73rd pre-session (January 2016) – Sierra Leone
In January, DCI-Sierra Leone and the Child Rights Coalition were in Geneva to attend the 73rd pre-session of the CRC Committee. DCI-Sierra Leone took this opportunity to reiterate concerns that it raised, as part of the Child Rights Coalition, in its stakeholders’ report.
First, the coalition welcomed the Parliament’s adoption of a Safe Abortion Bill, which is a crucial step to save girls and women from unsafe abortions, one of the highest causes of maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. However, after delays and controversial proclamations from the Inter Religious Council, the coalition asked the CRC Committee to urge the President of Sierra Leone to sign this bill as soon as possible so that it can enter into force and take immediate effect. Early pregnancy is another issue that has been raised, not only linked to the unsafe abortion problem but also in regard to access to education, as pregnant teenagers are often refused access to school. More generally, the wider issue of violence against girls remained high on the coalition’s agenda. It notably re-emphasized the need for a law and/or policy to expressly prohibit female genital mutilations (FGM). It also pointed to the contradiction between the Child Rights Act and the Registration of Customary Marriage Act, which provide different age of consent for marriage. The coalition therefore asked for harmonization of these two laws.
In addition, the coalition raised concerns over the abandoned implementation of the National Child Justice strategy (2014-2018), which has resulted in increasing numbers of children being held behind bars. In this context, the best interests of the child have often forgotten and inappropriate sentencings have increased: in Mattru Jong, a 10 year old boy was given a 10 years’ imprisonment simply for stealing a microphone. Other issues raised and recommendations concerned the health care system and child labour. The CRC committee will review the State’s report in September this year, and DCI-Sierra Leone, together with the coalition, will continue to advocate for the inclusion of their recommendations in the Committee’s concluding observations.
74th pre-session (June 2016) – Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. After submitting its first State party’s report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) in 1998, it took the government another 13 years to submit its second periodic report. This second report will go under the microscope of the CRC Committee in its 74th session to be held in January 2017.
With the review of the State’s report in sight, the Centre for the Promotion and Defence of Children’s Rights, DCI’s new section (2015) in the Central African Republic, wasted no time to interact with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and submitted a stakeholders’ report. This DCI-CAR report will be considered during the 74th pre-session of the CRC Committee, to be held from 6-10 June 2016 in Geneva, Switzerland.
In its report, DCI-CAR noted that despite a positive legal environment, the realization of various children’s human rights remained unmet. Facilitated accesses to social security services, issuance of birth certificates and a free healthcare system for children were among the recommendations suggested by DCI-CAR.
As noted by DCI-CAR, the State’s report was submitted in December 2011 and therefore failed to capture many child rights violations that have occurred since the new upsurge of violence that took place in 2012 and dived the country into a protracted conflict situation until today. It is estimated that over 10’000 children have been recruited by armed factions, often being exposed to sexual violence, corporal punishment and other inhumane treatments, since the renewal of the conflict in 2012. Thousands others have been displaced and cannot attend school, most of which have been destroyed or used by militants. The overall situation of children in CAR is dramatic. DCI-CAR and other civil society organizations provide crucial relief and protection for children across the country, but it is not until the hostilities will have ceased that all children in the Central African Republic will be able to fully enjoy their rights.
The full report will be made available soon after the pre-session of the Committee in June.