COVID-19 Op-ed

Strengthening the Law on Protection of the Marginalized amid COVID-19

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Nukila Evanty
visiting lecture at  Faculty of Law Mahendradatta University and Faculty of Law University of Diponegoro; Country Director of RIGHTS Foundation
Email: nukilaevanty@gmail.com

Indonesia is one of the countries that have laws that stipulate that disease outbreaks, including the COVID-19 virus, are categorized as non-natural disasters (Law No. 24 of 2007) and are strengthened by specific laws on Health Quarantine (Law No.6 of 2018) and the Infectious Disease Outbreak Law (Law No. 4 of 1984). The infectious disease epidemic law regulates compensation to control infectious disease outbreaks (Article 8). Then, Government Regulation No. 40 of 1991 regarding outbreaks of infectious diseases ensures that every person has the right to health (Articles 4 and 5). Likewise, the Disaster Management Law (Law No. 24 of 2007) provides guaranteed protection at every stage of disasters; pre-condition disaster, emergency response, and post-disaster follow-up. Based on these Laws on Disaster Management, the government can declare the COVID-19 pandemic as a particular circumstance disaster or an emergency disaster. Therefore, all government levels at the national, regional, and district levels have set policies and task forces relevant to overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, all of these laws fail to explicitly stipulate access to and active participation of marginalized groups and set any set of mechanisms for taking complaints during the handling of COVID-19 by the government or relevant institutions. A report from the World Bank entitled Indonesia Economic Prospects predicts that the Corona Pandemic (COVID-19) can increase Indonesia’s poverty rate from 8.2 percent to 9 percent (16/7/2020). Furthermore, a Social Demographic Survey of the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) in June 2020 shows that the incomes of the poor, those vulnerable to poverty, and informal workers have decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government has seemed to try to set every effort to target the handling of this pandemic directly. Nevertheless, the government’s responses and mitigation to those who have lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic remain limited. Furthermore, social protection has not been fully regulated during the pandemic; thus, the government will not fully compensate for the losses and protect the rights of the marginalized people.

In this regard, the recommendations are to strengthen the substance of laws as follows: to make a precise protection mechanism, understandable compensation mechanism for marginalized groups, directives on strengthening data of the most affected at least based on sex, age, and disability as data of program and advocacy. Accordingly, the laws relating to the response to the outbreak  COVID-19 must attach human rights perspectives and vulnerability aspects. In conclusion, civil society and academia are supposed to be more active in providing concrete input on laws relating to handling non-natural disasters and disease outbreaks. For example, these laws must provide inputs through policy papers or academic papers to law-makers in their respective countries to integrate marginalized groups’ experiences in the substance of the law and to remind the government’s obligation that has ratified the international human rights covenants.

References:

-Law No.24/2007 concerning Disaster Management

-Law No.6/2018 concerning Health Quarantine

-Law No.4/1984 concerning Communicable Disease Outbreaks

-Government Regulation No.40/1991 concerning Outbreaks of Infectious Diseases

-The World Bank, Indonesia Economic Prospects, July 2020: The long road to recovery, available at https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/indonesia/publication/july-2020-indonesia-economic-prospect,16 July 2020

-BPS, Social Demographic Survey Result of Covid-19 Impact 2020, available at https://www.bps.go.id/publication/2020/06/01/669cb2e8646787e52dd171c4/hasil-survei-social-demografi-dampak-covid-19-2020 .html, 5 June 2020


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