In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Armed conflict
- Juvenile justice
- Child protection
- Sexual abuse
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
Last year armed conflicts around the world led to at least 4,000 verified rights violations against children committed by government forces and over 11,500 by non-state armed groups, according the UN Secretary-General’s (SG) annual report on children and armed conflict. The violations covered in the report include killing or maiming, recruitment or use of children in hostilities, sexual violence, using children as human bombs, abductions, the denial of humanitarian access, and attacks on schools and hospitals. The parties which commit these grave violations, both state and non-state, or which fail to adequately protect children, are listed in annexes to the report, known as the “list of shame”. This year’s blacklist includes the Iran-allied Houthi rebel group, Yemen government forces, pro-government militia and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The report covers 20 country situations, but Virginia Gamba, the UN’s envoy on children and armed conflict, said children suffered an unacceptable level of violations in countries such as Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Precisely for its role in the conflict in Yemen, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been included in the list of shame. The move follows over two years of much-criticised politicisation of the list, including high profile action from Saudi Arabia, which allegedly threatened to withdraw funding from key UN programmes if it was kept on the list over ongoing children’s rights violations in Yemen. This year's report also includes a controversial new category listing parties to conflict that have put in place measures to improve the protection of children during the reporting period. Civil society has criticised the list as being designed to water down condemnation of offending parties. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition features in this new list for creating a child protection unit at its headquarters, though Amnesty International, which said it has seen no evidence of such measures from the coalition, criticised the new list as “concessions that allow perpetrators of crimes under international law to evade criticism or justice”.
Children as young as 10 could be detained for two weeks without trial in Australia as part of a new anti-terrorism agreement. The measure forms part of broader counter-terrorism proposals agreed between the federal government and states to create new terrorism offences and a database accessible across all Australian jurisdictions for identifying people suspected of criminal offences. The database would allow state and federal police real-time access to passport, visa, citizenship and driver’s licence images for a wide range of criminal offences and permit the use of facial recognition software. The government has presented the proposals as a means of dealing with the threat of terrorism, including children recruited by terrorist organisations, but the proposals have drawn severe criticism from civil rights groups, opposition politicians and legal professionals. Law Council President, Fiona McLeod commented, “[W]e are talking about detention without charge of children. This is an extraordinarily draconian measure.”
A 13-year-old boy in Turkey has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a Facebook post. The case was filed last year and continued despite reports that Erdoğan withdrew his complaint. The boy was not present at the sentencing, but was represented by his lawyer. The sentence has been suspended for one year, meaning that the boy will not serve time in prison if he does not commit the same offence within the next year. His Facebook account is under police monitoring, according to local media. Turkish authorities opened criminal cases against 3,658 people for allegedly “insulting” Erdogan in 2016, under a law that was previously little-used. Freedom of expression in Turkey has gradually diminished since Erdogan became president in 2014, with the clamp down intensifying following last year’s coup attempt. Children have been widely affected in other ways too, after Erdoğan ordered the close of more than a thousand private schools in the aftermath of the attempted coup and 1,500 civil society organisations have been closed in the country, including children’s rights organisations, using powers granted under the ongoing State of Emergency.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called on Paraguay to carry out an immediate and impartial investigation into a fire at a detention centre in which two boys died and a further 12 were hospitalised for burns and smoke inhalation. The fire broke out four weeks ago when inmates set fire to mattresses at a youth detention centre for boys in Ciudad del Este, reportedly as part of a protest against conditions in the facility. The centre is used to detain children in conflict with the law, most of whom are held awaiting trial. The National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (NPMT) visited the facility twice in 2016, finding that it lacked smoke detection and fire fighting systems and that there was no evacuation plan in place. The NMPT also found children being confined for long hours and evidence of violence, abuse and ill treatment. The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Paraguay has opened an investigation to clarify what happened, but the IACHR has called for a broader response, including addressing the excessive use of pretrial detention.
Lawmakers in Peru are set to debate a draft law that would support the installation of so-called baby boxes outside hospitals around the country. Baby boxes provide for the anonymous abandonment of newborns, and supporters argue they help to prevent infanticide by ensuring a child is cared for immediately after abandonment. Critics, however, including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), say the measure legalises abandonment and violates children’s right to know and be cared for by their parents, among other rights. The proposed law in Peru would allow for children aged up to one year old to be abandoned in "cunas salvadoras" - literally "saviour cradles" - without the abandoner being subject to criminal charges. In 2012 Maria Herczog, a child psychologist from Hungary and member of the CRC, said baby boxes should be replaced by better state provision of family planning, counselling for women and support for unplanned pregnancies. Critics have also noted that it is often men or relatives who abandon a child, which raises questions about the mother's whereabouts and if she has consented to giving up her baby.
