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Indonesian District Wants to Ban Parents From Giving Their Babies 'Foreign Names'

There's a lot of Emmas being born in Indonesia right now.

by Mustika Hapsoro
10 January 2019, 7:52am

Photo by Adam Cohn/ Flickr CC License 

This article originally appeared on VICE ASIA.

These days, there are more Dylans being born in Java than Darmontos. More Charlottes than Cahyanings. The trend among millennial parents in Indonesia right now is to give their kids Western names, which seem "exotic" here, over something more traditional.

But those days might be over in Karanganyar, Central Java, where local leaders are mulling a total ban on non-Javanese names (at least for Javanese parents) in a bid to preserve local culture.

"The use of Javanese names has been eroded by foreign names," Sumanto, the head of the local legislative council who, himself, has a Javanese name he shares with a notable cannibal, told the local media. "With this regulation, we can understand that, from our ancestors, we have our own unique culture."

But not everyone is on board with the ban. Ahmad Riza Patria, a lawmaker and deputy chair of the House commission on regional affairs and regional autonomy, called the move a violation of people's rights as a parent. Basically, parents should be free to name their kids whatever the hell they want.

"If [the child] is of Chinese descent, then it’s normal for them to have a Chinese name," Ahmad said. "If they’re of Arab descent, then it would make sense to have Arabic names. If they are of foreign descent, it should be completely normal."

The proposed ban is in the early stages of discussion in Karanganyar and, judging by the response so far, it seems unlikely it ever will. Indonesian politicians routinely float ideas in the press to gauge public response and see if an idea will win them any political points.

But it's also not totally unheard of for a place to ban foreign names. The Egyptian government has proposed as similar ban on foreign names, also to preserve local heritage. That draft law proposed a fine of between $55 USD and $270 USD, or up to six months in jail, for violating the ban.

“Using such Western names and abandoning Arabic ones will lead to an undesired and radical change in our society and culture,” Abdel Aziz, an Egyptian member of parliament who has been pushing the ban for over a year, told local media.

It's also not unheard of for the authorities to get involved if parents want to name their baby something that may eventually hurt their child as they grow. In France, a couple was forbidden to name their child "Prince William," and potentially set the kid up for a lifetime of bullying. In the United States, child protective services intervened and pulled a kid out of his home after his parents named him "Adolf Hitler Campbell."

Only if someone thought to do the same thing here and maybe have a chat with Master Hitler's parents before they signed that birth certificate.