United Nations Committee on Rights of Child, Eighteenth Session, Geneva, 18 May to 5 June, 1998

Passages containing references to corporal punishment are rendered in bold type.


Issues Concluding Observations on Reports on Hungary, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Fiji, Japan, Maldives and Luxembourg

The Committee on the Rights of the Child, the expert panel in charge of monitoring the implementation of the Convention of the Rights the Child, adjourned this morning its eighteenth session and issued its concluding observations on the reports of Hungary, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Fiji, Japan, Maldives and Luxembourg.

The six countries, in keeping with their obligations as States parties to the Convention, presented to the Committee over the course of the three- week session lengthy written and oral summaries on their efforts to promote and protect children's rights. The countries also sent official delegations to answer questions and hear the opinions of the Committee's 10 independent experts.

The panel, in concluding observations, recommended, among other things, that the Government of Hungary strengthen efforts to disseminate the principles of the Convention and that it be made available in minority languages, especially Roma languages. The State party should continue its efforts aimed at reducing discriminatory practices against the Roma population and improving the general status of Roma children. Hungarian officials should take all appropriate measures to prevent and combat ill-treatment of children, including physical and sexual abuse within the family, at school and child-care institutions, and to undertake prevention campaigns to protect children against abuse and maltreatment.

The Committee noted that among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were the dissolution of its traditional economic ties and the 1995 and 1996 floods which had had a very serious impact on the whole society. The panel recommended that all appropriate measures, including those of a legislative nature, be taken to prevent and combat the use of corporal punishment and that a comprehensive study be launched to enhance the understanding of the nature and scope of child abuse and ill-treatment within the family. The State party should continue to prevent and combat malnutrition of children through budgetary allocations in favour of children to the maximum extent of available resources and it should fully harmonize its legislation with the principles and provisions of the Convention.

Concerning factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention in Fiji , the Committee took note of the geographical configuration of the State party comprising 330 islands, the relatively small population composed of a number of different and isolated communities and the recent changes in the economic structure. The State party was encouraged to give further consideration to the establishment of an Ombudsperson for children. Authorities should harmonize the minimum age for marriage with the provisions of the Convention and a more active approach should be taken to eliminate discrimination against certain groups, in particular the girl child, children with disabilities, children in institutional care, children living in rural areas, poor children and children born out of wedlock. The Committee also called for corporal punishment to be comprehensively prohibited by law. The State party should take all appropriate measures, including revision of legislation, to prevent and combat ill-treatment within the family, including domestic violence and sexual abuse of children.

The Committee expressed concern that children in Japan were exposed to developmental disorders due to the stress of a highly competitive educational system and the subsequent lack of time for leisure, physical activities and rest. It was also concerned about the widespread use of corporal punishment in schools and the existence of numerous cases of bullying among students. The panel recommended that the State party take appropriate steps to prevent and combat excessive stress and school phobia in view of the highly competitive educational system. It also suggested that a comprehensive programme be devised and its implementation closely monitored in order to prevent violence in schools, especially with a view to eliminating corporal punishment and bullying.

With regards to Maldives, the Committee recommended that the State party raise the legal age of definition of the child which was set at the age of 16. The legal minimum ages for marriage and criminal responsibility should also be reviewed. It said authorities should also take a more active approach to eliminate discrimination against the girl child, children with disabilities, children living in remote islands and children born out of wedlock. The Government should take all appropriate measures to prevent and combat ill-treatment within the family and sexual abuse of children. It should also make primary education compulsory and available free to all and should strengthen efforts to prevent and combat drug and substance abuse among children.

In Luxembourg, principal subjects of concern listed by the Committee included the fact that no legislation existed to protect children from being exposed to violence and pornography through video movies and other modern technologies, most prominently the Internet. The Committee recommended that all appropriate measures, including of legal nature, be taken to protect children from being exposed to violence and pornography through video movies and other modern technologies, including the Internet. It suggested the State party take all appropriate measures to ensure that children born out of wedlock did not suffer discriminatory treatment or stigmatization and that the terms "legitimate" and "illegitimate" which were currently used in the Civil Code be eliminated. The panel also recommended that the State party undertake studies of the cause of suicide and other mental health problems among young people and adopt measures to combat this phenomenon.

