Indonesia: Family Law

INDONESIA AND CHILD ABDUCTION: Dual Citizenship Urged for Mixed Couples

By Hera Diani

The citizenship bill awaiting deliberation in the House (2005) has been heavily criticized for discriminating against mixed couples and their children, prompting activists to call on the government to grant mixed couples and their offspring dual citizenship or permanent residency here.

Activists say granting these couples dual citizenship or permanent residency would eliminate many of the problems and discriminatory regulations they face because of the uncertain status of their children.

The House of Representatives agreed in June to deliberate the citizenship bill, promising to include more flexible regulations for mixed couples.

The citizenship bill will revise Law No. 62/1958, which critics say denies mixed couples and their children the opportunity to live as a "complete family".

The law, for example, stipulates that children of mixed couples automatically assume their father's citizenship, and a divorced wife cannot take custody of her children because they have different citizenship.

Also, expatriate women married to Indonesian men must be sponsored by their husbands to live and work her. In many cases, an Indonesian husband can withdraw his sponsorship of his wife and force her to return to her country, leaving behind any children the couple have.

Critics say, however, that the citizenship bill does not improve on the old law.

Article 2 of the bill, for example, states that an Indonesian woman in a mixed marriage can claim Indonesian citizenship for her child only through a prenuptial agreement.

"What about children who have already been born and their parents do not have a prenuptial agreement?" Dewi Tjakrawinata, an executive of an alliance that groups some 4,000 mixed parents in Indonesia, said during a discussion at the office of the National Commission on Violence Against Women.

She pointed to Article 8 of the bill, which requires an expatriate living for 15 consecutive years in Indonesia, or 20 nonconsecutive years, to have a permanent job and a steady paycheck to apply for Indonesian citizenship. The existing law, meanwhile, only requires an expatriate to live in the country for five years before applying for citizenship.

Another article in the bill states that dual citizenship is only granted for children born in countries that adopt the ius soli principle, which grants nationality to people based on where they are born.

Ramli Hutabarat, an expert staff at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, however, said dual citizenship could generate more problems, particularly if the holder committed a crime.

"True, we can have a regulation on extradition. But in reality, it is not that easy. We have to consider the political, security, economic and legal aspects of applying dual citizenship.

"It is about one's identity. One can have a 'split personality' because of dual citizenship," he said at the forum.

Dewi dismissed these arguments. "Do not relate this to crime, but for the sake of human rights ... the right for families to stay together. Children born in this country are assets. They cannot chose their identity.

"If the government does not want to offer dual citizenship, then give us a solution so that mixed couples and their children can live in peace."

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