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Jumat, 22 Januari 2010

Social service agency pushes ahead with street kid tests

Jakarta ; Amid massive opposition from the public and child rights activists, the Jakarta Social Services Agency and the Jakarta Police scrapped Thursday a joint plan to physically screen street children for signs of sexual abuse

However, Agency head Budihardjo said his office would run the tests independently over the next 30 days, after the police withdrew from the program.

Budihardjo denied reports that the tests would include rectal examinations.

“Our officers and assisting social workers will only interview the street children to look into their personal backgrounds,” Budihardjo said Thursday.

“If any of the kids admits to being sexually abused or sodomized, or if our officers find indications that they have, then we’ll then ask the police to follow up.”

He added the screening program would focus on children registered at any of the dozens of city-funded shelters.

On Wednesday, Budihardjo had announced that at least 500 officials from his agency, the police and the public order agency would be deployed to round up street children for a “physical examination”.

However, the plan drew strong criticism from child rights activists, who slammed the exercise as “a violation of the children’s rights”.

On Thursday morning, Jakarta Police chief detective Sr. Comr. Idham Aziz made the surprise announcement that the police would not be part of the plan, citing “miscommunication and misunderstanding”.

Of the five assessment teams deployed to hold the tests, only the team in North Jakarta chose to go ahead with it.

At least four street children had recently admitted to being sodomized, said North Jakarta chief detective Comr. Adex Yudiswan.

There are an estimated 230,000 street children across the country, 4,000 of them in Jakarta, the Social Services Ministry says.

The National Commission for child protection puts the number of Jakarta street children as 8,000.

The children are easy prey for economic or sexual exploitation by adults, in part due to the city’s limited shelters for orphans and street children, the commission says.

The latest case that grabbed headlines was the alleged rape, murder and mutilation of an 8-year-old boy by Baekuni, a patron of street children in Pulogadung, East Jakarta.

Baekuni, 48, was arrested earlier this month and has since confessed to the murder. During questioning by police, he claimed to have killed at least 10 children since 1995.

On Thursday, police in Magelang, Central Java, unearthed the remains of Ardi, an 11-year-old boy believed to have been sodomized and mutilated in 2004, in a rice paddy.

The other case that has drawn public outrage is that of 24-year-old Abang Kaca Mata, who allegedly raped at least 15 street children in North Jakarta since 2004.

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