In this issue:
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After almost four years of campaigning by the children’s rights community, the UN Human Rights Council adopted in June 2011 the draft text of a complaints mechanism, also referred to as a “communications procedure,” for children and their representatives to bring legal action against violations of children’s rights, thus finally bringing the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) – previously the only UN treaty without a complaints procedure – on a par with other human rights treaties.
Now the complaints mechanism will be referred to the UN General Assembly (GA) where another Resolution needs to be drafted and adopted. Once this is done, a signing ceremony takes place, after which the treaty opens up for ratification, and enters into force following its tenth ratification. In the meantime, the NGO community will soon begin preparing for the next stage of the campaign: getting States to commit to ratification as soon as possible.
Domestic workers’ rights
June 16 signified a momentous day for domestic workers around the world, a day on which the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the landmark Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers that now establishes global standards for and extends key labour protections to between 50 and 100 million domestic workers worldwide, the vast majority of whom are women and girls. Full press release.
Read more on the call for global protections for child domestic workers.
Business and Human Rights
Also on 16 June, the Human Rights Council (HRC) in its 17th Session endorsed the new set of Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights for the Implementation of the United Nations’ "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework. The new standards outline how States and businesses should work to prevent and address the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity.
- Read a joint civil society statement criticising the shortcomings of the final guidelines here.
- Also read CRIN’s response to the guidelines’ lack of reference to children and acknowledgement of their unique vulnerability here.
Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity
And on 17 June, the Human Rights Council also passed the first ever resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. “The Human Rights Council has taken a step forward in history by acknowledging that both sexual and gender non-conformity make lesbian, gay, trans and bi people among those most vulnerable and indicated decisively that States have an obligation to protect us from violence,” said Justus Eisfeld, Co-Director of GATE. Read more.
NEWS AND REPORT ROUND-UP
National campaigns against the inhuman sentencing of children, understood to include sentences of corporal punishment, life imprisonment and the death penalty, are now underway in Pakistan, the United States and Yemen.
CRIN has dedicated a page on its website on violence against children to each of these national campaigns, each of which includes details on advocacy initiatives undertaken in each country, developments and achievement to-date, as well as other useful resources and contacts.
Also look out for an upcoming page on the national campaign taking place in Nigeria.
In the latest case of inhuman sentencing in Argentina, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has filed an application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in relation to the case of five young men who were sentenced to life imprisonment for events that occurred when they were still minors. The IACHR has determined that the Argentine judicial authorities acted with blatant disregard for the international standards that apply in the case of juvenile criminal justice. Full story.
Also in the Americas, this time in the United States, a 12-year-old boy is being tried as an adult for the murder of his younger brother. Assistant Public Defender Rob Mason said that the boy’s defence team believes he can be rehabilitated. But if found guilty, he would be sentenced to life in prison without parole. Full story.
Also in the United States, a ban on the circumcision of male children in San Francisco will be up for vote in the city’s November ballot, meaning that voters will decide on what until now has been a private family matter. If approved, the measure would restrict males under the age of 18 from being circumcised. The leading sponsor of the initiative, Lloyd Schofield, commented that "Parents are really guardians, and guardians have to do what’s in the best interest of the child. It’s his body. It’s his choice." The initiative has come under fire from religious groups who practice male circumcision and who view it as an attack on freedom of religion; while others in favour of the measure argue that it is important to prioritise the rights of children over the religious freedoms of parents. Full story.
Meanwhile in Kenya, a number of studies conducted on sexual abuse of children in schools have found that the problem is still widespread as the result of 1) coercion, as teachers promise good grades to students in return for sexual liaisons; 2) social stigma surrounding sexual abuse of children, as many families still view it as too stigmatising to report the crime; and 3) widespread impunity for perpetrators, as 90 per cent of sexual abuse cases involving teachers have never reached the Teachers’ Service Commission, which is responsible for monitoring and implementing teachers' codes of conduct. A study conducted between 2003 and 2009 revealed that 12,660 girls were sexually abused by their teachers. Full story.
