It has always been a bone of contention as regards foreign nationals married to or intending to marry Indonesian women.
Candika is a Chinese-Indonesian and when we first got married I had buckley's chance of staying in the country permanently.
So for year after year it has been a case of constant renewal of visas, leaving the country and returning again. Basically it is a pain in the arse!. Since the passing of the recent citizenship bill foreign spouses can apply for permanent residency status even if they do not intend to apply for Indonesian citizenship according to the Editorial in the Jakarta Post.
Marrying More Foreigners
Any Indonesian woman with a non-national boyfriend should now have no legal reason not to continue their relationship into marriage. With the passage of the citizenship bill into law on Tuesday discrimination against the wives of foreign nationals should end and women here will have the same rights as those of Indonesian men with foreign wives.
Under the new law Indonesian women of foreign husbands can pass on their citizenship to their children, at least until these offspring reach 18 years old, the time when they have to decide what citizenship they will adopt. Previously children were automatically given their father's nationality.
Not only that the law also gives foreign spouses permanent residency status if they do not intend to apply for Indonesian citizenship after five consecutive years or 10 accumulated years of stay in Indonesia.
With these provisions Indonesian wives will not need to bother getting visas for their children and their non-native spouses living in Indonesia and have to renew them every time the visas end - all requirements that were mandatory under the nationalistic and discriminative citizenship law of 1958.
These are the good qualities of the new law which adopts the principle of equality before the law between men and women. The law is even more revolutionary in ending the discrimination against Chinese-Indonesians by eliminating the distinction between "indigenous" and "non-indigenous" Indonesians. It revises the definition of "indigenous" Indonesians to include all citizens who never have taken foreign citizenship.
Despite these superior qualities we also share the concerns of some groups fighting for an end to discrimination in the country. The law for example does not address the problem of stateless Chinese descents who became stateless because of a wave of anti-Chinese policies in the past. Despite this drawback the law nevertheless recognizes the children of these stateless Chinese who were born on Indonesian soil as Indonesian citizens.
Another concern regards Article 23 of the law which states that Indonesians living for five consecutive years in another country can lose their citizenship if they fail to declare their intentions to remain Indonesian. We are of the opinion that it is not right to withdraw someone's citizenship for administrative reasons.
These are just small concerns though. Overall we consider this law is a revolutionary one.
We hope that with the passage of this law more Indonesians male and female will marry foreigners. Intermarriage will only be good for the country promoting pluralism and tolerance among people. Not only that this intermarriage will eventually bring about economic prosperity.
When people of different countries know each other better - and intermarriage is the best way to know people of another country - trade among them usually increases and when trade is increasing people start investing in the other countries they are trading with. Trade and investment are keys to a nation's prosperity.
With the passage of this law the discriminative policies against Chinese-Indonesians should end. Discriminatory instruments used against in the past which include the SBKRI or citizenship document should no longer be required by government institutions.
More importantly we hope Chinese-Indonesians will be more confident and therefore take part more actively in sectors outside private enterprise, an area they have been confined to for so long. We hope to see more qualified
Chinese-Indonesians competing for public office or even competing for the top post in the country, the presidency.
Lastly it is important to congratulate the House of Representatives for passing this bill into law and most of all for initiating the drafting of this ground-breaking legislation in the first place. We hope that the House will continue to take charge of revising or replacing all outdated laws that are nationalistic and discriminative in nature.
The next logical step to follow the passage of this bill would be an amendment or a revision of the existing marriage law which also discriminates against women. Also due for a rewrite is the nationalistic immigration law which has scared away foreigners from living, staying or in some cases, even visiting Indonesia. We are now waiting for the legislators' next contribution to make Indonesia a better place to live - for men and women, and locals and foreigners alike.