In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Civil and political rights
- Health and environment
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
Police in France have used “excessive and life-threatening” force against refugees and migrants, including against children as young as 12 years old, according to a new report by the Refugee Rights Data Project (RRDP). The organisation alleges that French police tactics against the estimated 700 refugees around Calais have included limb-breaking beatings and driving unaccompanied girls to remote spots before abandoning them. Researchers used interpreters to interview 233 refugees, including 94 children, and found repeated “disproportionate and indiscriminate” accounts of police brutality. RRDP claims that French and British authorities have effectively abandoned the refugees, with a total lack of protection allowing repeated attacks from local racist groups as well as police. Of the unaccompanied minors questioned by RRDP researchers, many reported that they were sleeping rough in forests or fields around Calais, with 40 percent saying they had family in the UK.
Rohingya refugee children from Myanmar are working punishing hours for paltry pay in Bangladesh, with some suffering beatings and sexual assault, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has found. The investigation by the IOM into exploitation and trafficking in Bangladesh’s refugee camps also documented accounts of Rohingya girls as young as 11 being married off, and of children as young as seven being found working outside the makeshift settlements established along Bangladesh’s border. The report claims that children are targeted by labour agents and encouraged to work by their destitute parents amid widespread malnutrition and poverty in the camps, where education opportunities are limited for children beyond a very basic level. About 450,000 children, representing 55 percent of the refugee population, live near the border with Myanmar after fleeing the destruction of villages and alleged murder, looting and rape by security forces and Buddhist mobs.
Civil and political rights
In the space of one year, thousands of children were referred to the United Kingdom’s often-criticised counter-terrorism programme Prevent, according to new government figures. The Prevent strategy has been condemned by some groups for allegedly spying on Muslim communities, though officials maintain that the strategy and its associated reporting duties only exist to inform police about people being drawn into extremism. The official figures show that almost a third of the 7,631 individuals referred to Prevent from April 2015 to March 2016 were children. Concerns relating to Islamist extremism made up 65 percent of referrals, including 1,500 children under 15 years old. Miqdaad Versi, the assistant general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, pointed out that the statistics show that Muslims are 41 times more likely to be referred to Prevent than non-Muslims. Out of all the initial referrals, only 264 people, including 82 children under 15, were then referred to Channel, the counter-radicalisation scheme, over Islamist extremism concerns. The figures show that “Large numbers of people - mostly Muslim - are being needlessly referred to this inherently stigmatising programme as extremists only to be deemed not to require Channel assistance,” said Amrit Singh, a senior legal officer for national security and counterterrorism at the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Students at a private school in the state of Telangana, India, have protested against stress and lack of sleep, saying they are made to study for more than 13 hours each day. The case spotlights a lack of regulation and disregard for children’s best interests in a highly competitive sector in the country. The students at Gowtham Model School in the state capital Hyderabad, which has 800 pupils and 40 staff members, said they wake up at 5am every day, start classes at 6:30am, with the school day not finishing until 7:30pm. This is followed by separate tuition classes in the evening, which their parents push them to go to, followed by two hours of homework. ''We don't even get enough sleep hours, forget play hours,'' said one of the protesting students. ''It is this type of stress that is pushing students to suicide”, he added. Last month, the state government set new rules regulating the length of the school day, limiting classes to no more than eight hours per day, and requiring that schools keep trained counsellors on hand for students. However, activists point out that there have been at least 60 reported student suicides in Telangana in the last three months alone.
Health and environment
The environmental devastation caused by the battle for Mosul will linger in Iraq for decades, according to UN experts. A visit to the city by the UN Environment Programme found that the destruction of hospitals, weapons factories, industrial plants and power stations has left behind a toxic cocktail of chemicals, heavy metals and other harmful waste, which often affects children’s health most severely. Erik Solheim, head of the programme said city remains caked in soot and shrouded in smog, resulting in hundreds of people needing to be hospitalised. The UN visit also found high levels of lead and mercury in Mosul’s water and soil, which can have damaging effects on children’s brains, livers, kidneys and bones. Ahead of the third UN Environment assembly in December, the UN is drafting new laws to protect the environment during conflict, laws which have barely evolved since the 1970s. The International Criminal Court may soon try cases that involve the destruction of the environment and the illegal exploitation of natural resources during conflict.
