The constitutional court`s approval to delete the discriminatory clauses from the population administration law should be lauded. Now people who embrace variants of religious faiths are entitled to have their faiths acknowledged on their ID cards like any other followers of faiths recognized by the state.
Therefore, the home affairs ministry should promptly prepare a new regulation to put the ruling issued early this November in effect. Currently, people of variants of faiths are not allowed to have their beliefs stated on the official family card or ID card. The information is only recorded in the master file. Some opt to leave the religion column empty while others are compelled to fill in one of the six major religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism or Confucianism as their religion.
The constitutional court has granted the revisions in the population act proposed by a group of people of certain faiths, among others, people who follow Marapu in East Nusa Tenggara, Parmalim and Ugamo Bangso Batak in North Sumatra and Sapto Darmo in Central Java. The constitutional court has revised clause 1 of article 61 and clause 1 of article 64 of the population act. With the revision, their faiths will now be stated in both the family card and the ID card and the rule that the information should only be recorded in the master file will be revoked.
The ruling will help restore these people’s constitutional rights, robbed by Presidential Regulation No. 1/1965 which recognizes only six religions. The policy-an outright violation of the freedom of faith and human rights-is enforced until now, including in the issuance of ID cards.
Besides the injustice it inflicts, the discriminatory regulation also has repercussions on the people. Some are ostracized and called ‘kafir’ (infidel). Some face problems in getting birth certificates, with others facing obstacles in getting jobs or even access to banking services, only because the ‘religion’ column of their ID cards is left blank. Meanwhile, little children are mistreated at school for being perceived as ‘heretics’. The social censure would continue till their death when they are denied burial places.
However, this discrimination will still remain latent if the government and the House of Representatives do not repeal Presidential Regulation No. 1/1965. The regulation passed as the law at the beginning of the New Order era only protects the six religions from blasphemy.
The constitutional court’s ruling is the first step forward to give full protection to people of certain faiths as well as the faiths they embrace. The government should not discount it by just ceremonially labeling their faiths as ‘different faiths’ without stating the names of their faiths. The home affairs ministry should collaborate with the religious affairs ministry to this effect.
People of certain faiths should not be pushed to the sidelines amid the chaotic electronic ID card issuance. Due to massive corruption, the trillion-rupiah project has run into a myriad of problems, from the poor quality of the card to the lack of blank cards, leaving millions without ID cards.
The bad outcome of the ID card project will worsen if the government fails to execute the constitutional court’s ruling and give due rights to the people of certain faiths. The government must ensure they get easy access to administrative services, from birth certificates to ID cards.