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Committee on the Rights of the Child
   
   
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Committee on the Rights of the Child

29th session (Geneva, 14 January to 1 February 2002)

 

Reports by States

Andorra (initial report)

While the Committee noted that the initial report of Andorra was detailed and informative, with useful indicators for children at risk, several concerns about the report and the situation in Andorra were voiced.

 

The Committee discussed the issue of national ombudsman and the need for strengthened monitoring mechanisms of children’s rights. Children of seasonal workers and other vulnerable groups (such as unemployed parents) were a particular matter of concern for the Committee, since they appear to be discriminated against in access to services. The Committee emphasised that the rights to non-discrimination covers all children, irrespective of the status of their parents.

 

The Committee found that child day care was a problematic issue, given the high percentage of women in the labour force and the high number of parents working during the weekend. An additional problem was the exclusion of mental health problems in the general health insurance. The Committee worried that parents might have to cover the costs of treatment privately.

 

Recommendations of the Committee included establishing a comprehensive national data collection system. Given that corporal punishment is not explicitly prohibited for parents, the Committee suggested the further study of this problem. In light of the lack of references to children’s rights in the documents for institutionalised care of children, the Committee also recommended reviewing documents and changing perspective from a welfare-based to a rights-based. The rights-based perspective needs to be internalised in all efforts concerning the situation of children. It was recognised that child participation and the respect for the views of the child has to be further incorporated in social values and attitudes.

 

Bahrain (initial report)

 

The Committee welcomed the initial report of Bahrain, it was however unclear if the Committee would allow for the request from the delegation to view it as both an initial and a periodic report.

 

The Committee praised the country for its recent democratisation process, and the country’s withdrawal of the reservation to the Convention against Torture. Nevertheless, the Committee questioned the poor record of ratification of international human rights instruments, as only three of the six major treaties have been ratified by Bahrain. 

 

The Committee further positively remarked on the high level of both the quality of education and enrolment in schooling, as well as in health in the country. Bahrain was commended for setting up a National Committee on Childhood, however it was also pointed out that the administrative body needs strengthening to be able to receive complaints from the public and to initiate measures of remedy.

 

One area of concern of the Committee was the possible conflict between Sharia law and the Convention, especially since different interpretations of the Sharia are prevalent throughout the country. The Committee was also concerned by the lack of a general minimum age for marriage and that almost 30% of all girls under the age of 19 are married.

Other issues of concern included: the apparent gender discrimination in vocational training as different courses are being offered to boys and girls; the grouping of children who are involved in activities such as begging, prostitution, and dropping out of school together with children who have committed serious crimes; and the situation of the children of the many migrant workers in Bahrain, particularly concerning education and health care.

 

Recommendations put forth by the Committee included legislation for compulsory education, despite the achieved good result in school enrolment, and translation of the full text of the Convention, since some provisions have been left out of the previous translated versions.

 

Chile (2nd periodic report)

 

The Committee considered the second periodic report of Chile, which was commended as being very detailed. The Committee was impressed by the biennial surveys made on violence against children. Chile has incorporated a cross-sectoral Government policy of children’s rights as well as good political and economic strategies for children. However the Committee noted that a legislative policy is lacking and the overall strategy for children is unclear. Furthermore. follow-up of the recommendations of the Committee resulting from its consideration of the first report has been unsatisfactory.

One of the major concerns of the Committee was the lack of a clear definition of the child. Furthermore there was confusion over minimum ages for criminal responsibility, low and gender-discriminating minimum ages for marriage and the lack of a minimum age for sexual consent. 

 

With regards to the juvenile justice system, the Committee expressed concern that the same institution is in charge of caring for abused children, children in conflict with the law, as well as being responsible for budget allocations for privately run centres and receiving complaints of abuse. A plan to divide these responsibilities between different bodies was considered a positive measure to ensure protection of children.

 

The Committee welcomed the new law on teenage pregnancy, seeing that the obstacles for pursuing schooling have been removed for pregnant teenage girls. However, there was concern over the high number of illegal abortions (abortions are completely prohibited in Chile) and the difficulties for teenagers to access contraception. 

 

Recommendations included establishing institutional alliances with civil society, with a lobbying role to help speed up the legislation process as well as providing children with defence from outside the State. The Government should also try to eradicate the use of the term "minor" as it has a negative connotation of punishment and does not view the child as a legal subject and a citizen. Dissemination of the Convention should include training staff working with children on the general principles of children’s rights. 

 

The need for an independent monitoring system for children’s rights (an ombudsperson) was also emphasised by the Committee, which should include an individual complaints procedure for children.

