In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Education and health
- Food and survival
- Civil and political rights
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
Paediatricians in Canada are increasingly being approached about euthanasia by both parents of gravely ill children and by children themselves, according to a survey by the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS), even though the practice is only legal for over-18s. The survey is part of an independent review on whether terminally ill children should have access to medically-assisted dying. When euthanasia was legalised in Canada in 2016 for adults with an incurable illness or intolerable suffering, the new law also required lawmakers to review whether “mature minors” – under-18s deemed capable of giving consent – should also have access to medically-assisted death. The CPS survey found that 35 paediatricians had "exploratory discussions" last year with 60 patients under the age of 18, while nine doctors received "explicit requests" for assisted death from 17 children. Doctors also discussed the issue with the parents of 419 critically ill children, while 45 respondents said they received explicit requests from parents. Some "children have illnesses where there is really profound suffering," noted Dr Dawn Davies, paediatric palliative care physician and chair of the CPS bioethics committee. And while palliative care serves a purpose, she said, it will not "erase requests for medical assistance in dying".
A girl in Japan, who was forced to dye her naturally-brown hair black or be banned from attending school, is suing the government of her prefecture. The lawsuit against Osaka Prefectural Government states that the mother of the now 18-year-old had informed her school, which has a policy banning hair colouring and bleaching, that her daughter was born with brown hair. However, the girl was allegedly told by teachers to "dye the hair black or quit school". The student developed a rash and pain in her scalp after dyeing her hair repeatedly and has not attended school since September 2016. She is seeking damages of about ¥2.2 million ($19,000). Many schools in Japan have strict rules about hair colour, accessories, make-up and uniforms, including the length of skirts for girls. According to the lawsuit, the school told the girl’s mother that it would even demand that blonde foreign students dye their hair black because that was their rule. The prefectural education board said rules regarding pupils’ hair are set by individual schools and declined to comment on the case.
Indigenous women and girls in North, Central and South America are exposed to discrimination related to their identity as both indigenous and female, according to a new report by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The study finds that this dual discrimination increases their exposure to a huge range of violence and limits their access to justice, as well as the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights, including school accessibility and attendance. According to the Commission, they tend to suffer more acts of violence in specific contexts, including armed conflicts; during development, investment, and extraction projects; in the home; when they act as human rights defenders; and during migration. The report also notes that many forms of violence have a strong intergenerational element. Young age is also a compounding factor, which makes girls particularly vulnerable to sexual violence and sexual trafficking.
Education and health
In Cyprus, the Attorney General has ruled that parents should not be able to influence the content of sexual education taught in state schools, or be able to request that their children be exempt from attending. The opinion of the Attorney General was requested by the Ministry of Education after more than 150 parents sent a joint letter to the government requesting to exclude their children from sex education classes as they consider it against their religious or philosophical beliefs. They also requested input on how sex education is being taught in state schools. However, both the Attorney General and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights ruled that this was not possible, stating that sex education is no different than any other subject on the school curriculum and the content is the sole responsibility of the education ministry. The Commissioner, Leda Koursoumba, said that any attempt to exclude children from sexual education programmes in schools would be a violation of their rights.
The UN Special Rapporteur on disability has singled out forced sterilisation of young women as part of a pattern of “systemic violence” being carried out against girls and young women with disabilities in a new report. “Discriminatory laws and policies are undermining the fundamental right of girls and young women with disabilities to exercise choice and have control over their bodies,” said Catalina Devandas in a statement to the General Assembly. She said States were failing to protect girls with disabilities from the pain and irreversible harm inflicted on them under the guise of “best interests”. Sterilisation, hysterectomies, oestrogen treatments and other procedures are still being carried out against their will at the request and with the consent of judges, healthcare professionals, family members or legal guardians, she said. Devandas described these as crimes against sexual integrity and reproductive health, adding that sex education and health services had to be accessible to all women and girls to facilitate autonomous decision-making.
The minister for youth in Yemen’s rebel government, Hassan Zaid, has proposed suspending school classes and arming pupils and teachers to fight on behalf of the Houthi-run government. Yemen has been devastated by a war between the Houthis, who control the capital, Sana’a, and the internationally-recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition. The education system in Yemen has been devastated in the conflict. A teachers’ strike in rebel territory, in protest at salaries going unpaid for about a year, delayed the start of the school year by two weeks. When they did open last Sunday, classrooms were largely empty. Recent estimates suggest that 78 percent of Yemen’s schools have been hit by the salary crunch, while nearly 500 schools have been destroyed, turned into shelters or commandeered by armed factions. UN figures show that 8,650 people have been killed, including at least 1,550 children, since the Saudi Arabia-led coalition joined the Yemen war in 2015.
Food and survival
The deliberate starvation of civilians could amount to a war crime and should be prosecuted, the UN’s expert on the right to food has said. Hilal Elver noted in a new report that hunger and disease usually killed more people than combat in conflicts. She noted that in five conflict-stricken countries alone, approximately 20 million people are facing famine and starvation, while another estimated 70 million people in 45 countries currently require emergency food assistance. Elver decried using food as a weapon of war by parties to conflicts, adding that the international community needed to make it clear that causing famines violates international law on the right to food. The UN expert also noted that in Yemen, rates of acute malnutrition have skyrocketed since 2015, with acute malnutrition affecting more than three million children and pregnant or breastfeeding women. Elver noted that parties to the conflict in Yemen have played a significant and deliberate role in this, including a Saudi Arabian-imposed aerial and naval blockade on a country which previously imported 90 percent of its food.
