Egypt: A better start for child’s rights

The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood seeks to promote children’s rights in the new constitution – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Reem Leila, Nov 13, 2013.

The National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) is playing a leading role in suggesting amendments to child-related articles in the new constitution and protecting children’s rights.

In coordination with several NGOs the NCCM is calling for the amended constitution to define anyone below 18 years of age as a child and for all children’s rights to be protected regardless of family situation. 

“Constitutionally defining children as those under 18 years will set the perimeters for the application of children’s rights, particularly those enshrined in the Child Law of 2008,” says NCCM Secretary-General Azza Al-Ashmawi. The 2008 law protects children against any form of violence and guarantees access to education and healthcare. It sets a limit on the length of time children can be detained, and guarantees the provision of legal assistance.

The 2012 constitution, now suspended, addressed children’s rights in articles 70 and 71, guaranteeing access to “family care, basic nutrition, shelter, health, and religious, emotional and cognitive development”.

Al-Ashmawi, a member of the 50-member committee that is amending the 2012 constitution, argues changes must be in line with the guiding principles of the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child. They include the right to life, survival, development and non-discrimination. “Special focus must be placed on the rights of young girls, especially in relation to marriages and Female Genital Mutilation [FGM],” says Al-Ashmawi … //

… The amended constitution will also seek to protect children from being trafficked. Human trafficking is estimated to be a $32 billion industry with more than 2.4 million people trafficked every year. A recent US State Department report estimated that of these, more than 820,000 were trafficked across international boundaries, the majority destined to a form of sexual slavery. Egypt has been named an exporter, transit point and destination for victims of human trafficking, including women and children who face forced work and sexual exploitation. Forms of trafficking in Egypt include commercial sexual exploitation, begging, early marriage, sex tourism, forced labour and domestic servitude.

Human trafficking was ignored by the 2012 constitution. Al-Ashmawi wants to see the provisions of anti-trafficking Law 64 for the year 2010 enshrined in the constitution. “The law,” says Al-Ashmawi, “specifies a jail sentence of up to 15 years and/or LE100,000 fine for those convicted trafficking children.”

It is also hoped the new constitution will include articles protecting children with special needs and specify mechanisms to allow early detection of disabilities that cannot be dealt with through care and rehabilitation.

A recent report issued by NCCM placed the poverty rate among children in rural areas at more than double that of those living in urban areas. In addition, said the report, poverty levels are higher in Upper Egypt than in Lower Egypt. Girls and boys were equally vulnerable to poverty and deprivation of rights though it is girls in rural areas who are least likely to attend school.

Somaya Al-Alfi, manager of NCCM’s Children’s Symposium, says coordination between the council, government and NGOs has become an urgent priority.

“An independent association affiliated to NCCM will provide oversight for the constitutional rights of children and present reports to parliament in cooperation with NGOs,” says Al-Alfi. “I will be working with the association on monitoring the implementation of articles related to children’s right to life, survival, development and non-discrimination, and on the rights of young girls concerning early marriages and female genital mutilation. Girls also need to be guaranteed the right to a decent education.”
(full text).


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