly with the government and also function as watchdogs for the governments development policies.
  • Local NGOs: NGOs in this category work with local communities rather than at the national level. Their efforts are focused more on changing everyday life situations of people and awareness building rather than changing policy. [Asian Development Bank]

All NGOs in Indonesia are required to register as foundations with the Office of Social and Political Affairs under the Law of Social Organization of 1985. Some of the areas in which NGOs have successfully worked complementary to the government in providing development services include primary health care, provision of clean water, rural credit programs, small-scale irrigation development and other community development programs.

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Demographic Profile

Larger than Alaska and Texas combined, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world, after China, India and the United States, with a population of 241 million in 2005. 43% of the population is urbanized while the remaining 57% live in rural Indonesia. Over 65% of its population lives on the islands of Java, Madura, and Bali, which comprise only 7% of the land area. Population density, therefore, varies enormously from Java with 640 persons per sq. km to Kalimantan with just 10.

The most geographically diverse country in the world, Indonesia is also among the most diverse with regard to its population. There are extensive racial, ethnic, and cultural differences. The ethnic composition of the population includes 45% Javanese, 14% Sundanese, 7.5% Madurese, 7.5% coastal Malays, and other groups make up the remaining 26%. The most widely spoken language is Javanese. Other major languages include English, Dutch and Bahasa Indonesian.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world with 88% of its population professing Islam. Other religious groups include Hindus (2%), Protestant (5%), Roman Catholic (3%), Buddhists (1%) and other religious groups (1%). Islam has been the most influential in the political and social life of Indonesia. Persons following religions other than the 5 recognized by the government often face official discrimination in the context of civil registration of marriage and births and issuance of identity cards. The Aceh province is the only part of the country that is authorized to implement the Islamic Law.

Despite the decrease in total fertility rate (from 5.6% in 1970 to 2.47% in 2004) and the population growth rate (from 2.3% between 1970-1980 to 1.4% in 2004), the population of Indonesia has increased from 175 million in 1988 to 238.4 million in 2004. This increase is expected to continue because of the large number of women in or entering their childbearing years. However, due to declining fertility and mortality rates, the age structure of Indonesia has also undergone changes. While the above 55 population increases, the under-15 population is steadily decreasing The Total Dependency Ratio (dependency of children and old persons on the total population) in 2000 was 50. In 2004 the population was estimated to be comprised of 29.4% persons between the ages of 0-14; 65.5% between the ages of 15 and 64; and 5.1% 65 and above.

The median age of the population is 26.1 years and life expectancy at birth is 69.26 years. Male life expectancy is 66.84 years and female life expectancy is 71.8 years.

The Infant Mortality Rate (per 1000 live births) has declined from 107 in 1970 to 33 in 2002 and then increased to 36.82 in 2004. Male infant mortality (42 deaths per 1000 live births) in 2004 was higher than female infant mortality (31.29 deaths per 1000 live births). Under 5-mortality rate also declined between 1970 and 2002 from 172 to 45 per 1000 live births. 10% of the infants born between 1998 and 2002 had low birth weight and 26% of children under the age of 5 were underweight. [The Population Resource Center]

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Social Protection

Social Security programs are governed by the Social Security Act of 1992. Indonesia spends 1.5% of the GDP on social security programs, 95% of that is spent on old age benefits (eligibility begins at age 55). The program covers establishments with 10 or more employees and/or a monthly payroll of Rp.1 million (1USD = Rp.8950) or more. A special system of social insurance is available to public-sector employees and military personnel. Though not yet available, coverage is being extended gradually to employees of smaller establishments and to organized informal-sector worker, including persons in family employment, fishermen and those employed in rural cooperatives. The social security system is managed and administered by the Employees Social Security System (Jamostek). The Ministry of Manpower provides general supervision.

Civil servants receive social protection through a special social security program.  It is comprised of the Government Civilian Employees’ Saving and Insurance Scheme and Pension. The benefit, which includes a life insurance scheme is paid at retirement or death and is about 19 times the final monthly salary. For the military, there is the Armed Forces Social Insurance Plan. The retirement provision for private sector workers is through the compulsory provident fund called Jamsostek which was established under the Social Security Act of 1992. This act covers a mere 10% of the population or one-fifth of the total labor force excluding the remaining four-fifths of the labor force involved in informal sector employment.