Family courts in England and Wales overseeing custody disputes will no longer automatically apply the presumption that both parents should be granted access to a child, according to new guidance. The move has been welcomed as “lifesaving” by domestic violence organisations, which highlight that some children have been killed by an abusive parent following a court order forcing them to have contact visits or even live with the parent. Under the new guidance, judges must now evaluate whether it is in a child’s best interests to have "contact at all costs" with both parents, including in domestic violence cases in which involvement of a parent in a child's life would place the child or other parent at risk of harm. Women's Aid is now calling for all judges and magistrates to be provided with compulsory training. "We want to see children's safety at the heart of all decisions made by the family courts and this cannot be done without a thorough understanding of domestic abuse, including coercive control, and the devastating impact it has on children," said Katie Ghose, chief executive of the organisation.
Surrogacy arrangements require greater respect for children’s rights, a group of experts said at a meeting convened by the International Social Service (ISS) to discuss the development of guidelines on better protecting children’s rights in the context of surrogacy. The meeting, held in May, was attended by 30 experts and observers from governments, academic institutions, civil society, and included representatives from the Council of Europe, the Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law and UNICEF, as well as the UN Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children. Among the points discussed, the experts agreed that national approaches to surrogacy vary widely and that one risk is the potential for the exploitation of children, women and intending parents. The experts also agreed that surrogacy arrangements amounting to the sale of children must be prohibited. And where national surrogacy prohibitions exist, the experts said that bans must not be used to deny rights to surrogate-born children, as all children have a right to a nationality, irrespective of the circumstances of their birth, and States have an obligation to prevent statelessness.
New laws entering into force in Scotland have lifted a longstanding time bar which prevented survivors of child abuse occurring after 1964 from bringing civil legal action after the close of a three-year window. The Limitation (Childhood Abuse) Bill was passed unanimously in June, and allows for the time bar to be lifted for victims that were under 18 when they suffered the sexual, physical or emotional abuse. The new law will not apply to victims who were abused before 26 September 1964, and relatives of victims who have since died will not be able to seek damages. The Scottish government has estimated that a potential 2,200 victims will be affected by the new law. In an independent inquiry on historic Scottish child abuse currently underway, more than 60 institutions are being investigated, including several top private schools and church bodies.
Police in Queensland, Australia ran a child pornography darknet website for almost a year as part of an operation to catch offenders, according to an investigation by Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang. The police had been running the website Child’s Play since October 2016 when the site’s Canadian administrator was arrested in the United States. Because of their ability under Australian law to commit offences in pursuit of criminals, as well as their reputation for infiltrating and taking down child abuse websites, the Queensland Argos Taskforce were given access to the site by the US Department of Homeland Security. The task force reportedly then took over the site, impersonating its former administrator and even posting abusive images, until they took the site down last month. The police reported that their control of the site gave them access to a database of more than one million users, enabling them to obtain information that led to the rescue of children and the incarceration of abusers. The task force is now in the process of sending cases to police around the world.
CRAE: Senior Policy & Public Affairs Advisor
Application deadline: 16 October 2017
Location: London, United Kingdom
Just for Kids Law: Chief Executive Officer
Application deadline: 18 October 2017
Location: London, United Kingdom
Funding opportunity: Call for research proposals - Reception and inclusion of children and youth on the move in Europe
Application deadline: 18 October 2017
Location: Negotiable, Europe
JARGON OF THE WEEK: *Girl child* and *Boy child*
What’s the difference between ‘girl’ and ‘girl child’ and ‘boy’ and ‘boy child’?
Well it appears that in the NGO world we’re not actually sure, as we seem to have forgotten that girls and boys are in fact children, and so have coined the terms ‘girl child’ and ‘boy child’ apparently to remind ourselves of this.
But these terms are not only redundant, as there are no woman or man adults; they’re also grammatically incorrect, as ‘girl’, ‘boy’ and ‘child’ are all nouns.
To get your message across more clearly, stick to referring to girls and boys as exactly that. And if you feel the terms still need further clarification, try using 'female child' and 'male child' - in other words, using an adjective to describe the noun - as correct alternatives.