CRINmail 1441

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12 August 2015 subscribe | subscribe | submit information
  • CRINmail 1441

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    Striking a balance between protection & privacy

    The Colombian Supreme Court has ruled that parents who monitor their child’s online activity if they suspect abuse do not violate the child’s right to privacy. The decision was made in a case in which the parents of a 12-year-old girl had accessed their daughter’s email account, which documented sexual abuse of the girl by an 18-year-old man with whom she was in a relationship. During his trial the man alleged that the emails incriminating him had been obtained without the girl’s permission and that her privacy had been violated. In its decision, the Supreme Court confirmed the conviction of the man, stating that "parents exercising parental authority are constitutionally and legally authorised to assist, guide and control the communications of their underage children only for the purpose of protecting and guaranteeing the fundamental rights of children and adolescents." However, the Court also made it clear that any parental intervention that is not intended to protect the child would breach the child’s right to privacy and be “illegal and reprehensible”.


    Violence and child abuse

    Police in Pakistan have come under fire after allegedly downplaying the scale of sexual abuse of children in the country’s eastern Punjab province. Parents of the victims accused law enforcement of being reluctant to take action and said that police had disputed claims that up to 280 children had been abused on camera in one village. Four hundred videos discovered were reportedly used to blackmail families and some were sold to websites that host child abuse images. The chief minister of Punjab has ordered a judicial inquiry. Children’s rights organisations say sexual abuse of children is widespread in Pakistan, but existing figures only reflect the tip of the iceberg, as many cases go unreported because of fear of social stigma. In this latest case, the media has also been criticised over its coverage, as the faces of the abused children were shown in reports. Aoun Sahi, an Islamabad-based media trainer, said cases related to child sexual abuse are regularly published in newspapers using humiliating words.

    Brazil's military police force has been criticised for their “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to public security, with the majority of those killed being young and black, according to an Amnesty International report published a year before the 2016 Olympic Games are held in the country. The organisation’s research shows that there were 8,466 deaths from police intervention in Rio de Janeiro state from 2004 to 2015, and that between 2010 and 2013 almost 80 percent of those killed were black and 75 percent of victims were aged between 15 and 29. In one favela, Amnesty found evidence that nine out of ten killings in 2014 were extrajudicial executions. The organisation said police in Rio were decimating a generation of poor, young, black men, and highlighted that cases are rarely brought to justice, with only one out of 220 investigations opened in 2011 resulting in an officer being charged.

    A United Nations official has confirmed the authenticity of a price list for women and children captured by Islamic State (IS) and traded as slaves. The UN special envoy on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, was given an IS pamphlet including the price list on a trip to Iraq in April. Bidders include the group’s own fighters and wealthy Middle Easterners who peddle girls “like barrels of petrol”, said Ms Bangura. The information shows that IS fighters buy and sell boys and girls aged 1 to 9 for around $165.

    Yet the demand for brides within the extremist group has allowed some to swindle its members, with a group of Chechen girls reportedly scamming the group out of $3,300. The girls pretended to be willing to travel to war-torn Syria to wed fighters and were wired travel expenses by several members. Local law enforcement arrested one of the girls, who now faces a maximum of six years in prison for illegally soliciting money and remains under house arrest. The girl revealed that friends of hers had been recruited by IS online and did travel to Syria: "many people I know did go, but I know no one for whom it turned out well." 


    Health and gender identity

    In Norway, a new government proposal seeks to allow transgender children aged 7 and older to change their legal gender if they have the consent of their parents, while those aged 16 and over would be able to make the change without parental consent. The suggested overhaul of the laws lets individuals decide for themselves whether they are male or female, rather than requiring medical diagnosis, said Health Minister Bent Høie. The proposal only affects changes in legal documents; and under-18s will not be allowed to undergo sex reassignment surgery. The new proposal also stipulates that such surgery and sterilisation will no longer be compulsory once they turn 18, as is currently the case in the country. Richard Köhler, of the Transgender Europe lobby group, welcomed the Norwegian proposal but said the "gold standard" is for there to be no minimum age, as in nations including Malta.