At its next session, to be held from 21 September to 9 October, the Committee is scheduled to review reports from Ecuador, Iraq, Thailand, Kuwait, Sweden and Bolivia. On 5 October, the Committee will hold a general discussion on the consideration of "Children Living in a World with HIV/AIDS". It was estimated that since the beginning of the epidemic, close to 4 million children under 15 had been infected worldwide, nearly 3 million of whom had died. The main objectives of the thematic discussion include strengthening and understanding all the human rights of children living in a world of AIDS and contributing to the formulation and promotion of child-oriented policies, strategies and programmes to prevent and combat HIV/AIDS at governmental levels.

Concluding Observations on Country Reports

The Committee cited among positive aspects in the report of Hungary the establishment of the Coordination Council for Children and Youth Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister, and the Child and Youth Council for Reconciliation of Interests. It noted with appreciation the long-standing achievements of the State party in the areas of education and medical care. Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee acknowledged that the State party had had to face economic, social and political challenges during the past few years and that the transition to a market economy had had a serious impact on vulnerable groups, including children.

The panel cited with concern that despite recent law reforms, inconsistencies still existed between the provisions of the Convention and domestic law. It was concerned by the gaps still existing in monitoring progress in all areas covered by the Convention in relation to all children, especially those affected by the consequences of the economic transition. The Committee expressed concern about the fact that the Convention had not been made available in all minority languages existing in the State party, including Roma. Despite a package of medium-term measures to improve the living standards of the Roma population, the persistence of discriminatory practises against Romas remained. There remained unequal access to health services and opportunities in the education system, especially in rural areas, among minority groups and families living in poverty.

The Committee recommended, among other things:

-- that the State party take all appropriate measures to facilitate the process of full harmonization of domestic legislation with the principles of the Convention; -- that the State party strengthen and expand the scope of existing coordination and monitoring mechanisms on children's rights in order to reach local government level; -- that the Government adopt a comprehensive and integrated policy for children such as a national plan of action to assess progress achieved and difficulties encountered in the implementation of the Convention, and in particular to regularly monitor the effects of economic change on children;

-- that the State party allocate available resources to their maximum extent to ensure the implementation of economic, social and cultural rights, with particular emphasis on health and education and the enjoyment of these rights by the most disadvantaged groups of children;

-- that the authorities strengthen efforts to disseminate the principles of the Convention and that it be made available in minority languages, especially Roma languages;

-- that the Government continue its efforts aimed at reducing discriminatory practices against the Roma population and improving the general status of Roma children;

-- that the State party envisage undertaking further measures to prevent and combat unequal access to health services and to the education system between the rural and urban population, particularly access of Roma children to health and education;

-- that reproductive health education programmes be strengthened in order to reduce teenage pregnancies and that information campaigns be launched concerning family planning and prevention of HIV/AIDS;

-- that the State party take all appropriate measures to prevent and combat ill-treatment of children, including physical and sexual abuse within the family, and at school and child-care institutions, and to undertake prevention campaigns to protect children against abuse and mal-treatment;

-- that breast feeding be promoted in health facilities;

-- and that the State party continue its efforts to prevent and combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children, especially the use of children in pornography, prostitution and trafficking.

The Committee cited among positive aspects in the report of the Democratic Republic of Korea that international instruments, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, had the same status as domestic law and could be invoked before the courts. The Committee noted with appreciation that both education and health services were free of charge and the willingness of the State party to engage in international cooperation programmes to facilitate the full implementation of the Convention.

Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention were the dissolution of its traditional economic ties and the 1995 and 1996 floods which had had a very serious impact on the whole society. The panel cited concern about the increase in child mortality rates resulting from mal-nutrition which affected the most vulnerable children, including those living in institutions; lack of a specific mechanism to monitor progress in all areas covered by the Convention; the continued use of corporal punishment, especially within the family environment and in institutions; the de facto discriminatory attitudes which occurred against children with disabilities; and the administration of juvenile justice.

