Seto Mulyadi, a psychologist focusing on children development, has consistently stood up for children rights, and now his long-term struggle to end child abuse in Indonesia has drawn public attention.
Nominated by UNICEF, Mulyadi was elected to lead the National Commission on Child Protection (Komnas Anak) in October 1998.
He was re-elected in 2001, and has been the head of the commission ever since.
When interviewed by The Point, Mulyadi, or Kak Seto as colleagues affectionately call him, expressed his concern regarding exploitation of children. The followings are excerpts of our long talk with him.
Q: How do you view street children beggars? Is this part of child exploitation?
A: This constitutes not only child exploitation, but also betrays the existence of a high rate of violation of children human rights in this nation. Parents exploit their children due to poverty. Rather than begging themselves, the parents put their children in the front line to generate a feeling of pity in passers-by. Unfortunately, many people show their sympathy for these children by giving them money as charity. Children deserve to play and get an education, not to be exploited for the sake of more income for their parents. We see how a skinny kid stands on the street without sandals or a baby is carried through the rain to earn the sympathy of passers-by. This is a desecration of children rights!
Q: What is the reason for such exploitation?
A: The situation has to do with the economy. Poverty is always blamed for the occurrence of child exploitation. Low education and skills have become an obstacle for parents striving to make a living, leading to a vicious circle where exploitation of a child often becomes the last resort to sustain the family’s income. Not to mention the fact that some parents leave their children to a syndicate without giving it a second thought; this has given the green light to child trafficking as well. The government needs to take action concerning such practices.
Q: What should the government do to overcome the problem?
A: Even though this is not as easy as flipping a coin, I would say that the government needs to find a way out of this problem. First of all, there should be law enforcement to prohibit children roaming around the street. Also, enforcement should firmly emphasize that bringing children onto the street is considered an act of exploitation. Secondly, we need to wipe out the paradigm of the parents’ sense of owning their children, that the parents can do anything with their children including using them or even selling them as a means of making money. Whatever the reason, parents cannot exploit their children and make them victims. However, the argument arises that during economic crises in the family, exploiting children is a permissible last resort. The government therefore needs to take significant steps to help paupers extricate themselves from their financial difficulties. Often poverty results from the high level of corruption in our country. Corruption eradication is one way of minimizing social economic disparity.
Q:Do you think poverty is the only cause of child exploitation?
A:Regarding children street beggars, it is undoubtedly caused by parents’ poor economic situation. As a result, the children have missed the education they deserve. However, many affluent parents have exploited their children as well.
Q: How do these wealthy people exploit their children?
A:Many parents place high expectations on their children by forcing them to take extra lessons outside school and leave almost no free time for them to play. Generally, children are already fed up with the school activities. These children have been victimized by their parents’ ambition. Childhood only comes once, and they deserve to enjoy their childhood, not least because playing and socializing with others are essential for their psychological development. Extra lessons should not be a problem as long as the children can enjoy their childhood. However, the reality in snobby communities has forced these kids to follow their parents’ dream, not the kids’ dream.
Born in Klaten on August 28, 1951, Seto Mulyadi is a psychologist in child development. He earned his bachelor, master and doctoral degrees from the University of Indonesia in 1981, 1989 and 1993, respectively. He has been the head of the National Commission on Child Protection (Komnas Anak) since 1998.
By Aulia Rachmat, published in The Point Daily, October 20, 2006.