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.

The distance to the mainland of Mamuju is the primary reason for the residents to not having their marriage legalized and not having their children’s birth registered. It would cost residents about Rupiah 20,000 (around US$1.50) to go to Mamuju – too much for most of them.

Head of Religious Affairs Office, Head of Population Administration Office, Ms Felicity Wever from UNICEF Australia handing over to the newly legalized couple their marriage book and birth certificate of their children. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Astrid Dionisio

But that day, the community could directly register their marriage and their children’s birth, too. Four desks were set up at the community post: 1) for the Religious Court in officiating of marriage; 2) for Office of Religious Affairs for the issuance of marriage certificate; 3) for Agency for Integrated Permit (Badan Pelayanan Perizinan Terpadu-BPPT[2]) for verification of document for birth registration; and 4) Office of Civil Registration for issuance of birth certificates. The preparation of these desks went on fast and finally the ceremony started.

Nine judges including the Head of the Religious Court simultaneously officiated the process. For each couple, it took about 15 to 20 minutes depending on the readiness of the witnesses, as the same person could be a witness to three or more couples. In this case, some couples have to wait for their witnesses. And once the marriage is officiated and legalized, the couple have their document registered by the Office of Religious Affairs, where the couple received their marriage certificate and finally to the BPPT and Civil Registration desks to receive their children's birth certificate.

Nine judges simultaneously officiating the marriage at Karampuang Community Post.© UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Astrid Dionisio

Ibu Rosita and Bapak Rashid were among those who had come to register their marriage as well as the birth of their son, who is already four years old. They had married more than five years ago, but it was a religious ceremony with no formal registration. As a result their two children aged four and one had no birth certificates.

After the registration was over, Ibu Rosita shyly said: “Now I can claim myself as my husband’s legal wife, and my children have their legal identity.” Pak Rashid added: “Our children will now be able to go to school and we hope they will have a better future.”

Ibu Rosita and Bapak Rasyid with their 4-year old son, one of the couples whose marriage was legalised. © UNICEF Indonesia/2014/Astrid Dionisio

Thanks to the funding from the Australian National Committee, UNICEF will now be able to collaborate with the Office of Civil Registration, the Religious Court, the Office of Religious Affairs, and other key service providers for health and education as well as local NGOs like Yayasan Karampuang to expand this model of integrated services further to ensure that all children in the district of Mamuju, West Sulawesi and in five other provinces across Indonesia, have their birth registered.

[1] Article 50 section 2 of the Law No. 24/2013 on the Amendment of the Law No 23/2006 on Population Administration stipulates a child is legitimate when parental marriage is lawful religiously and legally.
[2] Prior to the amendment of Law No 23/2006 on Population Administration in December 2013, a fee is charged for the obtaining birth certificate.