Tuesday, 28 October 2014

A legal identity for all

Astrid Gonzaga Dionisio, Child Protection Specialist

Mamuju, Indonesia, October 2014 - It was a sunny day in Mamuju. From the window of my hotel room, I could see the island of Karampuang in South Sulawesi, our destination for the day. For the residents of Karampuang Island this was to be a big day: 84 couples, young and old alike, and more than 200 children were supposed to get their marriage and their birth officially registered.

Karampuang has a total population of about 3,300 people - children under 18 constitute more than 50 per cent. Many of them have no birth certificate because their parents are not legally married[1]. Most of the marriages on this island are only performed religiously and then go unregistered.Our journey to Karampuang started at 8 am from the port of Mamuju. Boarding a motor boat, it took us more than 20 minutes to reach the shore of Karampuang. With us on board were the Assistant to the Mayor of Mamuju, the Head of the Religious Court and eight other judges, the Head of the Education Office, the team from the Office of Religious Affairs, and from the Civil Registration Office.

From the shore, we could see the excitement of the crowd braving the hot sun. Most of the couples had put on their best clothes. I was struck by a grandma, more than 70 years old, who was holding a document to have their marriage registered. “Having my marriage legalized means that both my children and my grandchildren will be able to secure their legal identity,” she proudly explained.