The week in children's rights - 1572

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

    Latest news and reports
    - Sexual abuse accountability
    - Health and education
    - Discrimination
    - Exploitation

    Upcoming events




    Sexual abuse accountability

    Humanitarian organisations and the UN are failing in their response to the sexual abuse of children by staff, according to a statement released this week by CRIN. It coincides with the UN Human Rights Council’s annual meeting on children’s rights, which this year focused on child protection in humanitarian situations. The organisation argues that sexual exploitation and abuse of children by UN peacekeeping and humanitarian staff has been “so frequent as to call into question the complicity of these institutions in the exploitation of the very people they are supposed to protect”. CRIN says allegations against senior officials have been undermined or dismissed, with the accused being "allowed to resign, avoiding justice thanks to a disciplinary system shrouded in secrecy," while the internal investigation mechanisms have failed to provide victims with justice and redress. CRIN makes a series of recommendations, calling for independent investigations of allegations, greater transparency, redress for child survivors, and strengthened protections for whistleblowers. Despite its importance, the issue of accountability was raised only twice at the Human Rights Council's annual meeting, by UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore in her opening remarks and in a statement by Latvia on behalf of a group of Nordic-Baltic States.

    A gymnast from the United States has filed a lawsuit against the sport’s governing body and the national Olympic Committee for failing to prevent former team doctor Larry Nassar sexually abusing her and other athletes. The lawsuit comes after Nasser was sentenced for multiple sex crimes, with more than 150 people, mostly girls and women, accusing him of sexually abusing them while they were in his care. In her lawsuit, Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, who suffered abuse by Nasser between 2010 and 2015, claims the US Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics could have intervened to stop the abuse, but failed to do so. Raisman said: “After all this time, they remain unwilling to conduct a full investigation, and without a solid understanding of how this happened, it is delusional to think sufficient changes can be implemented.” She highlighted that “Thousands of young athletes continue to train and compete every day in this same broken system.” The two sporting bodies’ handling of the sexual abuse scandal has drawn sharp criticism, and has led to a shake-up of top officials in both organisations. 


    Health and education

    Zimbabwe’s public hospitals have been hit by shortages of oxygen gas which forced Harare Children’s Hospital to suspend normal services over a week ago. Oxygen is used in every healthcare setting, namely for resuscitation and inhalation therapy, providing life support for artificially-ventilated patients and aiding cardiovascular stability. The shortage of oxygen comes as the country’s public hospitals have been struggling to stock drugs and replace antiquated equipment. The shortage has also coincided with an outbreak of the respiratory virus bronchiolitis which has seen a surge in the number of children seeking treatment. Health and Child Care Minister David Parirenyatwa said the government is working to make oxygen available in hospitals again, but complained that Zimbabwe is dependent on imported oxygen, as the country does not manufacture it locally. “It is a recurring problem due to importation hiccups,” he added. Zimbabwe imports over $400 million worth of basic drugs each year, as well as importing hospital equipment, according to news provider PaZimbabwe. Failure to access foreign currency from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe for the importation of critical medicines has made matters worse. Last year, most hospitals struggled to stock critical drugs, including a vaccine to prevent tuberculosis in newborns. 

    Last week Ukraine's energy ministry told all schools and higher education institutions to close to save gas, after its Russian supplier refused to deliver more fuel, despite freezing temperatures across much of the continent. The supply has since “stabilised” thanks to supplies from Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on 3 March. Russian energy giant Gazprom - one of the world's largest natural gas suppliers - had said it was severing its contracts with Ukraine, in the latest energy dispute between the two countries. In the past, Russia blocked gas supplies to Ukraine because of price disputes in 2006, the winter of 2008-09, and in 2014. Gazprom made the latest announcement after a Stockholm arbitration court ruled at the end of a long-running legal battle that the company must pay Ukraine's national gas company Naftogaz $2.56 billion as compensation for a lack of agreed supply and for transit fees through the country's pipelines. Ukraine is a major channel for gas piped to the European Union. Following the ruling, Gazprom said the company's gas deals with Ukraine would no longer be commercially viable. 