Civil servants make a total contribution of 8% of their salary, of which 3.25% is for a lump sum benefit of about 19 times the final salary in the event of retirement or death; and 4.74% for pensions. The contributions and income from them are set to cover only 22.5% of the total pension benefits with the remaining 77.5% covered by the government. For private sector employees, the contribution rate for retirement benefits is 5.7% of the monthly salary, of which, 3.7% is paid by the employer and 2% by the employee. A further contribution of 0.3% of the salary is for the life insurance; and about 2% for the employment accident insurance.

There is explicit concern with the problem of income poverty, but poverty reduction has been stalled since the mid 1990s.  More than half the population have incomes below $2 a day.  In  2002, 7.5% of the population lived on less than $1 a day and 52.4% lived on under $2 a day (the World Bank poverty definitions); 27.1% lived below the national poverty line, about $14 per month in urban areas and $10 in rural areas.

In 2000, 55% of the population had access to sanitation, an increase form 47% in 1990. Population who had access to safe drinking water also increased between 1990 and 2000 from 71% to 78%. In 1999, 80-94% of the population had sustainable access to affordable essential drugs. [Asher, Mukul]

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Child, Youth and Family Policy Regimes

Maternity Benefits

Women are entitled to 3 months of maternity-related leave which is fully paid by the employer – up to 1.5 months prior to delivery. Maternity benefits are compulsory for all private sector employees under the Employees Social Security System unless employers are providing benefits that are more generous than those provided by the program. The benefits are funded by the employer and include a 3% contribution from the payroll for single employees, and 6% for married employees. This is mandated by the Social Insurance system of 1992 as part of the medical benefits package.

Furthermore, employers are also forbidden to employ pregnant women between 11:00p.m. and 7:00a.m. if they provide a doctors certificate mentioning that it could be detrimental to their pregnancy. Any employer violating this could be sent to jail anywhere from 1 month to 1 year and/or could be fined between USD 1100 to USD 11,000. A woman cannot be dismissed for reasons of pregnancy, childbirth, miscarriage or breastfeeding. Employers are also required to provide a suitable place for breastfeeding mothers to nurse their children during work hours. [Asian Food Worker Quarterly Bulletin]

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Early Childhood Education

Child care is primarily a family responsibility in Indonesia. In cases where both parents are employed, family members, relatives, or neighbors take care of children. There is a small amount of formal care services.

Early Childhood services/programs are designed to optimize the survival, growth, and development of children. There are several types of programs that focus largely on providing education and health care, but care and education are viewed as separate functions and data are not available with regard to coverage and the portion or eligible children in each program type.

Child (day) care centers provide some limited services for children from three months to six years of age who need care while their parents work outside the home. Both government and non-governmental organizations operate these centers which are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Social Affairs while the education supervision has been provided by the Ministry of National Education since 1990. Most centers are in urban areas because women in rural areas prefer to leave their children in the care of other family members when they are working.

Programs for children in the 0-3 age group include playgroups that operate part-day (2 hours a day), and/or part week (3 days a week). These programs are similar to day care centers but operate on a much more limited scale with the primary goal of developing children's social skills and readiness for school. These programs are operated mainly by the Ministries of Social Affairs and National Education. Programs for 4-6 year old children include kindergartens which operate independently for 4-5 year olds and 5-6 year olds and are operated under the authority of the Ministry of National Education.

Apart from these programs, other early childhood programs include Posyandu, a type of health and nutrition, home-based service designed to encourage the psychosocial development of children aged 3-6, operated by the Ministry of Health. Under this program, a member of the family is recruited to function as a change and development agent to provide information and advice about health and nutrition. The "Family and Under Five Development Program" trains/educates mothers and other caregivers to help them to better stimulate children's cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development and to monitor the child's physical growth.

National budget allocations for education, health and social services are very limited and Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) programs are under-funded at the community as well as national level. There is need for responsibility for these programs-and financing-to be shared among government, community organizations, and NGOs. There is also need for special education programs which now are only available beginning with kindergarten, and the supply does not even meet that need. [UNESCO]

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Child Education

Basic Education is compulsory and for a period of nine years, i.e. six years of primary and three years of junior secondary school. Compulsory education is a minimal educational program, which shall be attended by all Indonesian citizens fully supported by the Central Government and Local Governments. The minimum age for enrollment in 6 years and parents are encouraged to send their children to school when they reach the eligible age.

