In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Sexual abuse
- Child protection and discrimination
- Detention and juvenile justice
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
People in Argentina who survived sexual abuse in their childhood at the hands of Catholic priests are reporting the crimes in unprecedented numbers, according to an analysis by the Associated Press. The news agency began by compiling a list of 66 priests, nuns and brothers who have been accused since 2001 of abusing dozens of people, most of them children. The number of reports which publicly identified new alleged perpetrators had remained in the single digits every year until 2015, but in the last two years abuse survivors have named 21 more alleged sexual abusers, most accused of decades-old abuse. Advocates attribute the rise in new reports to a cultural shift, as survivors are more emboldened to report abuse, prosecutors are more inclined to investigate complaints, the media are increasingly reporting on clergy abuse cases, and courts are willing to hand down sentences, in what has been referred to as a “domino effect”. In one of the stiffest sentences to-date, a priest was given a 25-year prison term for sexually abusing four boys. The issue is still somewhat taboo in the country, however, and no official numbers on clerical abuse have been published by Argentina's church, government or its judicial system.
Preliminary voting by lawmakers in Iraq to allow girls as young as nine years old to marry has been slammed by opponents. The country’s current minimum age for marriage is 18, but a judge can allow individuals no younger than 15 to get married. Last week, however, Baghdad’s Council of Representatives approved “in principle” amendments to the Personal Status Law, which would apply Shia Jaafari jurisprudence to all Iraqis for personal status issues, including marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance. Critics also warn that the proposed changes could increase sectarian tensions in the country, where around 60 percent of Iraqis are Shia and approximately 40 percent are Sunni, while others say they contravene Iraq’s constitution, which guarantees freedom of religious belief.
At the end of November a trial is set to begin for the systematic rape of 46 girls by members of an armed militia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), five years after the first attacks took place. Between 2013 and 2016 in the village of Kavumu in the country’s eastern province of South Kivu, the girls were abducted at night and raped, and their hymnal blood collected. Some victims were as young as one year old. Eighteen suspects have been charged with crimes against humanity, including a local politician who is thought to be the ringleader, because of the systematic nature of the attacks. The case is symbolic of widespread sexual violence and impunity in a country branded the “rape capital of the world” by Margot Wallström, the former UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict. The organisation TRIAL International says the Kavumu trial could set a crucial precedent: “The importance of Kavumu extends far beyond the impact on survivors and their families. [It] punctures the code of silence and undermines the judicial inertia that often surrounds sexual violence cases in South Kivu”.
Child protection and discrimination
A group of NGOs has filed a collective complaint to the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), calling for the closure of residential care institutions for children under the age of three in the Czech Republic. Despite institutionalisation having long-term negative effects on the physical and emotional development of young children, the Czech Republic remains one of the last European States to allow the long-term placement of young children in state institutions. Roma children and children with disabilities are significantly overrepresented. The complaint, filed by the Mental Disability Advocacy Center, European Roma Rights Centre, and Forum for Human Rights, asks the European Committee to step in and pressure the Czech Republic to shut these institutions down. Their complaint focuses on Article 17 of the charter, ensuring the right to social and economic protection of children and provision of appropriate supportive services, arguing that all children have the right to adequate support and care in their own family, or in family-like alternative forms of care.
Seven percent of children across Canada are aboriginal, but they account for nearly half of all children caught in the country’s child welfare system, a situation which has been described as a “humanitarian crisis”. The Canadian minister responsible for indigenous services, Jane Philpott, said the figures are disproportionate, and described the issue as one of her top priorities. She noted that Canada removes indigenous children from their families at a rate that ranks among the highest in the developed world. Philpott pointed to the province of Manitoba, where 10,000 of the 11,000 children in care are indigenous. Meanwhile indigenous youth who use drugs in the province of British Columbia were found to be 13 times more likely to die than non-indigenous youth in the same age group across the country. These figures were published in a new study, which singled out young women and those involved with injection drug use to be at the highest risk.
In Australia, aboriginal children in care should be kept in contact with their families and other Indigenous people, according to several submissions to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. The Commission heard that sometimes children in care were kept a long way from their families, and the death of a 17-year-old aboriginal girl was linked to her not being put in kinship care, where she would have stayed with family members. This finding was included in a 35-page report that highlighted suggestions on what could be done to improve the situation of children in the jurisdiction. Other submissions also proposed raising the age of criminal responsibility. Contributions were made by children who had been in detention, health care professionals, community groups and others.