The Committee recommended, among other things:

-- that the State party continue to prevent and combat mal-nutrition of children through budgetary allocations in favour of children to the maximum extent of available resources;

-- that the Government fully harmonize its legislation with the principles and provisions of the Convention;

-- that authorities give priority attention to the identification of appropriate disaggregated indicators with a view to addressing all areas of the Convention and all groups of children in society;

-- that consideration be given to incorporating the Convention in the curricula of all educational institutions and that appropriate measures be taken to facilitate access by children to information on their rights;

--that the State party take all appropriate measures to fully integrate the principles and provisions of the Convention into its legal system, strategies and policies for children;

-- that all appropriate measures, including those of a legislative nature, be taken to prevent and combat the use of corporal punishment;

-- that the Government pursue its efforts to resolve family reunification cases;

-- that the State party launch a comprehensive study to enhance the understanding of the nature and scope of child abuse and ill-treatment within the family;

-- that particular attention be given to the impact of environmental pollution on children;

-- and that the State party take all necessary steps to bring into full conformity its juvenile justice system with the provisions of the Convention. Particular attention should be paid to the right of children to prompt access to legal assistance, judicial review and periodic review of placement. The State party should furthermore envisage extending the special protection provided to children under the penal law from 17 to all persons under 18 years old.

The Committee cited among positive aspects in the report of Fiji the recent establishment of several administrative, monitoring and protection mechanisms on children's rights and the participation of non-governmental organizations in the Coordination Committee on Children, which was one of these mechanisms. The Committee took note of the 1997 amendment to the Juvenile Act regarding the prevention and combatting of child pornography.

Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee said it took note of the geographical configuration of the State party comprising 330 islands, the relatively small population composed of a number of different and isolated communities and the recent changes in the economic structure.

The panel cited concern about the lack of an independent complaint and monitoring mechanism for children such as an Ombudsperson or Commissioner. It was also concerned about the insufficient awareness of and the lack of information on ill-treatment and abuse, including sexual abuse, both within and outside the family. There were insufficient measures undertaken to tackle issues of drug and alcohol abuse which were increasingly affecting children in the State party.

The Committee recommended, among other things:

-- that the state party take all necessary measures to accelerate the process for the enactment of the Children's and Young Persons' Act as well as other legislation related to children's rights;

-- that the State party envisage ratifying all other major international human rights treaties;

-- that the Government strengthen its efforts of coordination through the Coordinating Committee on Children and develop a comprehensive system of collecting disaggregated data;

-- that the State party give further consideration to the establishment of an Ombudsperson for children;

-- that the authorities harmonize the minimum age for marriage with the provisions of the Convention;

-- that a more active approach be taken to eliminate discrimination against certain groups, in particular the girl child, children with disabilities, children in institutional care, children living in rural areas, poor children and children born out of wedlock;

-- that corporal punishment be comprehensively prohibited by law and that measures be taken to raise awareness of its negative effects;

-- that the State party take all appropriate measures, including revision of legislation, to prevent and combat ill-treatment within the family, including domestic violence and sexual abuse of children;

-- that the State party undertake all appropriate measures to accelerate the full implementation of the compulsory education system and to improve the access to education of the most vulnerable groups of children;

-- that efforts are strengthened to prevent and combat drug and substance abuse among children;

-- that further measures be taken, including legal reform, to fully prevent and combat sexual economic exploitation of children, including the use of children in pornography, prostitution, trafficking and abduction;

-- that rehabilitation centres be established for children victims of ill-treatment, sexual abuse and economic exploitation;

-- and that the State party review the provision of legal counselling for children in conflict with the law in care centres, that detention be used only as a measure of last resort, and that conditions of detention centres be improved.

The Committee cited among positive aspects in the report of Japan the efforts of the State party in the field of law reform, including amendments to the Child Welfare Law in 1997 and the 1996 revision of the immigration rule regarding acquisition of nationality of children.

Principle subjects of concern to the Committee included the lack of an independent body with a mandate to monitor the implementation of the rights of children. The panel was concerned that the general principles of non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, and respect of the views of the child were not fully integrated into the legislative policies and programmes, in particular in relation to children belonging to vulnerable categories such as national and ethnic minorities, especially Ainu and Koreans. The Committee was concerned that children were exposed to developmental disorders due to the stress of a highly competitive educational system and the subsequent lack of time for leisure, physical activities and rest. It was also concerned about the widespread use of corporal punishment in schools and the existence of numerous cases of bullying among students.