Education in Indonesia is based on National Education System, Act No. 20, Year 2003 adopted on 8 July 2003. The formal education system consists of the following three levels of education, i.e. basic education, secondary education, and higher education. Apart from the levels of education mentioned above, pre-school education is also provided. Out-of-school education can be held at the outside schools and provided by governmental and non-governmental agencies of private sector and the community. The community plays a significant role in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of education programs. Communities also help mobilize resources for the implementation of education.

In addition to basic education schools, there are Islamic Primary School called Madrasah Ibtidaiyah, that are equivalent to Primary Schools and Islamic General Junior Secondary School called Madrasah Tsanawiyah, equivalent to Junior Secondary Schools managed and run by the Ministry of Religious Affair.

Secondary education is available to graduates of primary school. The paths of secondary education include general secondary school, vocational secondary school, religious secondary school, service related secondary school, and special secondary school. Secondary education gives priority to expanding knowledge and developing students skills and preparing them to continue their studies to the higher level of education or the preparation of students to enter the world of work and expanding their professional attitude. The length of secondary education is three years for general secondary education and three or four years for vocational education.

In addition to the Secondary Education, there is also an Islamic General Senior Secondary School called Madrasah Aliyah, equivalent to General Senior Secondary School managed and run by the Ministry of Religious Affair.

Higher education is an extension of secondary education consisting of academic and professional education, Academic education is mainly aimed at mastering science, technology, and research, whereas professional education is more aimed at developing practical skills.

Indonesia has made significant strides in providing primary education to all children. Not only have the number of children entering primary education increased but the number of males and females getting education are almost equal over the past decade. In 2000, 95.5% of all children attended primary school, 78.7% attended junior secondary school and 49.1% attended senior secondary school.

This has resulted in a decline in the number of children enrolled in private schools. Between 1990 and 2000, this percentage declined from 17.6 to 15.9%. Private enrollment in secondary education too declined from 49.2 to 42.7% during the same period. [UNESCO]

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Child Health

Public expenditure on health was 1.2% of the GDP in 2002, a decline from .4% in 2001. Health issues are governed by Law No. 23 of 1992 on health which serves as a guideline for central and regional health offices, professional organizations, and non-profit organizations in the area of health towards achieving a healthy Indonesia by 2010. Foreign aid plays a very important role in public health. Since the fourth plan (1984 – 89), 20-30% of public health expenditure has been borne by foreign aid.

The health delivery system in Indonesia includes primary, secondary and tertiary levels of service. Primary health care centers and referral services are the most affordable and are administered by local governments. Public and private health centers and smaller hospitals provide services at the secondary level and privatized large hospitals and specialized medical institutions provide health services at the tertiary level. Despite significant strides in health care infrastructure development, the poorest 20% of the population still have inadequate access to health services. To respond to this challenge, the government initiated a ‘pro-active hospital’ concept that is similar to a ‘hospital without walls’ concept. 

Health education and promotion (HEP) is one of the main health programs. Over the past few years it has focussed on health issues such as maternal and child health, nutrition, environmental health, changing lifestyles and health financing. Apart from HEP, other important programs include maternal and child health/family planning, immunization, treatment of locally endemic and common occurring diseases.

Programs in maternal and child health include increasing trained assistance during delivery (percentage of women receiving trained assistance at delivery increased from 32% in 1992 to 56% in 2003); life skills training for midwives; introduction of ‘health cards’ to provide safety net for the poor; and integrated program planning and budgeting at the district level. Achievements of the immunization program have been considerable. In 2002, 77% of 1-year-old children were immunized against tuberculosis, 75% against DPT3, 74% against Polio3, 76% against measles, 67% against HepB3 and 81% of pregnant women against tetanus. This is primarily attributed to the favorable attitude of parents towards immunization and the availability of volunteer health workers.

In 1990, Indonesia implemented the ‘zero growth’ for civil servants policy, which greatly reduced the health personnel to population ratio. Recognizing this problem, the 1992 law outlined health education and human resource development are two central themes for health policy. Despite this, medical personnel related problems remain and far-flung rural areas of the archipelago are the most severely affected.

