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Gender Equality Introduced in Citizenship Bill

Hopes are running high that the new citizenship bill will solve disputes over citizenship, particularly for women and children, as it recognizes the principles of gender equality.

The bill, together with the latest draft law on immigration, was assessed on Wednesday by government officials, experts and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in order to collect more input before its submission to the House of Representatives for further deliberation.

It allows a male foreigner who is married to an Indonesian woman to change his citizenship to Indonesian, while an Indonesian woman married to a foreigner has the right to retain her citizenship and to decide on the citizenships of her children, who are under the age of 18.

"These clauses have been made possible because we have adopted the principles of gender equality in the draft," Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra said after opening a workshop to review the two drafts that his ministry sponsors.

He said the old law passed in 1958 needed revision because it was obsolete and made under the 1950 Constitution, while the country upholds the 1945 Constitution.

Indonesia recognizes the principle of ius sanguinis, whereas the citizenship of a child is the same as his parents.

There are many legal disputes between divorced couples of Indonesian women and their foreign ex-husbands over the citizenship of their children.

The resolution is considered unfair as children were given their fathers' citizenships, although the children were in the custody of their mothers.

Another breakthrough in avoiding an unclear citizenship status in the draft was the introduction of dual citizenship for children of Indonesian parents born in a country, which recognizes every birth in the territory as their citizen.

"When the children reach a particular age, say 18, they have the right to decide which of the citizenships they will keep," Yusril added.

The draft also allows individuals to restore their Indonesian citizenship that was lost involuntarily for other reasons, such as a political situation, marriage or foreign adoption.

An Indonesian may lose their citizenship if they join a foreign military institution, voluntarily taking an official position in a foreign institution or joining a public election in another country, with the exception of Indonesians studying abroad in countries that impose a military draft on foreign students, such as Singapore.

Procedures to obtain Indonesian citizenship

The following procedure pertains to foreigners who possess a permanent stay permit and a work permit and those who intend to regain Indonesian citizenship:

1. Submit an application to the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights through the district court.

2. The application will be assessed by an interdepartmental team comprising officials from the ministry's Directorate of Public Institutions, Directorate of Immigration, the National Intelligence Body and the State Secretary.

3. The minister of justice and human rights will hand the result of the assessment over to the President, who will later issue a decree legalizing the new citizenship.

4. The new citizen will take an oath at the district court.

by Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The Jakarta Post
September 19, 2002