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China has been ranked 162nd in the world on how effectively children can use the law to challenge violations of their rights, in the first-ever global study on children's access to justice by Child Rights international Network (CRIN).
Topping the list are Belgium, Portugal and Spain, with Kenya the only country outside Europe to make the top ten. Relegated to the bottom of the pile are Palestine, Eritrea and Equatorial Guinea. Most countries in East Asia ranked higher than China, including Japan (79th), South Korea (82nd), Thailand (104th) and Vietnam (114th). Cambodia, Laos and North Korea were the lowest ranked countries in the region.
China ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in March 1992, with a reservation to the right to life recognised under Article 6 of the Convention. The status of international treaties in domestic law is unclear as no provisions refer to this matter. Therefore, the Convention does not officially prevail over national law but rather coexists with it.
Children in the country do not have legal standing until they reach the age of 18, unless they are over 16 years of age and support themselves through their own income, so they must usually be represented by their parents.
Legal aid is theoretically available to all Chinese children whose rights have been violated; however it appears that in practice the legal aid system is ineffective.
China has been criticised by the Committee on the Rights of the Child for the frequent arbitrary detention of children and their sentencing to labour camps, as well as the lack of a proper legal framework to help children victims of sexual exploitation.
CRIN’s director Veronica Yates said: “When we think of children and justice, the first image that comes to mind is usually one of children breaking the law. Rarely do we consider children and their right to use the legal system to protect their human rights or to seek redress when their rights have been violated.
“Access to justice is about challenging the perception of children as just victims or somehow less worthy of justice than adults. It is about recognising that children, like adults, have human rights and that when these rights are infringed they should be able to trust and use the legal system to get justice.”
Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Benyam Dawit Mezmur, said: “Country rankings are not just there to highlight who is doing well and who is doing poorly but more importantly they have the ability to stir States to action, prompting them to improve and claim a spot higher on the ranking ladder.
“The Committee welcomes this research and already envisages its concrete contribution to its various engagements with States.”
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Notes to the editor
You can find the report Rights, Remedies and Representation: A global report on access to justice for children here, the global ranking here, all of the individual country reports here and a link to our interactive map of access to justice here.
Child Rights International Network (CRIN) is a global research, policy and advocacy organisation. Our work is grounded in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Our goal is a world where children's rights are recognised, respected and enforced, and where every rights violation has a remedy. www.crin.org
Our work is based on five core values:
- We believe in rights, not charity
- We are stronger when we work together
- Information is power and it should be free and accessible
- Societies, organisations and institutions should be open, transparent and accountable
- We believe in promoting children's rights, not ourselves.