The 75th session of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will take place from 15 May to 2 June 2017 at the United Nations Geneva. Countries including Bhutan, Cameroon and Mongolia will be reviewed. This human rights mechanisms provides a critical opportunity to provide recommendations to governments to ensure that actions are taken to promote gender equality and women’s and girls’ access to their human rights and fundamental freedoms. SI UN Representatives will be present at these meetings and report to Soroptimist International Headquarters.
What is the Convention on the Rights of the Child?
The Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 20 November 1989 and entered into force on 2 September 1990. The CRC is the most complete statement of children’s rights ever produced and is presently the most widely-ratified international human rights instrument. All UN member states except for the United States have ratified the Convention. The Convention, which contains 54 articles, is a comprehensive instrument which covers all aspects of a child’s life, and sets out universal civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled to. It provides children with fundamental human rights and freedoms as well as takes into account their need for special assistance and protection due to their vulnerability. It also explains how adults and governments must work together to make sure all children can enjoy all their rights.
Nations that ratify this convention are bound to it by international law. Compliance is monitored by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is composed of eighteen independent experts that monitor the implementation of the Convention. It also monitors implementation of two Optional Protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Governments of countries that have ratified the Convention are required to report to, and appear before, the Committee on the Rights of the Child periodically to be examined on their progress with regards to the advancement of the implementation of the Convention and the status of child rights in their country.
How can Soroptimist International work with the CRC?
The Committee on the Rights of the Child can invite engagement from NGOs to provide expert advice on the implementation of the Convention, as well as giving them a role in monitoring its implementation. This can be done through the submission of reports, documentation or other information to provide it with a comprehensive picture of how the Convention, as well as its Optional Protocols, are being implemented in a particular country.
74th Session on the Convention of the Rights of the Child
The most recent session of the Committee of the Rights of the Child took place from 13 January to 3 February, 2017 and countries under review included Antigua and Barbados, Malawi and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. SI UN Representative, Sabine Kinzer followed the session on Barbados.
The delegation of Barbados included representatives of the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency, Empowerment and Community Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Childcare Board, Coordinating Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Permanent Mission of Barbados to the UN in Geneva. The main issues of concern of the Committee included the necessity to allow disabled children to attend schools; pregnancies and abortion rates remain high amongst children, as does sexual abuse. It was noted that obesity amongst children is on the rise, and the current measures of taxing sugary drinks is not enough. Corporal punishment is still a common form of discipline at home and in schools.
Within the Convention, the definition of a child means below the age of eighteen. Despite this, a concern of the Committee was that even though the minimum marriage age is eighteen years, exceptions are easily made and accepted that children are to be married from the age of sixteen. The Committee recommended Barbados to remove any exceptions and keep the set age of eighteen.
Whilst progress has been made in establishing mechanisms for students to voice their views through student councils, effective measures must be implemented so a child can be heard at legal proceedings in family decisions that affect their lives. The Committee recommended that programme and awareness-raising activities to promote the empowerment of child participation in the family – especially those in vulnerable situations.
Violence against children is still widely used, corporal punishment is lawful and still widely used in homes and schools. It is legally allowed in institutions to punish children who have committed a criminal offence. In cooperation with UNICEF, the State conducted awareness-raising and training programmes to promote positive forms of discipline instead. The Committee praised Barbados for these programmes and further urged the State to prohibit in legislation all forms of corporal punishment – in all settings without any exceptions, and ensure that this prohibition is monitored.
Presently 99.7% of the population of Barbados is literate, this has been assisted by free travel for all children on school buses since 2008, and free text books given in cases of difficulties. The Committee recommended that Barbados should not expel girls from school because they are pregnant, as well as ensure the adoption and implementation of re-entry policies to enable adolescent mothers to return to school.
For the full text of the CRC, please click here.