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is considered relatively low in Indonesia with only 0.1% of the adult population (15- 49) being diagnosed with the disease in 2003. A total of 110,000 persons of which 1300 are children were reported as suffering from HIV/AIDS in 2003. HIV/AIDS was reported as the cause for 2,400 deaths in the same year. [WHO]

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Special Groups of Children

Though the government has stated its commitment to children's rights, education, and welfare, but it devotes insufficient resources to fulfill that commitment. Child labor and sexual abuse are serious problems. In 2003 the leader of the National Commission for Child Protection identified the most pressing problems related to the country's youth as child labor, child trafficking, child prostitution, street children, children in conflict areas, and undernourished children. The Child Protection Act addresses economic and sexual exploitation of children as well as adoption, guardianship, and other problems; however, some provincial governments do not enforce its provisions.

Child Labor

The law prohibits the employment of children (defined as persons below the age of 18)  in hazardous sectors and the worst forms of child labor include mining, skin diving, construction, prostitution, and offshore fishing platforms. The law, however acknowledges that some children must work to supplement family incomes. Therefore, the 2003 Manpower Act makes an exception for children between 13 to 15 years of age who may work no more than 3 hours per day and only under a number of other conditions, such as parental consent, avoidance of work during school hours, and payment of legal wages. The law, however, does not extend these exceptions to children who are between 15 and 18 years of age.

Child labor is a serious problem and an estimated 6 to 8 million children exceed the 3-hour daily work limit, working in agriculture, street vending, mining, construction, prostitution, and other areas. More children work in the informal rather than the formal sector. Children also work in industries such as rattan and wood furniture, garment, footwear, food processing, toy making and in small-scale mining operations. As many as 700,000 children, especially girls aged between 14 and 16 work as live-in domestic servants. Most of these children are not allowed to study, are forced to work long hours, and receive low pay.

Children also work as bonded laborers in occupations such as prostitution, pornography, begging, and drug trafficking. It is estimated that there are around 39,000 to 72,000 child prostitutes and roughly 21,000 in Java alone.

Social and cultural resistance remains a challenge in addressing child labor. Many parents disagreed with government efforts to restrict children from working, arguing that the government offered inadequate economic support to guarantee these families' welfare.

Enforcement of child labor laws is largely ineffective. Despite legislative and regulatory measures, most children who work, including as domestics, do so in unregulated environments. [US Department of State]

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Child Trafficking

Though child trafficking is a widespread problem, there is no specific law that prohibits trafficking of persons though it is a criminal offense under the penal code and Child Protection Act. In 2000, a National Action Plan to counter trafficking of women and children was approved by Presidential decree. It identifies specific roles of government and civil society at the national and local levels, and includes goals for law making and law enforcement. The Child Protection Act prohibits economic and sexual exploitation of children, and child trafficking. The Act specifies severe criminal penalties and jail terms for persons who violate children’s rights, including trafficking of persons. The law, however, is not very clear on the legal definition of trafficking of persons. The Penal Code prohibits trade of women and male minors but is silent on female minors. It provides for sanctions of up to 6 years in prison. The more recent Child Protection Act protects all minors from trafficking and provides stiffer penalties though it is used less often because of lack of knowledge among law enforcement officials.

In 2003, 2.4 to 3.7 million women and children were estimated to be vulnerable to trafficking and were engaged in working as migrant workers, sex workers and child domestic workers. Within these categories, the number of children ranged from 254,000 to 422,000. During this period, Indonesian women were trafficked to Malaysia, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and other destinations. Prostitution (20 to 30% of sex workers are estimated to be underage) is considered widespread and the driving force behind trafficking in persons. [US Department of State]

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Girl Children

The legal difference between a girl and a woman is not very clear. While the Marriage Law sets the minimum marriageable age at 16 for a woman but the child protection law states that persons below 18 are children. Female Genital Mutilation or female circumcision is still practiced in some parts of the country. Young girls are often victims of trafficking, prostitution, early marriage and domestic servitude.  

The government established the Bureau for Women’s Empowerment and the National Commission on Violence against Women to work towards eliminating violence against women. The government in association with civil society organizations developed a national action plan based on a ‘zero-tolerance policy’ towards violence against women. The largest program for women and young children is strengthening and revitalization of community service centers called posyandus (described earlier under child care) which are spread out in both rural and urban areas. [US Department of State]

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* Research and Reported by Manita C. Rao


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