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Indonesia’s New Law on Citizenship hailed as “Revolutionary”

Monday July 24, 2006

On Tuesday 11 July, Parliament passed the new Bill on Citizenship, thus enacting it into law. And, most rarely, this time it was amidst applause from the gallery. Especially Women’s groups representing Mixed Marriages and ethnic Chinese hailed the new Law as “revolutionary”, since this Law now no longer discriminates ’s citizens based on ethnicity, race, religion, nor gender.  



Kompas daily of 12 July explained that according to Article 2 of the new Law, this stipulates that Indonesians are those who are indigenous Indonesians and other nationals who, through legislation have become Indonesian citizens. While, explanations to this article mention that “Meant by indigenous Indonesians are Indonesians who are Indonesian nationals at birth and have never by their own will received another nation’s citizenship.




With this clause, children of Chinese, Arab or Indian or other descent, are now automatically considered as indigenous Indonesians.



Hamid Awaluddin, Minister for Law and Human Rights, on behalf of the President underlined that this definition erased discrimination against certain ethnic groups in , so that all ethnic groups and communities according to the Law, possess the same rights.



Similarly, gender equality has been taken into account, which was done through fundamental changes in the Law, that beforehand gave priority to male supremacy.



Article 26 mentions that, an Indonesian woman, married to a foreign husband, will not automatically follow the citizenship of her husband, except when, according to the law of the husband’s country, the wife must follow the citizenship of the husband. But even in such a case, the wife may still submit a Letter declaring that she wishes to remain Indonesian citizen within three years. This declaration is to be sponsored by her husband.



Children of mixed marriages are also protected in this Law. Children born from an Indonesian mother and a foreign husband, remain Indonesian citizens and may have dual nationality until they reach the age of 18. 



Different from the earlier Law, the new Law also stipulates that the process of obtaining citizenship must be transparent, also providing six months for its process. The government is also given six months to issue new rules and regulations to be adjusted to the new Law.



For, Article 36 mentions that any government official who contravenes or delays the process for obtaining citizenship will be punished not only with administrative sanctions but also with criminal sanctions.



Furthermore, the Law also underlines that, any other legislation that go against the new Law, including Law No. 62 of 1958 on Citizenship, are hereby rescinded. 



To recap, comparing Law No. 62 of 1958 and the new 2006 Law on Citizenship, Kompas states, differences are as follows:



-  While the old Law was based on the Provisional Constitution of 1958, the 2006 Law is    based on the Amended 1945 Constitution.



-   Whereas the 1958 Law was based on the Principles of Ius Sanguinis, the 2006 Law is based on the mixed Principles of Ius Soli and Ius Sanguinis.



-  While the 1958 recognizes single nationality only, the 2006 Law recognizes dual nationality of children from mixed marriages to the age of 18 years.



-  Whereas the old Law states that an Indonesian woman, married to a foreign husband, automatically accepts the nationality of the foreign husband, the new Law stipulates that an Indonesian woman does not automatically need to accept the nationality of her husband.



-  Whilst the old Law stipulates that a child born from an Indonesian mother and a foreign father automatically becomes a foreigner, the new Law states that a child born from an Indonesian mother and a foreign father is Indonesian national until the age of 18.


Further, ’s Trade and Investment News issued by the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs further explains that under the old law, citizenship could only be handed down via a child's father, meaning children born to an Indonesian woman and a foreign man could not become Indonesian citizens.  Such children could only live in on temporary permits that were expensive and time-consuming to obtain.


A group of Indonesian women married to foreign husbands had lobbied for the 1958 law to be replaced and were in parliament when the new bill was passed. On reaching 18, children from mixed marriages must choose their citizenship, the law states.


The new law also stipulates that foreigners who have been living in the country for five years will be able to apply for Indonesian citizenship, but they must give up their original citizenship and be able to speak Indonesian, among other conditions.


The law also removes remaining elements of discrimination against Indonesians of Chinese descent, describing them as ‘indigenous’ Indonesians.