Indonesia's Child Protection Commission has warned political parties and parents not to use children during election campaigns after discovering many were taking part in promotional events for candidates standing in local polls to be held in June. Campaigning for the polls to elect 17 governors, 39 mayors and 115 district heads officially started on Feb. 15. "Since Feb. 15, the commission has found 22 violations where children, including babies have been used for campaign purposes," said Jasra Putra, a commission member. "These include using children to perform campaign songs," he said. "The commission also found that several candidates have campaigned in schools in violation of the law," Putra told ucanews.com after a press briefing to report its findings on April 6. Under the 2014 Child Protection Law, candidates, parents or political party members that abuse children for political purposes can be sentenced to five years in prison and/or fined at least US$7,500. Zainuddin Amali, from Indonesia's Golkar Party and chairman of a parliamentary committee on children and women
, called on the commission to have the courage to name and shame parties and candidates using children in campaigns. "Political parties should be on the front line to protect children, not abuse them for political gain," Amali said. Child activists say candidates who use children do not seem to realize or disregard that they are exposing children to possible harm especially if sectarian issues boil over or dominate a campaign. Reverend Jeirry Sumampow, coordinator of the Indonesian Electoral Committee, an election-monitoring group, said involving children in campaigns shows how little candidates care about child protection issues. "Child protection issue is ignored in Indonesian elections," told ucanews.com. "Children are even marginalized politically and exploited for political interest," said Sumampow, who is also spokesman of Communion of Churches in Indonesia, he said.