Indonesia’s Missing Millions: Erasing Discrimination in Birth Certification in Indonesia

Cate Sumner
June 16, 2015


Indonesia’s rate of birth registration is imprecisely measured but is low, especially among the poorer, rural, population. At the same time, the country has developed a system of population registration with wide, if not universal, coverage. In addition, under current regulations that link legal recognition of paternity to the existence of a legal marriage, many children can only receive a birth certificate with the name of the mother. Such a credential is widely seen as less than desirable, creating a situation where children are discriminated against on the basis of the marital status of their parents. The paper draws on the results of large-scale surveys that illustrate the difficulties that the “dual-track” registration system can create, especially for poor people.

Even before the proposal for the Sustainable Development Goals to include universal legal identity and birth registration as global target 16.9, Indonesia had promulgated its own ambitious goals for birth registration. The paper builds on the recent landmark anti-discrimination decisions of the Constitutional Court, on initiatives to bring integrated and mobile legal services to villages, and on important measures taken to boost the rate of birth certification in Surakarta. It sets out and compares two approaches to increasing birth registration rates and the policies necessary to ensure that this can be done in a non-discriminatory way. The first involves the provision of integrated and mobile legal services, the second measures to strengthen birth registration through greater involvement of the health system. It finds that these are complementary, and that the second needs to be accompanied by further measures to implement the ruling of the Court requiring the admission of a wider range of evidence of paternity.

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