 

Gabon (initial periodic report)

 

The Committee welcomed the report, which followed the guidelines and underscored necessary measures to be taken; however strategies and time frames for the implementation were lacking. Strategies were also recognised as lacking for addressing the recognised obstacles to the implementation of the Convention, including traditional practises and customary law. It was noted that the necessary changes in attitudes should be encouraged and underpinned by the State through legislation. The Committee commended that ratified international legal standards can be invoked in courts, even before it has been incorporated in national legislation, however, the legal harmonisation process is unclear. It was suggested that Gabon establish a Code of the Child, compiling legislative measures for the protection of the child.

 

The Committee highlighted the juvenile justice system as an area of concern and noted that it was unsatisfactory that there are no juvenile courts in the country and that minors can be held in pre-trial detention for up to two years. The Committee further noted the need for an independent monitoring body, alternative to the courts, such as an Ombudsperson. The Committee suggested establishing an infrastructure for complaint procedures for children and women.

 

The Committee encouraged the existing health and education priorities and reforms of the Gabonese State. It noted that although the country is the second richest sub-Saharan country in Africa (after South Africa), the social disparities are high. The Committee commended the relatively high literacy rate for women, but also noted that it is the only positive indicator of poverty (as set up by the UNDP) in Gabon.

 

One of the key concerns of the Committee was the practice of polygamy in Gabon and its effects on children. Reference was made to the recommendation of the Human Rights Committee to abolish polygamy. 

 

Child labour and trafficking in children were other issues highlighted by the Committee. The Committee commended the sub-regional initiatives taken by Gabon on repatriation of trafficked children and encouraged the country to further pursue these initiatives.

 

The issue of minorities was not considered in the report and the Committee expressed concern for the Pygmy minority, who lack access to social service and is seemingly abandoned by the Government.

 

Abortion was another concern of the Committee; seeing that although abortions have been made illegal, the report stated that at least half of the female population has had one or more abortions. The Committee suggested that freely supplying contraception could alleviate the problem of clandestine abortions.  

 

Amongst other things, the Committee urged the State Party to consider adopting a comprehensive children's code reflecting the general principles of the Convention; to ratify the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; to develop a system of data collection and indicators consistent with the Convention disaggregated by gender, age, indigenous and minority groups, and urban and rural areas; and to set the same minimum age for marriage for girls and boys by increasing the minimum age of girls.

 

Greece (initial report)

 

The Committee welcomed the initial report of Greece. It positively noted that the Convention prevails over customary law in Greece. The Committee further recognised that a law reform on children’s rights issues, including juvenile justice is in process and a specific police unit for children has been established in Athens.

Considering that legislation on children’s rights is not lacking in Greece, the Committee pointed out that implementation is the main problem. The Committee welcomed the fact that the courts, according to the report, are obliged to respect the right of the child to be heard (Article 12) but noted that it was unclear which status this right had in practice. 

 

One of the concerns of the Committee, regarding the drafting of the report, was that NGOs appear to have not been extensively involved. It also noted that issues of health and education were described, in the report, from a welfare point of view, rather than a rights-based approach. The Committee was unclear how the Ombudsperson deals with child rights issues and if an individual complains procedure is available. Furthermore, the Committee noted that the dissemination of the Convention in languages other than Greek seems to be sporadic.

 

The Committee was concerned that minorities are not legally recognised, except for the four groups defined as "Muslim by race". The Roma population was of particular concern to the Committee and especially their seemingly lack of access to primary health care and education. Furthermore, the Committee was concerned that the right to identity, in the form of a foreign name seems to be not entirely respected by the Greek authorities. 

 

Another area of concern for the Committee was the issue of sexual abuse, which it described as a circular problem, since offenders usually have been abused themselves. The vulnerability of the abused child was emphasised. There was a difference in opinion on the root cause of sexual abuse, but the Committee suggested that the offenders need rehabilitation. The Committee was also concerned that abused children are being grouped together with children with disabilities in the same centres, which could lead to further traumatisation. The Committee referred to the general discussion day on abuse and its recommendations for further information on the issue.

 

The Committee was alarmed by the high number of traffic incidents, involving minors without driver’s licenses, but welcomed the suggestion by the Greek delegation to consider lowering the minimum age for driving a vehicle as this would maybe save time for the juvenile justice system to deal with more serious issues and adapt the legislation to reality. 

 

The Committee made several recommendations to the State Party, including that it strengthens implementation of domestic legislation towards improved protection of children's rights; that it establishes a mechanism and timeframe for implementation of ILO Convention No. 182; and that it establishes a co-ordinating body with adequate authority and sufficient human, financial and other resources to support effective co-ordination for the full implementation of the Convention.

