1 October 2009 - CRINMAIL 1113
Special edition on non-discrimination
- Guide to non-discrimination and the CRC
- Age discrimination
- A-Z of discrimination
- Challenging discrimination
- In the spotlight: recent news on children and discrimination
- Also on the site
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Toolkit on children's rights and non-discrimination
Did you know that, in Madagascar, the murder or rejection of children thought to be “born on an unlucky day” continues in some places? Or that in some countries, children can be detained for acts which are not treated as offences when committed by adults? While these are some of the more extreme and overt examples of discriminatory treatment faced by children, subtle day-to-day prejudice is much more pervasive.
Discrimination is a major reason why children's rights remain unfulfilled. That is why CRIN has launched a new toolkit with information and advocacy ideas to promote children's right to non-discrimination.
The web-based toolkit explores how discrimination affects the full range of children’s rights, with a particular focus on age-based discrimination.
The goals of the site are to:
- promote understanding of how discrimination affects all children's rights
- shed light on age discrimination against children
- support the removal of barriers to all children's inclusion
Children's right to non-discrimination is one of the four over-arching principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). This means that all children should enjoy all rights set out in the CRC. For any right to be realised, children must not be discriminated against.
The UN Human Rights Committee defines discrimination as:
“any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference which is based on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status and which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by all persons, on an equal footing, of all rights and freedoms.” Read more about definitions here.
Discrimination may stem from deliberate, direct action, or it may be unintended.
Although there has been significant work on this topic, the wide range of ways in which children experience different forms of discrimination have not been sufficiently explored or challenged.
Can you believe this? A snapshot of discrimination against children
- Most countries' laws do not protect children from violence in the same way they protect adults. Only 24 countries in the world have banned corporal punishment against children in all settings.
- An estimated 60 per cent of children with an intellectual impairment experience sexual abuse. (Read more)
- In Iran, the criminal age of responsibility is 14 years and seven months for boys and eight years and nine months for girls (Read more)
- Governments across Europe have discriminated against Roma children. For example, the European Court of Human Rights recently ruled against the Czech Republic for wrongly channelling Roma children into schools for children with learning disabilities.
- In some parts of Benin and the Central African Republic, children who are born buttocks-first may face discrimination.
- In the UK, children are deterred from being in public spaces where adults are allowed to associate freely.
Why a toolkit on non-discrimination?
Looking at rights violations through the lens of discrimination helps to expose prejudices and beliefs that may have led to unfair treatment – whether such treatment was intentional or otherwise. It can create new means of challenging negative actions, whether through law, policy, education or practice.
So, for example, by understanding that the corporal punishment of children, if legal within a given State, constitutes discrimination on the basis of age (an adult smacking another adult can be prosecuted for battery), it helps us to think about the issue in a different way.
What is it about children that makes us think it is acceptable to hit them, but not adults – or even animals! Are there other ways in which this discriminatory view of children affects how we behave towards them? Why is discrimination towards other groups of people, for example ethnic minorities, normally considered unacceptable, yet sanctioned by the State when it comes to children?
Guide to discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of the Child
Discrimination affects the full range of children's rights. This Guide to Non-discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of the Child therefore aims to highlight the links between discrimination and the lack of fulfilment of children's rights.
This guide shows how article 2 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the right to non-discrimination – could be applied to every right contained in the Convention. Each article includes examples both of discrimination against children as a group and against particular children.
One focus of the new website will be to shed light on the extent to which children experience age-based discrimination.
Children face exclusion or are treated unfairly in most societies in comparison to adults because they have less power. This is a result of children’s dependence on adults and adults' reluctance to give them more decision-making power as they develop the ability to exercise it themselves.
Furthermore, in some societies a 'fear' of older children as a group has developed where they are perceived as being responsible for street crime and public disturbances. This has led to discriminatory laws and measures curtailing their freedom of association and the violation of other rights which adults freely enjoy.
Global report on laws protecting children from age discrimination
From issuing declarations to passing legislation or even amending national constitutions, many countries and international organisations are starting to take action to ensure that children enjoy the same rights and protections as adults.
CRIN has compiled a report on what constitutional and legislative measures have been taken across the world and some of the advocacy materials that were used to secure these. Read this report here.
Global report on “status offences”
Status offences encompass acts that would not be criminal if they were committed by adults. This means that a status offender's conduct is considered unacceptable not because it is harmful, but solely on the basis of age. Status offences take many different forms in countries, states, and localities around the world - examples include curfew violations, school truancy, running away, begging, anti-social behaviour, and even simple disobedience or bad behaviour.
- In some countries, such as Nigeria, children can be detained for “being beyond parental control”
- In many countries, particularly in the USA and the UK, curfews remove all children within a town or city's boundaries from the streets, banning them from public spaces regardless of their circumstance.
CRIN has published a report on status offences around the world, calling for their abolition to protect children from harmful age discrimination. Read this report here.
- Briefing on age discrimination
- Global report on laws protecting children from age discrimination
- Global report on status offences
- Australia: Age matters - a report on age discrimination (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2000)
- United Kingdom: Making the case - why children should be protected from age discrimination and how it can be done (Young Equals, April 2009)
- Take our quiz on age discrimination
Particular groups of children face discrimination on grounds other than age, because of their gender or sexual orientation, for instance. In some cases, multiple forms of discrimination are at play, because a child is both a girl and has a disability, for example. Discrimination may affect members of a group in different ways depending on their situation. All forms of discrimination against children are compounded by virtue of their age and consequent vulnerability which mean they have fewer opportunities for challenging discrimination. For example, children do not usually have access to courts and complaints mechanisms on an equal basis with adults.
