The week in children's rights - 1571

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01 March 2018 subscribe | subscribe | submit information
  • In this issue:

    Latest news and reports
    - Refugees and citizenship 
    - Health and bodily integrity
    - Detention and juvenile justice
    - Education

    Upcoming events

    Employment

    LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS

     

    Refugees and citizenship

    In Mauritania, the government has decided to issue birth certificates to thousands of children born in a refugee camp along the Malian border, granting important legal protections to stateless refugees. UN Refugee Agency spokesperson, Cecile Pouilly, called the certification of these children a groundbreaking development for refugee protection in the country. By ensuring all newborn children in the camp are registered, the chance of early and forced marriages can be reduced, future voluntary repatriation can be made easier, and aid agencies will be better placed to assist at-risk children, Pouilly explained. The Mbera camp, which is currently home to over 50,000 people, was established in 2012 after growing insecurity in northern Mali led to thousands of people seeking refuge in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. The UN Refugee Agency has reported that persistent violence in northern Mali is likely to discourage any large scale returns any time soon.

    The living situations of many Rohingya children continues to deteriorate, with UNICEF reporting that 720,000 children remain trapped inside Myanmar or stranded in overcrowded camps in Bangladesh. The latest report on the crisis estimates that 185,000 Rohingya children remain in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, while in Bangladesh there are believed to be as many as 534,000 Rohingya refugee children stranded after fleeing violence and forced displacement. The forthcoming cyclone season is also likely to cause further deterioration of the children's living conditions. Flooding is likely to engulf the fragile and insanitary camps where most of the refugees are living, raising the likelihood of waterborne disease outbreaks and forcing clinics, learning centres and other facilities for children to close. Since August 2017, a lack of access to many parts of the Rakhine state has severely restricted the work of UNICEF and other humanitarian agencies, while efforts led and overseen by Bangladesh’s government have seen nearby communities accommodate 79,000 Rohingya refugees.
     

    Health and bodily integrity

    Public institutions in Macedonia are not equipped with the medicine, expertise, or guidance to help children who use drugs, according to a local organisation. In one case, a pregnant 16-year-old girl, who sought treatment for opioid drug use, was turned away from every programme she contacted because staff said they were not trained to administer treatment to under-18s. But Skopje-based Healthy Options Project (HOP), which provides social services and care for people who use drugs, including children and their families, says the problem is not just a question of training, but also of restrictive laws governing social services, such as a child legally requiring parental permission to be hospitalised. The organisation says it works mostly with children on the streets, who are disproportionately Roma and sometimes homeless. Research shows that Macedonia lacks a comprehensive system for recognising and supporting at-risk children, as well as a data collection system, which HOP says is necessary for practitioners and lawmakers to design and implement effective policies. Last year, the government announced it would be developing a national coordinating body for children and youth who use drugs, which includes the Ministry of Health, but so far only a draft version of a treatment protocol has been prepared.

    Cases of respiratory diseases in children living in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, have increased dramatically in the last ten years, which experts attribute to the city’s level of air pollution - one of the highest in the world. Twenty percent of the pollution is caused by transportation, thermal power plants, and solid wastes, while the remaining 80 percent comes from the widespread use of wood or coal-burning stoves indoors, especially in winter. On 30 January 2018 air pollution in Ulaanbaatar was measured to be 133 times above the international safe limit set by the World Health Organization. Research shows that cases of respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and asthma have skyrocketed, while pneumonia is now the second leading cause of death for children under five years old. The situation is especially bad in the district of central Ulaanbaatar, where children were found to have 40 percent lower lung function than children living in a rural area. In a new report on the issue, UNICEF says the situation has become a child health crisis.

    In Japan, documents released in 13 prefectures show that children with mental disabilities were sterilised under the country’s eugenics law, including one as young a nine. The revelations follow the first lawsuit on the issue against the government by a woman in her 60s who claims she was forcibly sterilised when she was 15 years old. The now defunct Eugenics Protection Law, which was in force between 1948 and 1996, authorised the sterilisation of people with mental disabilities or genetic illnesses. It also allowed for forced abortions without the individual’s consent and the removal of reproductive organs in cases where there was “a possibility of bearing a baby”. An estimated 25,000 people were sterilised under the eugenics law, including around 16,500 people who are believed to have undergone the surgery without their consent. In 2016, the UN urged Japan to establish measures to compensate and provide rehabilitative care to people subjected to the surgery. The government says it has not apologised or provided compensation to victims because the sterilisations were legal at the time. In the wake of the first lawsuit, bar associations set up call centres in five cities, urging others to join their legal efforts. At least one man, who claims he was forcibly sterilised when he was 20, also intends to file a lawsuit.

     

    Detention and juvenile justice

    Somali children suspected of having links to the armed group Al-Shabaab are being held in adult jails where they are vulnerable to abuse, and tried in military courts. Al-Shabaab has forcibly recruited thousands of children — some as young as nine — and hundreds have been detained by the authorities. In a new report Human Rights Watch claims detaining these children violates a 2014 agreement by the government to hold child detainees separately from adults and to work with the United Nations to rehabilitate them. Somali security forces arrested 386 children in 2016 during operations targeting al-Shabaab. Many were released after their parents paid bribes or clan elders intervened, but those whose families lacked money or influence were reportedly kept imprisoned. Authorities have handed over 250 children to the United Nations for rehabilitation since 2015, the report said, but often only after months of pressure.

