The week in children's rights - 1531

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18 May 2017 subscribe | subscribe | submit information
  • CRINmail 1531:

    In this issue:

    Latest news and reports
    -Deprivation of liberty
    - Sex selection and abortion
    - Refugees and migration
    - Physical integrity
    - Privacy and digital rights

    Upcoming events





    Deprivation of liberty


    Lawyers in Uganda are demanding an apology and compensation from police after law enforcement officials arrested and held 15 children in police custody for several weeks. Ugandan police have since claimed that the children were taken into custody as both of their parents were suspects in a high profile murder investigation, meaning the children, ranging in age from two to 14 years old, would have otherwise been left without adult supervision. Police were initially unresponsive to questions about the children’s whereabouts, at one point denying they were holding them, but eventually admitted to having them in custody. The children were arrested on 21 March and were released on 12 May without charge. No apology or assurance of compensation has yet been offered by police.

    In Australia the Victorian Supreme Court has ruled that the detention of children in an adult prison was a breach of their rights. The children who brought the case were transferred to Barwon maximum security prison after a riot caused extensive damage to the the Parkville Youth Justice Centre in November 2016. The children were detained in a part of the prison called the “Grevillea Unit”, previously used to host adults, but “reclassified” as a juvenile facility in late 2016. During the case the court heard that detainees were often held in lockdown for up to 23 hours and some were handcuffed during limited periods of release, with their lawyers asserting that the juveniles were at risk of developing mental health problems directly related to conditions in the adult prison. Supreme Court Justice John Dixon found the state government's decision to create the youth justice wing in the adult prison incompatible with the children’s human rights, and the children could receive compensation if they choose to sue the government for unlawful detention.

    Sex selection and abortion


    A panel of doctors in India has accepted a 10-year-old rape victim's request for an abortion amid allegations the pregnancy was a result of her stepfather raping her. India has strict rules on abortion aimed at stopping sex-selective abortions and does not allow terminations after 20 weeks of pregnancy without confirmation from a doctor that a woman’s life is in danger. The girl became pregnant around five months ago and doctors from the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences accepted the family's request to allow the child to have an abortion after discussing the matter this week. The doctors claimed the case was "borderline" because it was not certain when the rape occurred, suggesting it could have been 19, 20 or 21 weeks ago, agreeing that the child should be allowed an abortion. In recent months India's Supreme Court has received several petitions, some from women who were raped, wanting to terminate pregnancies after 20 weeks and the court has always referred the matter to medical experts.

    Australia’s advisory panel on ethical concerns in health issues has maintained a 2007 ban on sex selection for non-medical reasons in revised guidelines on assisted reproductive technologies. Sex selection can be permitted to reduce the risk of transmission of a serious genetic condition, but the reasons for non-medical sex selection can include gender stereotyping or cultural or personal preferences. The Australian Health Ethics Committee held two rounds of public consultations, the latter found a desire to reduce the risks of discriminatory attitudes and inequality, and concerns about future selection based on cosmetic attributes such as hair colour. The Committee concluded that the risks to equality of permitting non-medical sex selection currently outweigh the benefits. It said it does “not support the use of sex selection techniques for non-medical purposes.” However, legislation passed by individual states or territories within Australia could override the guidelines, the Committee noted. Only the states of Victoria and Western Australia currently have their own legislation on the issue, which prohibit non-medical sex selection.

    Refugees and migration


    Unaccompanied minor refugees are among the many trapped in limbo in Melilla, a tiny enclave of Spain in North Africa. One of two Spanish cities in mainland Africa, Melilla is viewed as a gateway to Europe, with many migrants attempting to cross over from Morocco having escaped conflict and extreme poverty in sub-Saharan countries and, increasingly, the Middle East. The European Union pays both Spain and Morocco tens of millions of Euros each year to protect the borders, and a triple-structured fence reinforced with blades, alarms and pepper gas runs along the seven-mile perimeter of the border with Morocco. Reports suggest that there are 540 unaccompanied refugee and migrant children currently living in the city, homeless or crammed into an overcrowded centre for minors, hoping to be processed and sent to mainland Spain. The children often try to escape to the mainland as stowaways on the daily ferry to Málaga, a journey which resulted in three deaths last year.

    Thousands of unaccompanied children have been displaced by widespread violence in Honduras, where criminal gangs dominate large areas of the country’s main cities. More than 10,468 cases of unaccompanied Honduran children were recorded by the United States government to have crossed the border between October 2015 and September 2016, and the Norwegian Refugee Council estimates that violence has displaced more than 200,000 people within Honduras. The country’s second largest city, San Pedro Sula, has the second highest murder rate in the world, and clashes between gangs happen almost daily. Forced displacement, threats, kidnappings, sexual violence and homicides are common, and most of the displaced families are in urgent need of clothing, food, shelter and protection. Estimates suggest that 97 percent of murders remain unsolved, and the national ombudsperson estimates that 80 percent of human rights violations remain in impunity.

    Physical integrity


    Children in Denmark and Germany born with sex characteristics that do not fit with female or male norms risk being subjected to medical procedures in violation of their human rights, according to a new report from Amnesty International. The organisation documents how outdated gender stereotypes are resulting in irreversible surgeries on children who are intersex, typically infants and children under the age of 10, without full knowledge of their potentially harmful long-term health and psychological effects. The report calls on legislators and medical professionals in both countries to ensure that no child is subjected to irreversible treatment and decisions should be postponed until the individual can decide for themselves. Physical integrity activists go further by demanding  legal prohibition of these surgeries, and emphasise that the practice amounts to genital mutilation, a harmful traditional practice, inhuman treatment and torture.

