In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Sexual abuse
- Corporal punishment
- Health and consent
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
The United Kingdom’s specialist police unit investigating historic child abuse is currently handling more than 2,000 complaints against 331 youth sports clubs. The statistics released by Operation Hydrant reveal that the vast majority of cases referred to the unit relate to football, with more than 780 potential victims having been identified in the ongoing investigation. A number of other sports have also been the subject of 27 referrals, including basketball, rugby, gymnastics, martial arts, tennis, wrestling, golf, sailing, athletics, cricket, and swimming. The National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, has encouraged victims of child sexual abuse to report it regardless of how long ago the abuse may have taken place. The governing body of football in the UK, the Football Association, has also begun an independent review into its handling of abuse allegations in the years prior to 2005.
At least 16 priests have been accused of child sexual abuse in the Pacific island territory of Guam, with more than 130 people having filed lawsuits against the Catholic Church. Complaints date back as far as the 1950s, while some fear abuse may have been occurring as recently as the 1990s. In 2016, lawmakers unanimously approved a law to permanently remove the statute of limitations for all sexual abuse crimes, allowing victims to file civil cases against their alleged abuser without time restrictions. Meanwhile in Russia, children’s rights commissioner Anna Kuznetsova has said she backs a proposal to abolish the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Citing her concerns about the issue, she noted that the number of reported sexual abuse cases against children has risen from 8,000 in 2012 to 12,000 today. Also in Ecuador, President Lenín Moreno, has said he intends to hold a consultation on the removal of a statute of limitations on sexual abuse crimes from the constitution. The news comes as a teacher has been arrested for allegedly abusing 84 children in the school where he worked.
The High Court of South Africa has ruled that the defence of “reasonable chastisement”, which permits parents to avoid liability for assaulting their children where they do so “moderately” as a form of discipline, violates the South African Constitution. The decision has effectively banned the last form of corporal punishment of children that remains legal in the country. The court found that corporal punishment violated several rights, including to bodily integrity, equal protection of the law and the child’s right to dignity. Delivering the judgment of the court, Justice Keightley ruled: “It is time for our country to march in step with its international obligations under the CRC by recognising that the reasonable chastisement defence is no longer legally acceptable under our constitutional dispensation.” The decision was made as part of an appeal filed by a man who had been convicted of assaulting his son and wife and will apply to any violence against children that takes place after the judgment. It is not yet clear whether the case will be appealed. Read CRIN’s summary of the case.
Scotland is expected to become the first part of the UK to introduce an outright ban on corporal punishment of children. John Finnie, the justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, proposed removing the defence of “justifiable assault” from Scottish law, giving children the same legal protection as adults. The Scottish government has said that it will ensure that the Bill becomes law. The UK is one of only four EU countries that has not legislated against the physical punishment of children in all settings. Hitting a child in the name of discipline was banned in schools by the Westminster parliament in 1986, but it is still legal for a parent or carer to smack their own child if it constitutes “reasonable chastisement”. The children’s commissioners of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland have all called for a UK-wide change in the law after the Scottish government confirmed its support for a ban on corporal punishment of children.
Children in Jamaica are being subjected to “alarming levels” of physical abuse and corporal punishment at home. After a violent video circulated online of a mother beating her daughter with a machete, the Jamaica Gleaner contacted the country’s Child Development Agency (CDA) for information about physical abuse of children. The CDA reported that from January to September this year its Investigations Unit received 10,267 cases, compared to 12,804 cases in all of 2016. The agency also noted that there has been an increase in physical abuse, including children being burned with hot irons, cut with knives or machetes, or severely beaten with electrical cords. Counselling psychologist Dr Patrece Charles attributed the abuse to Jamaica’s “culture of corporal punishment”, noting that the majority of the parents who abuse their children were also victims of abuse themselves.
Discrimination is the main threat to the wellbeing of children of same-sex parents, according to a new review published in the Medical Journal of Australia. The study, based on three decades of peer-reviewed research, found that children raised by same-sex parents did as well socially, emotionally and educationally as their peers. The review found a consensus within the fields of family studies and psychology that parenting quality, parental wellbeing and the quality and satisfaction with relationships within the family, rather than any given family structure, are the most important factors in children’s wellbeing and development. The research has been published as Australia’s postal survey on whether to legalise equal marriage enters its final stretch. The authors of the study have been highly critical of the misuse of data on the wellbeing of children during the campaign, with Professor Michelle Telfer saying that the medical community should debunk incorrect claims, arguing that “[w]hen damaging misrepresentations of the evidence circulate unchecked, the potential for stigmatising rhetoric to generate greater harm to this community increases".
