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Agency head slams Indonesia population management

Jakarta Post - July 17, 2013

Slamet Susanto and Bambang Muryanto, Bantul/Yogyakarta – Indonesia requires better population management so its huge population can be turned into quality human resource potential, according to National Family Planning and Population Agency head Fasli Jalal.

Speaking at the commemoration ceremony of the 20th Family Day in Bantul, Yogyakarta, on Tuesday, Fasli said in order to turn people into smart, healthy and qualified individuals, health services and education facilities in the country needed to be improved. "We still lack [such improvements]," Fasli told the ceremony.

A lack of adequate population management, according to Fasli, has caused a drop in Indonesia's human development index (HDI), which ranks the country 121st out of the world's 187 nations. "Our best position was 108th in 1990, then we slipped into 112th and now we're 121st," he said.

Indonesia's population according to the 2010 census is 237.6 million with an annual growth rate of 1.49 percent, or 4.5 million.

Fasli also called on all the elements of the community, especially families, to help improve the country's human resources and deal with population-related problems.

In the 40 years ahead, he said, Indonesia's population was predicted to double. By 2025, the elderly would number 80 million and would all require proper health services.

Speaking at the same event, Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono X highlighted the important role of female teenagers. "A lack of attention to female teenagers has accounted for promiscuity, out-of-wedlock pregnancies and illegal abortions," Sultan said.

Researcher Iwu Utomo of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute, Australian National University (ANU), recently urged the Indonesian government to amend the law on marriage, which allows girls to get married at the age of 16.

"The impact is very negative. They're more vulnerable when delivering babies than those above 20," Iwu said in Yogyakarta recently.

Data from the 2010 United Nations' World Population Prospects website shows that 1.7 million females delivered babies under the age of 24 annually in Indonesia. Of this figure, half were teenagers.

The data said Indonesia also had the second highest number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions in Asia – 37 cases in every 1,000 women of productive age.

Considering the dangers to human health, Iwu said, the government had to prevent early pregnancies from occurring, with one way of doing so by increasing the age limit for girls to get married.

United Nations' Population Fund (UNFPA) Indonesia national project officer of reproductive health Melania Hidayat, said the price of pregnancy at an early age was very high, with women unable to work, high pregnancy risks and women tending to become victims of domestic violence.

The world is currently home to some 600 million teenagers, 500 million of which live in developing countries like Indonesia. She also said that teenage pregnancies were also a manifestation of poverty, unequal gender relations and low education levels.

"Investment in women is needed, namely education. UNFPA is ready to support it [the Marriage Law amendment], as allowing 16-year-old girls to marry is not in line with global commitments," she said.