Reflections on CRC Article 19

Every child has the right to be properly cared for, and protected from violence, abuse and neglect.

Laksmi Pamuntjak
A drawing by artist Rizka Raisa Fatimah Ramli depicting child marriage.
29 October 2019

This is a story a young friend told me. She was 14 when she was married off. Nobody asked her if she wanted to. Everything happened too fast. There was a big party, and a lot of people came. It was the first time she met her husband, who was a lot older than her. It was also the first time she had to take off her clothes in front of a man and let him do things to her body. He told her he thought she was 16 because that was what her parents told him. He also told her to stop crying.

A week later her parents pulled her out of school. She begged them not to because she liked her school and her friends. Her parents told her she had to focus on her husband and on building a new family. It was for your own good, they said. You can always make new friends and go back to school one day. But nothing would protect you like a marriage.

My young friend knew nothing about getting pregnant. When she missed her period, she didn’t know she was pregnant. She started having headaches and a blurry vision. Then she developed severe abdominal pain. Her husband started coming home late. Whenever she asked him where he was, he would get angry. Sometimes he would hit her.

In the second half of her pregnancy, my friend had pre-eclampsia. Her daughter was born three weeks early—weak and underweight. Soon her husband disappeared again, to live with his second wife.

A few months later my friend’s father died. Her mother was so brokenhearted she fell ill. My friend had to look after her, on top of looking after her infant daughter. She was not yet 16; she had no employable skills that would land her a job with adequate pay. One day a kind widower took pity on her and asked her to marry him.

For a while, things got better. My friend’s second husband had money. She even reapplied for school, though she was rejected. The school told her she was “a negative role model” because she was married. Soon afterward, her second husband lost his fortune due to an investment gone wrong. He had stayed at home but refused to work. My friend ended up working two menial jobs to make ends meet. Her health declined.

Last year she was diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t live to hear about the recent ban on marriage for young girls. She was 22.

Though these reflections were inspired by the accompanying photographs, the texts do not describe the life or story of any person depicted within them.


Convention on the rights of the child

In 1989, governments across the world promised all children the same rights by adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The Convention says what countries must do so that all children grow as healthy as possible, can learn at school, are protected, have their views listened to, and are treated fairly.

As part of Indonesia’s celebrations in November 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the CRC, UNICEF asked Indonesian author Laksmi Pamuntjak to help us envision some of these CRC articles. Inspired by photos and images from our database, and working with our programme specialists, Laksmi created 15 fictional texts on some of the most relevant articles for the Indonesian context.

Though these reflections were inspired by the accompanying photographs, the texts do not describe the life or story of any person depicted within them.