The Ministry of Education in Paraguay has banned public schools from using or disseminating materials on “gender ideology”. Minister of Education, Enrique Riera, has presented the move as a defence of “traditional values” and the “traditional family” consisting of “father, mother and children”. The ban has been widely criticised for promoting discrimination against women and LGBT people and violating the country’s international commitments to human rights. The Paraguayan advocacy organisation SOMOSGAY has accused the government of inventing the “nonexistent and unscientific” term “gender ideology” to justify violence and discrimination against LGBT people. Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director for Amnesty International, has also challenged the change: “[e]xcluding education on equality from the curriculum is tantamount to state promotion of violence and discrimination with extremely grave consequence[s]”. Homosexuality is legal in Paraguay, but the country retains a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and has no legislation to combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The Indigenous Services Minister of Canada has announced that she expects to reach a settlement over a decade-long struggle for the government to pay for a school bus service for an indigenous child with disabilities. The boy, who is 15 and lives in the community of Montana First Nation, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, meaning that he needed support and transport to help him attend school. The boy’s family began pushing for the State to provide funding when he entered kindergarten 11 years ago, and filed a human rights complaint in 2012 seeking compensation for discrimination, damages and lost income. The family’s situation is far from unique. In May this year, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal found that Canada was continuing a pattern of discriminatory conduct in funding services to First Nations communities resulting in delays, gaps and the denial of essential public services.
Health and consent
Pollution has been linked to nine million deaths worldwide in 2015, a new report in the Lancet has found. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low and middle income countries, where pollution could account for up to a quarter of fatalities. The findings show that air pollution had the biggest impact, accounting for two-thirds of deaths, most caused by non-infectious diseases such as heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. The next largest risk factor, water pollution, accounted for 1.8 million deaths, while pollution in the workplace was linked to 800,000 deaths globally. About 92 percent of these deaths occurred in poorer countries, with the greatest impact felt in places undergoing rapid economic development such as India, which had the fifth highest level of pollution deaths, and China, which had the 16th. Bangladesh and Somalia were the worst affected countries, while Brunei and Sweden were the least affected by comparison. Children are often among those worst affected by air pollution, as a result of their smaller bodies and the sensitive developmental periods they go through. The data from this two-year project can be viewed on this interactive map.
The case of a Mexican mother who refused to allow her daughter to have blood transfusions to treat her leukaemia has gone to the highest national court after a prosecutor granted the State provisional guardianship of the child for decisions involving her medical treatment. However, a federal judge granted the mother, a Jehovah’s witness, an injunction against the decision of the prosecutor, ruling that the child should receive a transfusion only after all alternative medical treatments have been tried. The judge also decided that the guardianship granted to the State’s services was discriminatory, arbitrary and denigrating to the child’s parents. The case has now gone to the Supreme Court of Justice, with the mother claiming she has been discriminated against on grounds of her ethnic origin and religious beliefs.
Lawyers representing a pregnant, undocumented 17-year-old girl in Texas, United States, are requesting that the federal appeals court in Washington permit her to have an abortion immediately, despite not having an adult sponsor. Despite abortion being legal in the US at the federal level, many states have restricted access to the procedure, with Texas having some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, including mandatory ultrasound imaging, regular visits to a doctor and parental consent being a requirement for minors. A panel of three judges had previously ruled that only once federal authorities had found a suitable sponsor for the girl, who has no close family in the country, could she begin the abortion process. However, in Texas abortions are banned in most cases after 20 weeks, and as the girl is estimated to be 15 weeks pregnant, the girl’s prospects of finding a suitable adult sponsor and receiving an abortion are becoming increasingly complicated.
LEAK OF THE WEEK
Every year Halloween makes its presence heard in Russia, not because of the sound of pumpkins being carved or the rattling of bags full of sweets, but because of the fearful cries of some religious groups and conservative politicians who want the holiday banned because they find the sight of children in costumes too scary to bear.
Perhaps forgetting that vampires, witches and zombies aren’t real, the main reason for a ban on celebrations in parts of the country is apparently to protect children. According to proponents of local bans, Halloween "poses a great danger to children" and "breeds extremism". Halloween parties meanwhile can apparently "degenerate into orgies", while the holiday itself "causes a negative influence on fragile minds". Some have even hailed Halloween as “the most powerful psychophysical, emotional and suggestive influence”.
Exaggerations aside, let’s not forget that it’s sweets, rather than dark sacrificial offerings, which trick-or-treaters tend to carry.