    A doctor in the United Kingdom is to be prosecuted for assault after circumcising an infant boy without the mother's consent. The operation took place when the baby, whose parents are separated, was taken to visit his father’s family and the procedure was carried out before the baby was returned to his mother later the same day. The mother filed a complaint with the Police and the General Medical Council (GMC). The issue of consent has gained traction in recent years, with medical associations in SwedenNorwayFinland, the NetherlandsIceland and Australia speaking out against circumcision performed on male infants and boys without their informed consent. The case in the UK is the first time legal aid has supported an action in this area, and if successful, campaigners claim it could lead to a new wave of complaints from men who were subjected to the procedure as children. The British Medical Association says it is revising its ethical guidelines on circumcision, which currently state: “It is for society to decide what limits should be imposed on parental choice”. The new document is expected to be published sometime in the next year.

    Privacy and digital rights


    The recent release of 82 Chibok schoolgirls, who were abducted by Boko Haram in Nigeria three years ago, has been marred by a lack of respect for the girls’ privacy. Nigerian authorities confirmed that the girls had been freed in exchange for detained Boko Haram fighters, but rather than making efforts to return them to their families or reintegrate them into society, the President’s media aide publicised their names and images. Questions also remain about the legal status of the released girls, as 21 girls freed in the first round of negotiations between the terrorist group and the government last October are still in government custody. Human Rights Watch reported that few parents of the 21 previously released girls had information on whether their daughters were attending school, or receiving medical and psychological support.

    A ban on social media in Indian-controlled Jammu and Kashmir has been criticised by a pair of UN human rights experts, who called on the government to hold an open and democratic dialogue to address the region's social and political conflicts. David Kaye, the Special Rapporteur (SR) on freedom of opinion and expression, and Michel Forst, SR on the situation of human rights defenders, stressed that the scope of the restrictions also undermined “the Government's stated aim of preventing dissemination of information that could lead to violence”. Violent clashes between security forces and protesters in the area have led to widespread school closures, curfews and other restrictions which have angered residents. Children, particularly teenagers, are frequently accused of throwing stones at Indian forces, sometimes leading to further violent confrontations. The two UN experts said that there had already been an estimated 31 reported cases of social media and internet bans since 2012 in Jammu and Kashmir, noting what seems to be a worrying pattern aimed at curbing protests and social unrest in the region at the expense of citizens’ right to free expression.

    Ukraine has imposed a ban on Russia's biggest social media networks and internet services, blocking websites accessed by millions of users. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s decision is a ramping up of sanctions on the country’s neighbour, believed to be a form of retaliation for its annexation of Crimea, and the continuing conflict in eastern Ukraine. The services targeted by the government include social networks and Odnoklassniki, search engine Yandex and the email service. VK (VKontakte) alone has an estimated 15 million users in Ukraine and Odnoklassiki (which translates as Classmates) is also popular. Meanwhile, Russia is mulling a ban of its own on the messaging app Telegram over its refusal to share data with the State. Under Russian law, the app could be blocked across the country for refusing to comply, but the company issued a statement claiming that "No other government or special service in the world has ever received any information from us”, insisting it would not make Russia the exception. As well as direct messages, Telegram is used for more public discussions using public channels, and is used by some as an alternative news source.




    Conference: Children on the move in southeast Asia
    Organisations: Save the Children, Terre des hommes, the International Detention Coalition & the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
    Dates: 24-25 May 2017
    Location: Bangkok, Thailand

    Consultation: Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour
    Organisation: IPEC
    Deadline: 26 May 2017
    Location: Online

    Best interests: International Conference on Shared Parenting
    Organisations: National Parents Organization & the International Council on Shared Parenting
    Dates: 29-31 May 2017
    Location: Boston, United States

    Course: Online course on Child Rights Governance
    Organisation: Human Rights Education Associates
    Dates: 31 May-11 July 2017
    Location: Online

    Seminar: Urban Planning and Children
    Organisations: Child in the City Foundation & European Network Child Friendly Cities
    Dates: 19-20 June 2017
    Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands

    Child abuse: ISPCAN European conference on child abuse & neglect
    Organisation: International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
    Dates: 1-4 October 2017
    Location: The Hague, Netherlands

    Date: 9-11 October 2017
    Location: Honolulu, United States




    Child Rights International Network: Executive Assistant 
    Application deadline: Rolling
    Location: London

    Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children: Coordinator
    Application deadline: 23 May 2017
    Location: London, United Kingdom

    Consortium for Street Children: Research Manager
    Application deadline: 23 May 2017
    Location: London, United Kingdom

    UNICEF: Consultant - Review of Adolescent Participation
    Application deadline: 31 May 2017
    Location: Negotiable


    “Despite widespread abuses and lack of guarantee for their human rights in several settings, young trans and gender diverse people frequently lack access to remedy for the violation of their rights. It is thus critical that States investigate violations, hold those responsible to be accountable, and protect the rights of victims, including in regard to remedy, redress and compensation, effectively.

    “On the occasion of the 2017 IDAHOT, we remind States of their obligation to combat transphobia, which leads to violence and discrimination against young trans and gender diverse people, call on Governments to embrace human diversity, reflecting the universality and indivisibility of human rights, and underline the need for holistic implementation measures, including responsive laws, policies and practices. A universal, rights-based analysis of gender should address social constructions, practices and customs that tend to reinforce gender stereotypes.”

    Statement to mark the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia 2017 from a group of UN experts, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Council of Europe.
    © Child Rights International Network 2018 ~

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