Detention and juvenile justice
The European Court of Human Rights has awarded €50,000 to a Russian citizen who was a victim of police brutality when he was a teenager. Nikolay Devyatkin was stopped by two police officers when he was 16 years old and alleged that one of the officers had seized him by the neck, knocked him down and tried to strangle him. He said he was punched and dragged into a police car, before being taken to a local administrative building where his father eventually found him and took him home. Devyatkin sustained several injuries, including a fracture to a bone in his neck and cuts and bruises on his neck, face and elbow. The boy’s mother wanted the officers held criminally responsible but investigators refused on a number of occasions to open a criminal case. The case finally came to the European Court where the family successfully argued that Nikolay had sustained injuries at the hands of the police and that no effective investigation had been carried out into his complaints.
Boys accused of throwing stones as a form of protest are often being surveilled, arrested and interrogated by Israeli police, according to a new report. The study includes 60 affidavits collected from Palestinian teenagers who were arrested by Israel between May 2015 and October 2016. The report claims that Israeli authorities including the police, Israel Prison Service and judges work together to arrest, detain and keep boys detained or under house arrest. More than 90 percent of the children interviewed for the report said that they were arrested at night, when most of them were already asleep or in bed, despite night interrogations being prohibited by Israeli law. As of August 2017, there are reportedly 331 Palestinian children in Israeli prisons and, according to Palestinian prisoner rights group Addameer, more than 12,000 Palestinian children have been arrested by Israel since 2000.
The number of sexting cases involving children in the United Kingdom has more than doubled in two years, according to police figures. Police forces in England and Wales released data this week showing they registered 6,238 sexting offences in 2016/17, representing an increase of a third on the 4,681 cases in the previous year. Despite the increase, initial analysis indicates the number of children facing charges in these cases has more than halved. One reason for this trend is the introduction of a newly created outcome, allowing police to take no formal action if there there is no evidence of exploitation or malicious intent. This rule was used more than 2,000 times in 2016/17, raising questions as to why children were ever being charged or prosecuted in cases where they produce images of themselves consensually. Police said reports come from children as young as 10, with cases peaking around the age of 14, noting that boys are as likely as girls to be recorded as suspects or perpetrators, but girls are more likely to be recorded as victims, according to the data.
About three-quarters of the world’s children aged two to four years old experience physical or verbal violence, or both, by their caregivers at home, according to a new UNICEF report. The research noted that about 60 percent of one-year-olds in 30 countries with available data are regularly subjected to physical punishment in the name of discipline, including being physically shaken, hit or slapped on the face, head or ears. Worldwide, 176 million, or one in four, children under age five are living with a mother who is a victim of intimate partner violence. The research also found that as many as 15 million girls worldwide aged 15 to 19 years old have been raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Only one per cent of those girls who were victims of sexual violence said they had reached out for professional help.
After a ruling by the High Court of South Africa recently removed the defence of reasonable chastisement for parents accused of hitting their children, a woman has been charged for allegedly assaulting a 12-year-old. The woman reportedly beat the girl with an electrical cord and a wooden spoon after the child took too long to get back home from the shop, where she had been sent to buy a cabbage. The woman, who lives in an informal settlement in Cape Town, is understood to be related to the girl, but is not believed to be her mother. The alleged beating was reported only after the child confided in a teacher, and the girl has been taken to a safe place while the case unfolds. You can read CRIN’s summary of the High Court case which effectively banned corporal punishment of children in South Africa here.
The number of reported cases of bullying at Japanese schools hit a record high of more than 320,000 in the 2016 academic year. The total number of cases is up almost 44 percent from the year before, with the figure for elementary schools experiencing the most notable increase with 86,000 more cases than last year. The education ministry said that 400 cases at 374 schools amounted to what it deemed "serious situations", in which the children had experienced significant mental and physical suffering. Of 244 students who committed suicide, 10 were known to have been bullied. About 30 percent of schools, however, said they did not recognise any bullying. The ministry explained that there may have been overlooked incidents, given that the number of reported cases per 1,000 students differs among Japan’s prefectures.
JARGON OF THE WEEK
Promoting the use of clear language among children’s rights advocates
In a bid to stay on top of the latest jargon trends, this week we’re testing your - and our - knowledge of some popular jargon terms from human rights reports, by trying to match the jargon with its definition. We’ll let you figure out which answer is correct, as we’re not sure ourselves…
a. A study to establish current statistics in a given population, used as a benchmark for measuring the success or failure of a project.
b. A report-writing test to see if you can write in a straight line.
c. A cruel initiation rite for new NGO employees.
a. A tax initiative to make rich people poorer.
b. A process for deciding which social classes are expendable.
c. When government budgets allow for society’s needs to be addressed accordingly.
a. The defunct marketing name of Google Maps.
b. A plan or strategy for achieving a particular objective.
c. A guide to finding parking spaces at UN buildings.
Catalyst for action
a. No idea.
b. Something that provokes or speeds up change, reform or development.
c. An explosive chemical reaction that sends people running.