    Sri Lanka is set to raise the national minimum age of criminal responsibility from eight to 12 years old. The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) will be amended to increase the minimum age limit, after the country’s cabinet of ministers approved the change in May 2016. Co-cabinet Spokesman Gayantha Karunathilake said last week that the prepared bill will be published in the gazette and presented in parliament for final approval. The amendments to the CPC also state that children between the ages of 12 and 14 can be held liable for an offence only if a magistrate determined that they had the necessary maturity or knowledge to form the intent to commit a crime.
     

    Education

     
    The High Court of Kenya has dismissed an application from a private education provider which sought to silence criticism from the country’s teachers. The decision follows a case filed by Bridge International Academies (BIA) in March 2017 accusing the Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) and its Secretary-General Wilson Sossion of defamation after they raised concerns about BIA’s lack of compliance with education standards. In March 2017, BIA secured a temporary gag order which restrained Sossion and KNUT officials from publicly mentioning or engaging in constructive criticism of BIA, despite various independent sources, including academic researchers and journalists having published similar criticisms. The rejection of the application for an interim injunction against KNUT and Sossion was hailed as a victory against efforts from the company to silence critics of private education replacing government-run schools in Kenya.

    Several schools in the United States have issued warnings to students against joining walkouts and other protests related to gun violence in schools. One threatened students with a three-day suspension for taking part in a walkout, claiming that they were ready to “discipline” as many as 500 students for leaving school. The planned protests are part of wave of student-led activism in the wake of a deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school. Survivors have been holding rallies, being interviewed by national media and meeting with lawmakers, galvanising the student population against the country’s lax gun control legislation. Despite the threats from some schools, others have allowed students time to protest, and several of the country’s universities have gone further by openly stating that they will not refuse admission to prospective applicants on the basis of disciplinary action taken against them for peaceful protests.

    A proposal by an Indian state to refuse school enrolment to children who cannot prove they have had their vaccinations has drawn criticism from activists, who say the move is a violation of the country’s Right to Education Act. The Kerala government’s draft medical policy is expected to come into effect from the new academic year that starts in June and would require children to provide proof of vaccination before being allowed into schools. The state has seen a number of anti-vaccination campaigns in recent months, with the government claiming that anti-vaccine campaigners have been “capitalising on the ignorance of common people” and played a part in the re-emergence of diptheria in the region last year. Rights activists have raised doubts over the proposal’s constitutionality and are planning to move to court. The government insists the measures will not violate the Right to Education Act but has not clarified what will happen to children seeking admission who do not have the required vaccination certificates.

     

    UPCOMING EVENTS

    Nominations: International Children’s Peace Prize 2018
    Organisation: KidsRights
    Nomination deadline: 1 March 2018
    Location: Global

    Education: Frontiers of Children's Rights in the Caribbean Spring School 
    Organisation: Leiden University and University of Curaçao 
    Application deadline: 1 February 2018
    Dates: 5-9 March 2018
    Location: Willemstad, Curaçao

    Conference: Central Asia Hackfest 2018
    Organisation: The Central Asian Coalition on the Promotion of Children and Women's Rights
    Dates: 23-25 March
    Location: Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

    Conference: Deprivation of Liberty of Children in the Justice System 
    Organisation: Leiden University
    Date: 13 April 2018
    Location: Leiden, The Netherlands

    Conference: Genital Autonomy and Children's Rights
    Organisation: Genital Autonomy - America
    Dates: 4-6 May 2018
    Location: San Francisco, United States

    Demonstration: WorldWide Day of Genital Autonomy
    Organisation: Genital Autonomy - America
    Date: 7 May 2018
    Location: San Francisco, United States

    Call for papers: Shared Parenting, Social Justice and Children´s Rights
    Organisation: International Council on Shared Parenting
    Submission deadline: 15 May 2018
    Location: Strasbourg, France

    Justice for children: World Congress
    Organisation: Terres des hommes et al.
    Dates: 28-30 May 2018
    Location: Paris, France

    Conference: International Refugee Rights
    Organisation: Canadian Council for Refugees
    Dates: 7-9 June 2018
    Location: Toronto, Canada 

    Education: International Children’s Rights
    Organisation: Leiden University
    Application deadline: 1 April 2018 (non-EU) / 15 June 2018 (EU students)
    Dates: September 2018 - Summer 2019
    Location: Leiden, The Netherlands

    Conference: Contemporary Childhood - Children in Space, Place and Time
    Organisation: University of Strathclyde
    Application deadline: 27 August 2018
    Dates: 6-7 September 2018
    Location: Glasgow, United Kingdom

     

    EMPLOYMENT

    ESCR-Net: Solidarity and Membership Coordinator
    Application deadline: Rolling  
    Location: New York City, United States

    ESCR-Net: Program Coordinator for the Strategic Litigation Working Group
    Application deadline: Rolling
    Location: New York, United States

     

    THE LAST WORD

    "The University of Miami will not punish a student applicant if, after review on case-by-case basis, the Admission Committee determines they have been disciplined while exercising their constitutional right to freedom of expression while in peaceful protest of an issue, such as gun violence.”

    -- University of Miami statement on admission procedures for students disciplined for protesting against gun violence.
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