Also in Kenya, legislation alone is failing to stop the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), activists have said, because its ban has not been accompanied with continuous community awareness raising and education programmes on the health risks of this deep-rooted cultural practice. In one ethnic community, there is an FGM prevalence of 96 per cent. Full story.
Also check out CRIN's forms of violence page on harmful traditional practices here.
On the issue of harmful practices, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) have decided to elaborate a joint General Recommendation/Comment on the issue with the aim of providing an authoritative interpretation of the actions required by State Parties to fulfil their obligations. Civil society are invited to submit information before August 31st. Full story.
And on the issue of inadequate legislation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is consistently failing to implement laws against sexual and gender-based violence, with most survivors never seeing their lawsuits progress to actual trials. Cases brought to the police are not guaranteed to be pursued, and even though it is illegal, magistrates also demand fees to prepare cases. One survey revealed that most sexual violence against women and girls in the DRC is perpetrated by husbands or partners. The survey's authors suggest that future policies and programmes should focus on abuse within families, among other recommendations. Full story.
Also read CRIN's forms of violence pages on physical abuse and domestic violence.
State violence in the Middle East and North Africa continues to claim the lives of peaceful protesters, including at least 77 children in Syria, the bodies of two of which showing signs of severe torture.
The first victim was a 13-year-old boy who disappeared at a protest in Deraa. And after nearly a month in police custody, his body was returned to his parents bearing lacerations, burn marks consistent with the use of electric shock devices, bullet wounds, a broken neck and a severed penis. The second victim of torture was a 15-year-old boy, who was returned to his parents six weeks after disappearing at a rally, with a broken neck, broken leg, bullet holes, a missing eye and several missing teeth.
In what is a valuable confession, a former member of the Syrian Republican Guard has told how he and other soldiers were ordered to shoot at non-violent protesters demonstrating near Damascus. Yet he refused to follow orders upon witnessing soldiers kill three children and a young man and woman.
Denouncing the Syrian government’s use of violence against children, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais called for a thorough and impartial investigation into all reported cases of unlawful arrest in demonstrations, and torture in detention.
Elsewhere in the region, at the beginning of June a UN human rights commission ordered to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Libya officially concluded that crimes against humanity and war crimes have been committed by the Government forces “as part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population.” And this week, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant for Col. Muammar Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Sanussi on charges of crimes against humanity including murder, imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance and sexual abuse of civilians. Full story.
And in Egypt it was revealed that female protesters detained by security forces during the country’s uprising were submitted to virginity tests to prove that they were not virgins and could therefore not allege that they had been raped while under detention, as some within the military believe that only virgins can be victims of rape.
Also check out CRIN's forms of violence pages on State violence and Torture.
On the issue of violence against women and girls, the annual day of discussion on women's rights took place on 10 June in Geneva, with the topic focusing on violence against women and girls. More details here.
Four teachers at a private school in Namibia will appear in court in October on charges of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm after they allegedly beat several students with objects ranging from a wooden stick and a PVC pipe on more than one occasion. One of the suspects admitted to the media that he had given “a couple of boys” a hiding “in light spirits”. On the school’s website, it is stated that each pupil “will continuously be trained to ensure… that he/she must take responsibility for his/her actions and take punishment when he/she transgresses. The teachers must utilise the disciplinary system to encourage and motivate the learners to cooperate in a respectful manner.” The use of corporal punishment in schools in Namibia is prohibited by law. Full story.
A new handbook to support faith-based approaches to ending corporal punishment has been published jointly by Churches’ Network for Non-violence, the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children and Save the Children Sweden. It aims to help those working with and within religious communities to harness faith-based support for reform in their efforts to end corporal punishment of children, and includes positive examples and links to useful resources. Download the report.
Also check out CRIN's forms of violence page on physical punishment.
**THE LAST WORD**
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