Children experience direct discrimination when they are deliberately treated less favourably than adults or other children would be treated in a similar situation. For example, Direct discrimination against particular children could include, for example, failure to provide free health care or education to refugee children where all other children can access these services.
Indirect discrimination results when a policy or rule applies to everyone, but has an inadvertent but unfair impact on people in a particular group. Indirect discrimination against particular children includes, for example, failure to ensure schools are accessible to children with disabilities.
This A-Z of discrimination briefings explains different aspects of discrimination and children's rights.
These include, for example, information pages on:
- discrimination and statelessness (authored by Sebastian Kohn for CRIN)
- discrimination and Roma children
- discrimination and the media
- discrimination and sexual orientation
The A-Z listing is a work in progress, and will be updated and amended over time. If you have any suggestions, or corrections, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This website looks at who or what discriminates (i.e. the structures and attitudes that discriminate) rather than on how the child might change (for example, in the case of a child with a disability, by going to a specialist school). The goal is systemic change.
The website supports the elimination of barriers to children’s inclusion. It encourages action and reflection to address the root causes of discrimination, for example, in legislation, policy, attitudes, and resource allocation which can serve to perpetuate discrimination and inequality.
Challenging discrimination against children requires a range of strategies which cover many different areas and are rightfully tailored to account for the particular situation of children in their countries.
Nevertheless, successful efforts will include certain key components. These include: collecting data and analysing power structures; providing channels for children's participation; changing legislation, policy, attitudes, as well as the physical environment and the allocation of resources that perpetuate injustices and inequalities; and establishing mechanisms to monitor and report discrimination.
The pages that follow provide some guidance on these diverse areas and examples of how discrimination has been successfully challenged.
In the spotlight: recent news on children and discrimination
During the 12th session of the Human Rights Council this month, a report was presented on the rights of indigenous people to education. According to the report's authors, “millions of indigenous children” are deprived of the “basic right to education”, while “a major factor contributing to the disadvantaged position of indigenous peoples is the lack of quality education - which may be defined as education that is well resourced, culturally sensitive, respectful of heritage and that takes into account history, cultural security and integrity, encompasses human rights, community and individual development .” Read more.
UN experts have recently drawn to attention to the murder of so-called 'child witches' – a global scourge which is seemingly gathering pace. Gary Foxcroft of British-based charity Stepping Stones- Nigeria said children living homeless on the streets in many countries had been driven out by families or communities because they were suspected of being witches. Read more.
May saw the publication of "See Me, Hear Me - A guide to using the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to promote the rights of children," produced by Save the Children, which analyses the inter-relationship of the two Conventions and presents practical guidance on advocacy strategies and illustrations of good practice. Read it here.
In a new viewpoint, Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, explains how children with intellectual disabilities are still stigmatised and excluded.
Children and gay rights groups were shocked to hear that the Lithuanian parliament had passed a law banning the public dissemination of information considered 'harmful' to minors – including information about homosexuality. Activists queued up to explain that, not only was such a law a 'gay rights' issue, but also a 'child rights' concern, because the suppression of information about homosexuality is also likely to entrench discriminatory attitudes towards Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) children and bar access to health and education services. Read about how the European Parliament addressed the issue.
In a story picked up by news outlets across the world, a number of Sudanese women and girls were picked up by police at a ballroom for “provocative dressing”. One of the women arrested, Lubna Hussein, a journalist and a public information officer at the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), noted that the only thing all they had in common was they they were wearing trousers.
The European Committee of Social Rights, which monitors state compliance with the European Social Charter, found that Croatia’s limited curriculum covering sex education discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. One of the country’s state-sponsored sex education programmes, TeenStar, teaches that condoms do not prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, that gay relationships are “deviant” and that stay-at-home mothers make for better families. Read more.
In July, Human Rights Watch helped to expose the existence of an 'AIDS colony' in Cambodia. "By bundling people living with HIV together into second-rate housing, far from medical facilities, support services, and jobs, the government has created a de facto AIDS colony," said Shiba Phurailatpam of the Asia-Pacific Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS. Read the rest of the story here The NGO, also in July, demanded that the Rwandan Parliament remove provisions in a draft law that would mandate compulsory HIV testing and require the sterilisation of all individuals, including children, with intellectual disabilities. Read more.
For more news and publications on discrimination, search our resources page: http://www.crin.org/Discrimination/Search/find.asp
Also on the site:
- Find examples of, and upload, advocacy initiatives challenging an aspect of discrimination against children.
- Search a list of organisations working to protect children from discrimination. Each entry includes an example of how they are doing this.
How well-informed are you about children's rights and discrimination? Test yourself by exploring our quiz section here.
Take this week's featured quiz on discrimination in general here: http://www.crin.org/Discrimination/Quiz/index.asp?quizID=1126
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Previous CRIN Toolkit items
- 07/06/2009: Guide to Children's Rights Mechanisms (Arabic)
- 26/03/2009: CRIN: Guide to child rights mechanisms
- 24/11/2008: Guide d'utilisation du litige stratégique
- 01/08/2008: Guía sobre litigio estratégico: una introducción
- 23/06/2008: Examen Periódico Universal: Kit de herramientas
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Last updated 27/10/2009 09:53:43