The Committee recommended, among other things:

-- that the State party strengthen coordination between the various governmental mechanisms involved in children's rights, at both the national and local levels;

-- that the State party develop a system of data collection and identification of appropriate disaggegated indicators in order to address all areas of the Convention;

-- that necessary steps be taken to establish an independent monitoring mechanism, either by improving the "Civil Liberties Commissioners for the Rights of the Child" or by creating an Ombudsperson or Commissioner;

-- that the State party make greater efforts to ensure that the provisions of the Convention were widely known and understood by both children and adults;

-- that the State party interact and cooperate closely with non-governmental organizations in implementing and monitoring the principles of the Convention;

-- that the authorities introduce additional measures, including legislative ones, to guarantee the children's right to privacy, especially in the family, schools, care and other institutions;

-- that the State party adopt all necessary measures, including legal ones, with a view to protecting children from harmful effects of the printed, electronic and audiovisual media, in particular violence and pornography;

-- that the Government collect detailed information and data regarding cases of child abuse and ill-treatment, including sexual, within the family;

-- that all necessary measures be taken to prevent suicides and incidents of HIV/AIDS among adolescents, including the collection and analysis of information, the launching of awareness-raising campaigns, reproductive health education and the establishment of counselling groups;

-- that the State party take appropriate steps to prevent and combat excessive stress and school phobia in view of the highly competitive educational system;

-- and that a comprehensive programme be devised and its implementation closely monitored in order to prevent violence in schools, especially with a view to eliminating corporal punishment and bullying. The Committee also recommended that corporal punishment be prohibited by law in the family, care and other institutions.

The Committee cited among positive aspects in the report of the Maldives the enactment of the Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child and the establishment of the National Council for the Protection of the Rights of the Child

Among factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention, the Committee said it took note of the particular nature of the State party, its geographical configuration comprising 1,190 islands, the relatively small population composed of a number of different and isolated communities, as well as the changes in the economic structures and rapid population growth.

The Committee listed as among principle subjects of concern the lack of clarity on the status of children aged between 16 and 18. It was especially concerned by the low ages for marriage and criminal responsibility. The Committee also noted that insufficient measures had been adopted to ensure the full enjoyment of the girl child and children with disabilities. The Committee remained concerned that education was not compulsory by law, at the high drop-out rate between primary and secondary school, and at disparities in the access to education between the capital and the atolls.

The Committee recommended, among other things:

-- that the State party engage in a comprehensive reform of its legislation, with a view to ensure its full conformity with the provisions of the Convention;

-- that the State party accede to other major international human rights treaties;

-- that the State party strengthen and extend the activities of the Coordinating Committee on Children;

-- that the Government favour the establishment of non-governmental organizations dealing with children and cooperate with them in order to enhance the partnership with all components of the civil society implementing the Convention;

-- that the State party raise the legal age of definition of the child which was set at the age of 16. The legal minimum ages for marriage and criminal responsibility should also be reviewed;

-- that the authorities take a more active approach to eliminate discrimination against the girl child, children with disabilities, children living in remote islands, and children born out of wedlock;

-- that the State party take all appropriate measures to prevent and combat ill-treatment within the family and sexual abuse of children;

-- that the authorities promote adolescent health policies and programmes, inter alia, strengthening reproductive health education and counselling services as well as to improve preventive measures to combat HIV/AIDS;

-- that the State party develop early identification programmes to prevent disabilities, implement alternative measures to the institutionalization of children with disabilities, envisage awareness-raising campaigns to reduce their discrimination, establish special education programmes and centres and encourage their inclusion into society;

-- that the State party make primary education compulsory and available free to all;

-- that the Government strengthen its efforts to prevent and combat drug and substance abuse among children;

-- and that the State party envisage special procedures for children aged between 16 and 18 who were currently considered adults, to establish special courts for children and to review the provision of legal counselling for children in care centres.

The Committee cited among positive aspects in the report of Luxembourg the existence of the Youth Parliament and welcomed its involvement in the discussion regarding the proposal law to establish a committee having the functions of an Ombudsperson.

Principal subjects of concern listed by the Committee included the fact that no legislation existed to protect children from being exposed to violence and pornography through video movies and other modern technologies, most prominently the Internet. Domestic legislation did not appear to fully respect all the provisions of the Convention, and the Penal Code restricted its protection from all forms of abuse and neglect to children aged 14 and under.