    In Australia the number of children seeking help for mental health issues has doubled since 1998, a new report has shown. An estimated 560,000 children experienced a mental health disorder in the past year, with one in 13 children between the ages of 12 and 17 seriously considering suicide. The survey is the first of its kind in Australia to examine children’s mental health and the prevalence of anxiety disorders, with nearly seven percent of children suffering from them. The report also found that many parents are failing to recognise when their child is suffering from depression. The findings have been welcomed as a wake-up call for parents, with depression rates nearly doubling when the children provided the information themselves, as opposed to their parents. Mental Health Australia chief executive Frank Quinlan​ said it was vital that more research is carried out and that Australia desperately needed a new mental health plan to tackle the problem and more school counsellors to be employed. 


    Child labour & exploitation in the fields

    Almost half a million children are involved in cottonseed cultivation in India, an industry in which they are made to work eight to 12 hours a day and are exposed to poisonous pesticides, a new report reveals. Around 200,000 of the workers are below the age of 14, and constitute 25 percent of the workforce. Two-thirds of them are girls. Another 35 percent of the workers are children between 14 to 17 years of age. Most of the children working in the cottonseed farms are from low-caste groups such as Dalit and Adivasi communities. Tasks mainly allocated to women and children, such as labour-intensive cross-pollination, are paid at a rate substantially lower than the minimum wage, according to the report’s authors. This is an issue which they say both civil society and the government have barely addressed. The report contains recommendations for textile companies, the National Seed Association of India and state governments to address hazardous and exploitative child work and labour rights violations.

    Thousands of Syrian children who fled to Lebanon with their families have become farm workers in vegetable fields and warehouses to help provide for their families. The children are picked up each morning from their makeshift tent settlements strewn across the Bekaa Valley (the Lebanese government has not built official refugee camps). They work two five-hour shifts in the scorching sun or biting cold for $4 each shift, and are exposed to pesticides and heavy loads. While some children go to local “tent schools” established by UNICEF in collaboration with local NGOs, many skip classes to work in the fields. “The children have become used to it – most work from when they’re eight,” said one of the local foremen. “They wake at 5am and finish work at 8pm, wash and sleep. That’s their life.” Elsewhere in the region, nearly half of Syrian refugee households in Jordan say they rely partly or entirely on children’s income, according to recent data.


    Public funding in the face of austerity

    Billionaire hedge fund managers have told Puerto Rico to lay off teachers and close schools so that the island can pay them back the billions it owes. In June Puerto Rico’s governor declared the island’s $72bn debt “unpayable” – paving the way for bankruptcy. In response, the 34 hedge funds commissioned a report put together by former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economists, which said that for Puerto Rico to avoid financial default – and repay its debts – it must collect more taxes and drastically cut public spending. In particular, the report accused the island, where 56 percent of children live in poverty, of spending too much on education. This is despite the fact that current education spending works out at $8,400 per student – below the US national average of $10,667 – and that the government already closed down almost 160 schools in the past two years, as enrolment had declined by about 25 percent as many migrate to the US mainland. The report comes after official Anne Krueger said that the island’s crisis could be solved if the bondholders, including the hedge funds, accepted a significant debt restructuring. 

    Donations to children's charities in Greece “completely dropped” since the government imposed strict restrictions on bank withdrawals, putting some volunteer-run services at risk just when they are needed most. With living standards tumbling, growing numbers of Greeks rely on charities offering free health clinics for children and food banks. One charity, The Smile of the Child, which runs free health clinics and a helpline for sexual abuse survivors, said it is trying to mobilise Greeks abroad, as those living in Greece can no longer get hold of cash beyond 60 euros a day. The charity already expects to help around 50 percent more children this year than in 2014, with around 120,000 under-18s expected to benefit, up from 83,000 in 2014. 

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    Turkmenistan has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which seems to take precedence in cases of conflict with national law, but it has not been expressly incorporated into the legal system and it is not clear whether it can be relied on in court. Children may only bring a case in court through an adult representative, however, they may apply to the relevant state body for protection if their rights are being violated, including by a parent. A serious obstacle to access to justice is the financial cost of bringing a case as the provisions for legal aid are unclear and there are no specific provisions relieving children from the requirement to pay court fees. Finally, although children are allowed to provide oral evidence in court, there are no developed laws to regulate a special procedure for hearing testimony from children.

    Read the full report on access to justice for children in Turkmenistan.

