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UNCRC Publishes Findings On Bhutan, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Guatemala, Mali, Namibia, Paraguay And Panama

Published: Fri 31 May 2024 04:51 AM
GENEVA (30 May 2024)
The UN Child Rights Committee (CRC) today issued its findings on Bhutan, Egypt, Estonia, Georgia, Guatemala, Mali, Namibia, Paraguay and Panama, after reviewing the nine countries during its latest session.
The findings contain the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations on implementing the Child Rights Convention as well as positive aspects. In particular, the Committee assessed Panama’s initial report under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OPSC). Key highlights include:
Bhutan
While welcoming Bhutan’s progress in reducing child mortality rates and providing vaccination of nearly all eligible children against deadly diseases, the Committee expressed concern about the prevalence of violence against children and a culture of silence and stigma that discourages reporting of such cases. It recommended that Bhutan effectively implement the legal framework to tackle violence against children and ensure that all children who are victims or witnesses of violence have prompt access to child-sensitive and comprehensive interventions and support.
The Committee was concerned about the high dropout and repetition rates, the large number of children living in monastic or boarding schools, and the prevalence of violence and bullying in schools. The Committee asked Bhutan to adopt legislative measures to ensure that primary education is compulsory, address the root causes of school dropouts and repetitions, guarantee that children attending monastic or boarding schools receive adequate support for their health, psychosocial and other needs, and take action to eliminate bullying and other forms of violence in schools.
Egypt
The Committee took note of Egypt’s 2023 amendments to the Child Law, which increased penalties for child neglect and endangerment and provided diversion measures for children in conflict with the law. It was, however, concerned that the harmful practices of female genital mutilation and child marriages continue to persist. The Committee called upon Egypt to effectively implement its legislation prohibiting female genital mutilation, especially in rural areas and in Upper Egypt. It also asked Egypt to take measures to encourage reporting of child marriages.
The Committee was deeply concerned about the allegations of children subjected to torture and ill-treatment by security officials, particularly during pre-trial interrogations. It urged Egypt to enforce the prohibition of torture or degrading treatment or punishment of children and ensure all such allegations are duly investigated, that perpetrators are punished, and that child victims receive adequate remedies.
Estonia
The Committee welcomed the adoption of the mental health strategy – Green Paper on Mental Health – in 2021 but remained concerned about the growing suicidal rates among children and the shortage of mental health care specialists for children. It recommended that Estonia expand the preventive measures, such as mental health training for educators and the suicide prevention programme in schools, as well as strengthen the network of mental health centres and specialists at the local level to provide psychological and psychiatric services to all children.
Regarding the administration of child justice, the Committee raised concerns that children with serious psycho-social problems might be sent to secure care services. The Committee also questioned the insufficient access to support services for children in prison and the possible interruption of schooling. It asked Estonia to ensure a timely assessment and referral for children with serious psycho-social problems and further develop a network of open institutions and rehabilitation to prevent these children from ending up in closed children’s facilities.
Georgia
The Committee welcomed the adoption of the Code on the Rights of the Child and the National Human Rights Strategy for 2022-2030, which includes a child rights chapter. It, however, voiced serious concern over the adoption of the Law on Transparency of Foreign Influence at the Georgian Parliament, which can negatively impact the work of child rights organisations. The Committee urged the State party to repeal the law.
Concerning the Constitutional Bill on the Protection of Family Values and Children of March 2024, the Committee asked Georgia to ensure that children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or belong to LGBTI families are not subjected to any form of discrimination or hate crimes by raising the public awareness of equality and non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Guatemala
The Committee welcomed Guatemala’s initiatives, including the Comprehensive Support Model for Children and Adolescents in 2019, the Comprehensive Support Model for Juvenile Criminal Justice in 2020, and other steps to safeguard child rights. The Committee, however, remained concerned about the long-standing issue of gang violence and its adverse impact on children. It urged Guatemala to level up the prevention of recruitment of children by non-State armed groups, including maras and drug traffickers. The Committee further recommended measures to assist children in leaving gangs and reintegrating into society.