The Committee recommended, among other things:

-- that the State party take on a priority basis all necessary measures to ensure that its domestic legislation was in full conformity with the provisions of the Convention;

-- that the State party adopt a comprehensive strategy for children and that it envisage the establishment of a permanent mechanism of coordination, evaluation, monitoring and follow-up for policies aimed at the protection of the child. The State party was also encouraged to establish an independent monitoring body like an Ombudsperson;

-- that the Convention be disseminated in appropriate languages to adults and children alike;

-- that the State party take all appropriate measures to ensure that children born out of wedlock did not suffer discriminatory treatment or stigmatization and that the terms "legitimate" and "illegitimate" which were currently used in the Civil Code be eliminated;

-- that all appropriate measures, including of legal nature, be taken to protect children from being exposed to violence and pornography through video movies and other modern technologies, including the Internet;

-- that the State party undertake a comprehensive study to identify reasons for the dramatic drop after one month in breast feeding and to increase its efforts to promote compliance with the international code for marketing of breast milk substitutes;

-- that the State party undertake studies of the cause of suicide and other mental health problems among young people and adopt measures to combat this phenomenon;

-- that the Government reinforce its legislation, policies and programmes to prevent and combat all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse, including child prostitution, pornography and trafficking;

-- and that the State party give special attention to alternatives to detention, to prevent suicide in detention, to provide appropriate infrastructures to detain children and ensure their full separation from adults and their regular contacts with their family.

Convention on Rights of Child

The General Assembly adopted the Convention unanimously on 20 November 1989, 30 years after the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of the Child. The Convention makes States which accept it legally accountable for their actions towards children. Work on its drafting began in 1979 -- the International Year of the Child -- at the Commission on Human Rights.

The Convention was opened for signature on 26 January 1990. That day, 61 countries signed it, a record first-day response. It entered into force just seven months later, on 2 September 1990.

Ratifying the Convention entails reviewing national legislation to make sure it is in line with the provisions of the treaty. The Convention stipulates, among other things, that: every child has the right to life, and States shall ensure to the maximum child survival and development; every child has the right to a name and nationality from birth; and, when courts, welfare institutions or administrative authorities deal with children, the child's best interests shall be a primary consideration. The Convention recognizes the right of children to be heard.

Furthermore, States shall ensure that each child enjoys full rights without discrimination or distinctions of any kind; that children should not be separated from their parents, unless by competent authorities for their well-being; States should facilitate reunification of families by permitting travel into, or out of, their territories; and States shall protect children from physical or mental harm and neglect, including sexual abuse or exploitation.

Also according to the Convention, disabled children shall have the right to special treatment, education and care; primary education shall be free and compulsory and discipline in school should respect the child's dignity; capital punishment or life imprisonment shall not be imposed for crimes committed before the age of 18; no child under 15 should take any part in hostilities and children exposed to armed conflict shall receive special protection; and children of minority and indigenous populations shall freely enjoy their own culture, religion and language.

A conference of States parties has endorsed efforts to amend the Convention in order to increase the membership of the Committee, while the General Assembly has expressed support for the working group of the Commission on Human Rights on a draft optional protocol to the treaty related to the involvement of children in armed conflict.

States Parties to Convention

The number of States parties has reached 191, as follows: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia and Lebanon.

Also, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Palau Islands, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Thailand, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Committee Membership

The Convention requires that the members of the Committee have a high moral standing and recognized competence in the field of children's rights. The following experts, nominated by the States parties to serve in their personal capacity, have been elected to the Committee: Francesco Paolo Fulci (Italy), Judith Karp (Israel), Youri Kolosov (Russian Federation), Sandra P. Mason (Barbados), Nafsiah Mboi (Indonesia), Esther Margaret Queen Mokhuane (South Africa), Awa N'deye Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso), Lisbet Palme (Sweden), Ghassan Salim Rabah (Lebanon), and Marilia Sardenberg Gon alves (Brazil). Mrs. Mason is the Committee's Chairperson. The three Vice-Chairpersons are Mrs. Karp, Mr. Kolosov and Mr. Rabah. Mrs. Mboi is the Rapporteur.

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UN: Committee on Rights of Child concludes eighteenth session, Geneva, 18 May to 5 June., M2 PressWIRE, 06-09-1998.


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