Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > impact on women / resistance > Violating Children’s Rights in the Name of Tradition, Culture, Religion or (...)

Violating Children’s Rights in the Name of Tradition, Culture, Religion or Superstition

Monday 8 April 2013, by siawi3

A report released by The International NGO Council on Children’s Rights last year first looks at the definition and scope of harmful traditional, cultural and religious practices violating children’s rights. The resource then examines the human rights context for their prohibition and elimination. The report also lists practices identified through a call for evidence issued by earlier in 2012 and additional desk research. It also provides some examples of legal and other measures already taken to challenge and eliminate those practices. The report closes with recommendations for action by states, UN and UN-related agencies, INGOs, NGOs, national human rights institutions and others.

FULL REPORT AT :
http://www.crin.org/docs/InCo_Report_15Oct.pdf

Resource — Violating Children’s Rights: Harmful Practices Based On Tradition, Culture, Religion Or Superstition

Source: Council on Violence Against Children
21/03/2013

A report from the International NGO Council on Violence against Children

Table of contents Acknowledgements...........................................................................................iv

Foreword.............................................................................................................v

Acronyms...........................................................................................................vii

1. Introduction....................................................................................................1

2.What do we mean by harmful practices affecting children based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition?..................................................5

3. The human rights imperative to prohibit and eliminate harmful practices affecting children based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition ....9

Prohibition as a foundation for elimination ..........................................................14

Building on prohibition – other measures.............................................................17

4. Examples of harmful practices affecting children based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition...................................................................19

5. Recommendations........................................................................................41

Integration into follow-up to the Un secretary-general’s study on violence against children.....................................................................................41

Recommendations addressed to international and regional bodies......................43

Recommendations for action at national and local levels......................................46

1. Introduction

Each year, thousands of children die worldwide and the childhoods and development of millions more are scarred by harmful practices perpetrated by parents, relatives, religious and community leaders and other adults.

All violations of children’s rights can legitimately be described as harmful practices, but the common characteristic of the violations highlighted in this report is that they are based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition and are perpetrated and actively condoned by the child’s parents or significant adults within the child’s community. Indeed, they often still enjoy majority support within communities or whole states.

Many of the identified practices involve gross and unlawful discrimination against groups of children, including gender discrimination, and in particular discrimination against children with disabilities. Some are based on tradition and/or superstition, some on religious belief, others on false information or beliefs about child development and health. Many involve extreme physical violence and pain leading, in some cases intentionally, to death or serious injury. Others involve mental violence. All are an assault on the child’s human dignity and violate universally agreed international human rights standards.

The International NGO Council on Violence against Children believes the continued legality and social and cultural acceptance of a very wide range of these practices in many states illustrates a devastating failure of international and regional human rights mechanisms to provoke the necessary challenge, prohibition and elimination. Comprehensive, children’s rights-based analysis and action are needed now. Above all, there must be an assertion of every state’s immediate obligation to ensure all children their right to full respect for their human dignity and physical integrity.

Harmful practices based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition are often perpetrated against very young children or infants, who are clearly lacking the capacity to consent or to refuse consent themselves. Assumptions of parental powers or rights over their children allow the perpetration of a wide range of these practices, many by parents directly, some by other individuals with parents’ assumed or actual consent. Yet the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by almost every state, favours the replacement of the concept of parental “rights” over children with parental “responsibilities,” ensuring that the child’s best interests are parents’ “basic concern” (Article 18).

The CRC also upholds the child’s own independent right to religious freedom (Article 14). Children are not born into a religion. Every individual has the right to religious freedom. Thus, parents and others cannot quote their adult religious beliefs to justify perpetrating harmful practices on a child, before she or he has the capacity to provide informed consent.

The child’s right to life, survival and maximum development and the right to health and health services place an active duty on the state to ensure parents are equipped with accurate information on child health and development. Such information will enable parents to fulfil their responsibilities and to not harm their children either through administering harmful treatments or through withholding necessary and proven treatments. Where parents fail their children, states must intervene.

Harmful traditional or cultural practices have been a concern of the United Nations from early in its history, first highlighted in a General Assembly resolution more than 50 years ago. The Commission on Human Rights, formed in 1946, adopted its first resolution on “traditional practices affecting the health of women and children” in 1984. A Special Rapporteur on traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child was first appointed in 1988. Many UN bodies and specialized agencies have addressed harmful traditional practices, among them OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UN Women and WHO.

Most of the high-profile literature, debates and action on harmful practices have focused on particular widespread practices that primarily affect girls and women, in particular female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage. These practices constitute systematic and severe violations of the rights of millions of children and the international, rights-based focus on them has certainly resulted in much greater visibility. But universal prohibition and elimination still seems distant. For example, a 2008 statement from ten UN or UN-related agencies on “Eliminating female genital mutilation” estimates that three million girls were at risk of undergoing FGM each year in Africa, and that between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have been subjected to some form of FGM.

The introduction to the 2006 report of the UN Secretary-General’s Study on Violence against Children notes: “In every region, in contradiction to human rights obligations and children’s developmental needs, violence against children is socially approved and is frequently legal and stateauthorised.” The report urged that the UN Study should mark a turning point, “an end to adult justification of violence against children, whether accepted as ‘tradition’ or disguised as ‘discipline.’ There can be no compromise in challenging violence against children […].”

The UN Study did not have the resources to research in detail harmful practices affecting children that are based on tradition, culture, religion or superstition. The issue was raised, including during the UN Study’s nine regional consultations, and the report explicitly recommends the prohibition “of all forms of violence against children in all settings, including all corporal punishment, harmful traditional practices including early and forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so-called honour crimes […].”

It also proposes that “States and civil society should strive to transform attitudes that condone or normalize violence against children, including stereotypical gender roles and discrimination, acceptance of corporal punishment and harmful traditional practices…” (A/61/299, overarching recommendations 2 and 4, paras. 97 and 100).

But the “turning point” has not arrived for children. They are still waiting for a rigorous global investigation, covering every region and state, to identify the full range of these harmful practices that violate girls’ and boys’ rights, including new or newly visible practices and others spread through migration. It is essential that the individual practices and the particular rights they violate should be identified, made visible and unambiguously condemned in every society in which they occur.

The International NGO Council is mandated to follow up the recommendations of the UN Study. This short report is designed to complement other current activities in the UN system that are focusing on harmful practices and children and will hopefully lead to more effective action. The UN SecretaryGeneral’s Special Representative on Violence against Children, Marta Santos Pais, held an International Expert Consultation on the issue in June 2012 in Addis Ababa in which the International NGO Council was represented and prepared a submission. Two UN Treaty Bodies, the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), are collaborating in drafting a General Comment/General Recommendation on harmful practices.

The International NGO Council believes that the continuing legal and social acceptance of these violations and the slow progress in identifying and effectively addressing them are symptomatic of children’s low status, as possessions rather than individuals and rights-holders, in societies across all regions. The oft-quoted mantra of the UN Study was “No violence against children is justifiable; all violence against children is preventable.” Tragically, many adults are still justifying even extreme violence, both physical and mental, on spurious grounds of tradition, culture or religion.

The report first looks at the definition and scope of harmful traditional, cultural and religious practices violating children’s rights. Section 3 outlines the human rights context for their prohibition and elimination. Section 4 lists practices identified through a call for evidence issued by the International NGO Council earlier in 2012 and additional desk research. It also provides some examples of legal and other measures already taken to challenge and eliminate them. Section 5 provides recommendations for action by states, UN and UN-related agencies, INGOs, NGOs, national human rights institutions and others.