Concerning the illegal international adoption issue, the Committee called on Guatemala to maintain the suspension of international adoptions until adequate conditions and safeguards are in place to prevent illegal adoptions. It also recommended that the State party guarantee in law and practice the right for adoptive children to know their biological origins, and duly investigate, prosecute and punish the offenders responsible for illegal adoptions.
Mali
While noting Mali’s adoption of the multisectoral National Strategy to End Child Marriage (2022-2026), the Committee remained deeply concerned by this harmful practice which remains highly prevalent in the State party. The Committee called on Mali to expeditiously set the minimum age for marriage for girls and boys at 18. It also asked the state party to take all necessary measures to tackle other harmful practices, including female genital mutilation and the attacks against children with albinism.
The Committee underlined its grave concern about the widespread recruitment and use of children by armed groups in conflict areas. It urged Mali to amend its Child Protection Law to explicitly criminalise the recruitment and involvement of children by armed forces or non-State armed groups in hostilities. It also called for the prompt and effective investigation and prosecution of those responsible for all documented cases of violations of children’s rights in the armed conflict. It further asked Mali to protect the right to life and survival of children in armed conflict, including by ensuring access to humanitarian aid.
Namibia
While commending Namibia for adopting the Child Care and Protection Act and the Education Act, the Committee was concerned to see the prevalence of violence against children and the serious delays in the investigation of cases and the prosecution of perpetrators. It called upon Namibia to strengthen the capacity of professionals working with and for children to prevent, report and respond to cases of violence against children, to promptly investigate and intervene in all such cases, and to take measures to prevent and eliminate violence against children online.
The Committee expressed concern about the large number of children living in poverty and regional disparities in access to water and sanitation facilities. It recommended that the State party address the root causes of multidimensional child poverty and inequality and ensure the effective implementation of the sanitation and hygiene strategy.
Panama
The Committee welcomed Panama’s adoption of many recent legislation to strengthen the protection of children. It was, however, concerned that the current criminal law does not effectively address all offences covered by the Optional Protocol (OPSC), particularly solicitation of children for sexual purposes (grooming), as well as the production, possession and distribution of child sexual abusive images, especially on the Internet. It urged Panama to criminalize and prosecute offences related to the grooming of children, viewing of the live-streamed sexual abuse of children and the distribution of child sexual abuse material, including self-generated content produced from coerced sexting.
Concerning the insufficient measures to identify children at risk of becoming victims of sexual exploitation in travel and tourism, the Committee called upon Panama to implement time-bound child protection programmes and poverty reduction strategies to protect impoverished children who are especially vulnerable to exploitation in the tourism industry. It also asked the State Party to combat the high rates of sexual exploitation in the tourism sector in the border areas and in the province of Colon.
Paraguay
Regarding the safety of children, the Committee was deeply concerned about the high levels of adolescent mortality in road accidents, the large number of missing children, particularly girls who are trafficked or forced to do domestic chores in other families as criadazgo, and the deaths of children in institutions of deprivation of liberty between 2013 and 2020. It urged Paraguay to urgently develop measures to prevent and eradicate road accidents. It called on the State party to take effective measures to prevent children from going missing, addressing its root causes, including criadazgo, and following up on cases of missing children by the National Police and the Public Prosecutor's Office. It also asked Paraguay to immediately address the deaths of children in State-run detention institutions, ensure those responsible are properly investigated and prosecuted, and take measures to prevent such occurrences.
The Committee raised serious concerns over the rise of forced evictions and displacement of indigenous and rural children, the persisting food insecurity, poverty and vulnerabilities to violence and exploitation amongst them. It asked Paraguay to prevent evictions and displacement of indigenous peoples, including pastoralists, hunter-gatherers and forest people, guarantee that indigenous children and adolescents have access to their ancestral lands, as well as to uncontaminated land and water. The Committee further recommended a national action plan to respect, protect and promote the rights of indigenous children and to eliminate their food insecurity, poverty and vulnerabilities to violence and exploitation.

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