    Local councils in Poland could start educating refugee children at the centres where they live rather than in public schools, under a plan announced on the interior ministry’s website. There are 1,450 people in Polish refugee centres, 890 of them children who currently attend local public schools. The proposal claims it will benefit foreign children, as they allegedly struggle in class compared to their Polish classmates because of educational gaps, which could demotivate them from attending school. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights challenged this assessment, arguing that “Separation of both groups can make integration difficult”, while one newspaper said the proposal would create an “educational ghetto” for refugees. Following the criticism, the interior ministry said it would amend the proposal, explaining that its aim “is not to exclude the children of foreigners ... but only to provide support during the preparatory phase of education before children enter school.” However, advocates say the proposal is consistent with policies set out by the nationalist ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), which has refused to accept a quota of refugees relocated from other European Union countries.

    Spain and San Marino are the only two members of the 47-strong Council of Europe (CoE) which have not established an ombudsperson to tackle equality and racism, The Local reports. The CoE’s anti-racism commission (ECRI) reminded Spain and San Marino of this gap in recent reports in which the body urged the States to create an independent equality body. With regard to Spain, the commission said establishing an ombudsperson would pave the way to adopting anti-discrimination legislation and improving integration and education of Roma and migrant children. The aim, the ECRI says, is to combat segregation and early school drop-out among Roma children and to increase efforts to help migrants find work and escape poverty. “Spain should avoid the emergence of a new generation of excluded minority children”, said Jean-Paul Lehners, ECRI Chairperson, adding that “substantial investment is needed in the field of education” to make sure children from these groups complete at least compulsory education. With regard to San Marino, the commission additionally highlighted that the State has no criminal legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of language or colour.



    Children have been used in 18 armed conflicts since 2016, according to a new global database which maps the scale of child exploitation by armed forces and non-state armed groups. Launched by Child Soldiers International (CSI), the Child Soldiers World Index documents child recruitment in Syria, Libya, Nigeria, Colombia, Nigeria, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen, despite a global ban on the use of children in war. Particularly worrying, the organisation says, is the increased use of children, especially girls, as “human bombs”. CSI also notes that while 167 States have ratified the UN treaty banning the use of children in armed conflict (leaving 30 left to do so), only around 85 countries criminalise the recruitment of children by non-state armed groups and/or state armed forces. The database, which provides details of national laws, policies and child recruitment practices, notes that 46 States still recruit under-18s into their armed forces, while 27 countries operate so-called ‘military schools’ where children as young as 15 are forced to enlist after graduation. CSI denounces the deliberate targeting of children for military recruitment, and calls for States to set 18 as the minimum age to join the armed forces.

    Portugal’s version of the TV show Supernanny violates the right to privacy of the children featured in its episodes, national rights groups have said. The series, which involves a psychologist visiting parents to help them discipline their children, is facing a backlash for broadcasting potentially embarrassing and compromising scenes of children in their own home. UNICEF Portugal specifically denounced the “public exposure” of children during periods of aggression on TV shows. The National Committee for the Promotion of the Rights and Protection of Children and Young People said “there is a high risk” that the programme “violates the rights of children”, namely the right to privacy and could affect their development. Such programmes “don’t respect children’s best interests”, said the Child Support Institute (Instituto de Apoio à Criança). It emerged that producers pay families €1,000 to allow TV cameras in their home for a week. Broadcaster SIC said Supernanny “complies with the law” and argues that the programme is not merely exhibitionism. In 2008, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child warned that involving children in reality TV shows could amount to an undue interference into their private life.



    Call for nominations: International Children's Peace Prize
    Organisation: KidsRights Foundation
    Nomination deadline: 15 March 2018
    Location: N/A

    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



    Kiyo: Child Rights Officer
    Application deadline: 15 March 2018
    Location: Brussels, Belgium

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

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



    "Women and child victims of sexual exploitation and abuse must be empowered to speak out, and no survivor should be silenced. Those who identify wrongdoing must be protected from retaliation when they make public disclosures to the media, civil society or governments. Individuals responsible for sexual exploitation and abuse, and those who fail to hold these individuals to account, must be immediately removed from the UN system."

    -- CRIN in a statement to coincide with the UN Human Rights Council's 2018 meeting on child protection in humanitarian situations
    © Child Rights International Network 2018 ~

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