    This report is part of CRIN's access to justice for children project, looking at the status of the CRC in national law, the status of children involved in legal proceedings, the legal means to challenge violations of children’s rights and the practical considerations involved in challenging.

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    Child labour: The Nairobi Global Conference on Child Labour
    Organisation: African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect
    Date: 23-25 August 2015
    Location: Nairobi, Kenya

    Child indicators: ‘From Welfare to Well-being - Child indicators in research, policy & practice’
    Organisation: International Society for Child Indicators
    Date: 2-4 September 2015
    Location: Cape Town, South Africa

    Call for papers: Sixth Int'l Human Rights Education Conference - 'Translating Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms to Today’s World'
    Organisations: HREA and University College Roosevelt 
    Submission deadline: 6 September 2015
    Dates: 17-19 December 2015
    Location: Middelburg, Netherlands

    Juvenile justice: Online training course on ‘Alternatives to Detention for Young Offenders’ 
    Organisation: International School for Juvenile Justice 
    Course dates: 1 October 2015 (lasts three months) 
    Location: Online 

    Africa: Global Child Forum on Southern Africa
    Organisation: Global Child Forum et al
    Date: 8 September 2015
    Location: Pretoria, South Africa

    Child abuse: European Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
    Organisation: International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
    Dates: 27-30 September 2015
    Location: Bucharest, Romania

    Monitoring: Training workshop on monitoring children’s rights
    Organisation: Human Rights Education Associates
    Dates: 15-17 October 2015
    Location: Brussels, Belgium

    Health: Conference on child rights and sight
    Organisation:  Distressed Children & Infants International
    Dates: 24 October 2015
    Location: New Haven, United States

    Asia Pacific: 10th Asian Pacific Regional Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
    Organisation: International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
    Dates: 25-28 October 2015
    Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

    Sports: 'Global sport - Reform or revolution?'
    Organisation: Play the Game
    Dates: 25-29 October 2015
    Location: Aarhus, Denmark

    Participation: E-course on child participation
    Organisation: Human Rights Education Associates
    Dates: 28 October - 8 December 2015
    Location: Online

    Violence: 19 days of activism prevention abuse & violence against children
    Organisation:  Women's World Summit Foundation
    Dates: 1-19 November 2015
    Location: Global

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    CRIN: Legal Translation Intern
    Application deadline: Rolling deadline
    Location: Flexible, home-based 

    CRIN: Legal research internships (Arabic-speaking)
    Application deadline: Rolling deadline
    Location: London, United Kingdom

    CRIN: Communications Intern (French-speaking)
    Application deadline: Rolling deadline
    Location: Flexible, home-based 

    Elevate Children Funders Group: Coordinator
    Application deadline: 19 August 2015
    Location: Flexible (with travel to US and Europe)

    Consortium for Street Children: Advocacy & Research Intern
    Application deadline: 21 August 2015
    Location: London, United Kingdom 

    ECPAT UK: Training Coordinator
    Application deadline: 21 August 2015
    Location: London, United Kingdom 

    European Network on Statelessness: Communications Manager
    Application deadline: 7 September 2015
    Location: London, United Kingdom

    European Network on Statelessness: Operations Manager
    Application deadline: 7 September 2015
    Location: London, United Kingdom



    It’s not just workers or students who pull a sickie on a tired Monday morning; former dictators, politicians or senior religious figures are doing it, too, ahead of their trials for human rights abuses. Here are a few recent examples.

    The Vatican delayed the first hearing in the case against former papal ambassador, 66-year-old Jozef Wesolowski who is accused of child sexual abuse, after he fell ill and was taken to hospital. Guatemala’s forensic authority said 89-year-old ex-dictator Efrain Rios Montt, who was facing genocide charges for the killing of nearly 2,000 indigenous Mayans during the country’s civil war, was mentally unfit to stand trial - two years after his 80-year prison sentence was overturned. Meanwhile former Argentinian President Carlos Menem missed the opening day of his trial for obstruction of justice in the investigation of the 1994 bombing of a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. 

    If there weren't barriers to securing justice and accountability, such as amnesty laws, statutes of limitations and lack of political will, cases would possibly be dealt with sooner. But while a doctor's note may well get senior-level rights abusers out of talking to a judge, the trend appears to show that for some, answering for their actions is inconvenient, regardless of age. 

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