Telly Nathalia, Jakarta – At least 25 percent and up to 49 percent of Indonesian children under the age of five are never issued a birth certificate, putting them in danger of being exploited – even losing their citizenship, according to a study by the United Nations Children Fund, or Unicef, released last week.
Being in possession of one's birth certificate is important because the document is used to determine one's nationality and guarantees and protects one's basic human rights.
"Proof of age is needed to help prevent child labor, child marriage and underage recruitment into the armed forces," Unicef said in the report titled "Birth Registration for Every Child by 2030: Are We on Track?" published last Monday.
As part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Unicef said it would try to meet the promise of universal birth registration and legal identity for every child by 2030.
An estimated 237 million toddlers worldwide do not have birth certificates, 77 million of them in South Asia, 66 million in Eastern and Southern Africa, 50 million in West and Central Africa and 33 million in East Asia and the Pacific – including Indonesia.
"Countries that are on track toward the 2030 target, such as Cambodia and Indonesia, must sustain their rate of progress," Unicef said.
Lack of education is cited as the main reason why some mothers never register their children at birth.
"Globally, around 80 percent of children under the age of five whose mothers have at least a secondary education have their births registered, compared to just 60 percent of children whose mothers have no education," Unicef said.
For marginalized groups, getting a birth registered is often not an easy process.
"In some countries, children from marginalized groups may face higher barriers to registration. Children of parents who migrate or are refugees can be particularly vulnerable to statelessness since without birth registration, they cannot prove their nationality or legal identity," Unicef said.
Refugee parents are often unable to register children born in "transit countries" like Indonesia since while they wait for a possible resettlement, they are essentially stateless.