 

Lebanon (2nd periodic report)

 

While the Committee welcomed the second periodic report of Lebanon it noted that the report did not follow the guidelines for reporting. The child-perspective was lacking as well as an account for the implementation of the general principles of the Convention. However, the country was commended for its high-level of education and well-developed curriculum. It was further recognised that notable legislative action has been taken since the last report, in areas of free primary education, primary health care, reforms of juvenile justice system and children with disabilities.

 

The Committee expressed concern on the personal status laws, which are being applied to different religious factions, on issues of family rights, custody and age of marriage and thus implies different minimum ages for children of various ethnic and religious backgrounds. 

 

The need for an independent monitoring system was emphasised by the Committee and the role of the High Council of Childhood was discussed, seeing that it supposedly has similar tasks to those of an ombudsperson.

 

The Committee noted that the issue of the Palestinian children had not been addressed in the report and emphasised that the Government has responsibility for all children on its territory. The situation seemed to be slightly better than expected by the Committee but it still needs to be addressed properly. 

 

An additional issue of the Committee was the division of responsibilities between the State and the private sector, seeing that the Government appeared to rely heavily on NGOs for providing basic services such as primary health care and education. It was pointed out that the current system needs monitoring and evaluation by the Government to ensure the quality. 

 

The matter of consanguine marriages was still a concern of the Committee since a high number of disabilities seem to be related to this practice. Furthermore, the infant mortality rates varies a great deal between different regions of the country and has in fact increased in the past years. 

 

The Committee recommended the Lebanese Government to adopt a holistic perspective on children’s rights and include regional strategies. Data collection needs to be strengthened and made independent. The Government was advised to ensure that the nationality of the mother is passed on to the child and that the existing legislation on alternative care is implemented. 

 

Malawi (initial report)

 

The Committee noted that the initial report of Malawi had a clear outline with a conclusion on every paragraph with progress and constraints of the issues, which is very rare and should be encouraged. The Committee noted that the report contained a clear out-line on the general framework of the institutional set-up of education. The Committee welcomed the efforts made in the new Constitution to bring it into compliance with the Convention, however there is still need for harmonisation, especially of the customary law. 

 

The Committee was pleased to hear about children’s participation in a child parliament in Malawi, but underlined the need for the issue to be introduced also on the community level, seeing that the culture does not allow children to freely express their views. 

 

The children's Government had identified the matter of child abuse in schools as the third most important issue. The Committee pointed out that reporting of physical and sexual abuse required a supportive infrastructure. The legislation on corporal punishment needs to be harmonised to prohibit the practice in both families and schools, and be supplemented by awareness-raising campaigns to change the harmful custom. 

 

The Committee expressed concern over the discrimination between urban and rural areas, as well as between boys and girls. The lack of a uniform definition of the child was problematic according to the Committee. The age of criminal responsibility is set too low at 7 years of age and the Committee was worried that children are tried in normal courts and sharing cells with adults. Girls are viewed as adults after the first menstruation, followed by the participation in initiation rites. This was a key concern of the Committee, especially the practice of girls starting sexual relationships after the ceremony. 

 

The Committee was alarmed by the pandemic of HIV/AIDS in the country and called for promotion of information on transmission, in particular by mother to child. The orphans of the disease were a highlighted group of victims as well as the incresing number of those prison inmates affected.

 

The Committee emphasized the problem of kidnapping and trafficking in children for slave labour and prostitution. The Malawi Government was recommended to take measures to protect children before the problem increase and bi-lateral agreements were stressed as a measure to deal with the specific area of concern.

 

Mozambique (initial report)

 

The Committee welcomed the initial report of Mozambique and noted that it was an excellent study of how a report should be drafted, including both civil society and citizens. Furthermore, the report was clear, frank and self-critical, as well as indicating possible solutions. The Committee noted the remarkable recovery after the civil war and the commendable reintegration of people into society. The country is still one of the poorest in the world and had been additionally affected by floods and social unrest in the past years.

 

One of the key concerns of the Committee was the widespread problem of HIV/AIDS in the country. The matters of prevention and treatment as well as the additional issue of alternative care for the many AIDS orphans (in addition to the children who has lost their parents during the war) are not being properly addressed by the Government.

 

Other matters raised by the experts in the Committee comprised the dissemination of the Convention, which has only partly been translated into different languages and the different, very low minimum ages for marriage for boys and girls. It was recommended that an awareness-campaign should be initiated to make the risks of early marriage known to the public. 

 

Suggestions put forth by the Committee included establishing an independent monitoring body with a complaints procedure. The Committee deemed it possible for the Government to quite easily introduce the principles of the best interest of the child and non-discrimination into legislation. 

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