A lawsuit has been filed against the Trump Administration in the United States alleging that the president’s campaign of climate rollbacks and reliance on “junk science” pose a direct danger to citizens. The lawsuit, filed by the Clean Air Council and two children, coincides with the beginning of global climate talks in Bonn, Germany, where the Trump Administration is expected to advocate greater reliance on coal and fossil fuels, in conflict with US commitments under the Paris climate agreement. Several other cases have been brought by child plaintiffs in the US, with environmental NGO Our Children’s Trust leading a campaign of litigation which seeks to protect natural resources and the environment for today’s children and for future generations.
The UN Population Fund has released its latest report on the State of World Population in which it highlights, among other findings, how inequality in accessing sexual and reproductive health amplifies inequalities. The report outlines how too many women and girls do not have access to sexual and reproductive health care, which means they are unable to receive family planning services or antenatal care, and may be forced to give birth in unsafe conditions. Girls and women, pressed into motherhood early, or repeatedly, are more prone to maternal injuries, disabilities or even death. They are less able to finish their education or enter the paid workforce, according to the report, which leaves their families poorer and their children with bleaker futures. The report stresses that having the information, power and means to decide whether, when and how often one becomes pregnant is a universal human right.
A French man has been acquitted of rape after a jury found no evidence that he forced an 11-year-old girl into having sex. A jury ruled that the elements that constitute rape in French law, including "coercion, threat, violence and surprise” were not established. The incident occurred in a park in 2009, and came to light only when the girl's family found out that she had become pregnant. The man, then aged 22, stated the sex was consensual and that the girl had lied about her age, saying she was 14 and would soon be 15, the age of consent in France. Despite this, prosecutors still needed to prove the sex was non-consensual in order to obtain a rape conviction, as in France there is no legal minimum age below which it is presumed in law that a child cannot give consent. A similar incident in September also provoked calls for tightening the law, with equalities minister Marléne Schiappa calling for a legal minimum age.
, a coalition of 20 NGOs is preparing to challenge the enforcement of Sharia law in the country’s Aceh province, claiming that the penal code that entered into force in 2015 is unconstitutional. The petition presented to the Supreme Court includes arguments against the punishment of children. Under the law, known as the Qanun Jinayat, children are liable to receive one third of the punishment that would be inflicted on an adult, which can include a public flogging. The code outlaws alcohol, adultery, homosexuality and public displays of affection outside of marriage for Muslims and non-Muslims. Since its imposition in 2015, 527 people have received flogging sentences. The petitioners are arguing that such punishments violate the Child Protection Act and various human rights instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, under provisions related to torture.
A religious organisation in South Africa
is seeking permission to challenge a ruling that effectively outlawed corporal punishment of children across the country. Weeks after a ruling by the High Court removed the defence of reasonable chastisement for parents accused of hitting their children, Freedom of Religion South Africa has asked the High Court to refer the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal, to examine whether or not “reasonable and moderate chastisement” is in line with the Constitution. Despite a growing consensus worldwide that corporal punishment is never in the best interests of children, the group has claimed that the judgment overrides the beliefs of parents
who use holy texts to justify hitting children, interfering with their faith. You can read CRIN’s summary of the High Court case which effectively banned corporal punishment of children in South Africa here
THE LAST WORD
"Seeking to exercise our rights as per Article 12 of the CRC, we asked the organisers to let us participate in the IV World Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from November 14 to 16 of this year. Not only was this right to participate denied us, but it was denied to anyone under 18 years of age, ‘for security reasons’."Without fully understanding the reasons for this violation of our rights, we ask ourselves: Do they want to protect us or do they want to protect themselves against us? Could it be that they do not want to hear what we have to say? We think it is serious that the people they will be talking about will be prohibited from engaging in their conversations. In addition to the violation of Article 12, Article 2 is also being violated, because we cannot avoid feeling discriminated against: we are prevented from entering purely and exclusively because of our age."
- Open letter to the Committee on the Rights of the Child from the Secretariat of the Latin American and Caribbean Movement of Working Children and Adolescents.romoting the use of clear language among children’s rights advocates.