Hundreds of thousands of children could die in the coming months if aid is not delivered to the conflict-wracked province of Kasai in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The head of the UN food agency, David Beasley, recently said that more than three million people were now at risk of starvation, including many children. Violence flared in Kasai in August 2016, after the death of a local leader during clashes with security forces. More than 1.5 million million people have fled as a result of the fighting, most of them children. Beasley described the situation in Kasai as a "disaster", reporting that burned homes and stunted children had become an increasingly familiar sight. The World Food Programme has currently only received one percent of the funding it needs to help people in Kasai and officials warned that the coming rainy season would soon make already poor roads impassable.
Rohingya children are experiencing “hell on Earth” during their stay in overcrowded, muddy and squalid refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, UNICEF has reported. Children, who account for 58 percent of the refugees entering Bangladesh over the last eight weeks, are often not able to get clean water, food, sanitation, shelter or vaccines which could be crucial to their survival. UNICEF staff also warned that around one in five children in the area are acutely malnourished, and that traffickers and smugglers are poised to exploit and kidnap refugee children fleeing violence in Myanmar. While cholera vaccination programmes have managed to immunise more than 179,800 children aged between one and five in the region, many more children remain at risk from cholera and other waterborne diseases. Children also continue to die in attempts to flee Myanmar, with another five reported to have drowned when their boat capsized this week.
Civil and political rights
Vast biometric databases may soon be collecting information about the voice patterns of every person in China, with such big data posing special risks for children, says UNICEF. Authorities are reportedly collaborating with iFlytek, a Chinese company that produces 80 percent of all speech recognition technology in the country, to develop a pilot surveillance system that can automatically identify targeted voices in phone conversations. National police databases have more than one billion faces and 40 million people’s DNA samples already stored, and its expansion to voice patterns adds another level to the pervasive surveillance Chinese citizens endure. With more surveillance, there are more ways for the government to keep tabs on critics, as well as those mobilising and organising for social change. The expanded surveillance comes at a time when the government is also planning to launch a “social credit system”, a way of ranking the loyalty and productivity of all 1.3 billion of its population. The system will rate actions as positive or negative and the score a person gets may determine where their children will attend school, which companies will hire them and what their chances of getting a mortgage are.
Human right experts have called on Kenya to lift a ban on protests after a tense election re-run saw outbreaks of violence and arson. A pattern of police brutality, excessive use of force, consistent harassment of judges and threats to civil society has been witnessed even before the ban was imposed, according to human rights experts, including the UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights defenders, freedom of expression and torture. The experts highlighted that police had repeatedly used force with impunity, including in one instance using tear gas in a nursery, injuring at least three children. The ban also represents another hurdle for children in terms of political representation. Young people, unable to vote, are often moved to protest, but the ban threatens them with violence or arrest if they dare to speak their minds.
Child rights: E-learning course on Child Rights Situation Analysis
Dates: 1 November-12 December 2017
Violence: 19 Days of activism for the prevention of violence against children and youth
Organisation: Women's World Summit Foundation
Dates: 1-19 November
United Kingdom: ROCK annual conference on children’s rights
Organisation: Rights of the Child UK (ROCK)
Date: 3 November 2017
Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Right to play: Child in the City International Seminar
Organisation: Child in the City
Dates: 6-7 November
Location: London, United Kingdom
Freedom of expression: Advocacy training surgery
Organisation: Organisation: MLDI and IHRDA
Date: 13 November 2017
Application deadline: 27 September 2017
Location: Banjul, Gambia
Street children: The legal rights of street-connected children and youth
Organisation: The American Bar Association
Dates: November 28 - 29
Location: São Paulo, Brazil
Call for projects: 49th Summer School on Human Rights Defenders
Organisation: The René Cassin Foundation
Submission deadline: 15 December 2017
Conference: The impact of children’s rights education and research on policy development
Registration deadline: 8 January 2018
Dates: 18-19 January 2018
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
LEAK OF THE WEEK
It’s hard to overstate the brilliance of Yemen’s education minister, Hassan Zaid, who may have inadvertently devised the greatest cost-saving measure ever with his plan to send children to fight his country’s wars, while he sits and watches. Not only will Zaid’s plan to sacrifice children in combat dramatically lower the number of children in need of food, vaccinations and clean water, it will virtually eliminate the need for teachers (who he wasn’t paying anyway).
“Wouldn’t we be able to reinforce the ranks with hundreds of thousands (of fighters) and win the battle?” he reportedly wrote on Facebook. Another user had a better idea, asking: “What if we let the students study and sent the ministers and their bodyguards to the front?”
Further plans have not yet been made public by the minister on the most official of platforms: Facebook, but we look forward to future suggestions, possibly covering weaponised arts and crafts, brightly coloured toys used in diversionary tactics and the deployment of special-ops toddlers.