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Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission is concerned about the condition of children’s rights

Monday 22 November 2010

Afghanistan signed and ratified the international child’s rights convention in 1373. However, despite the ratification of this convention and some other international treaties, there are still challenges faced by the Afghan state and the human rights protection organizations in the country; a big number of children do not have access to their rights. Lack of awareness regarding the child’s rights on the part of the society, the weakness and shortage of child’s rights protective mechanisms, the political instability and lack of security and, finally, the unpleasant customs and traditions prevalent in the society in terms of children’s lack of access to their rights all play their grim roles.

In the first five months of 1389, the commission interviewed 2804 children in 68 districts of the country. Based on the findings, only 78.9% of the children interviewed attend school. Approximately 12.5% of them have never attended schools and another 8.7% have quit school, thus, not attending it currently. About 20% of the children still do not attend school regularly; the most notable reasons for this 20% being irregular are: lack of books and learning aid/ facilities – (7.4%), long distance between homes and schools – (4.7%), lack of teachers – (4.2%) and schools being in bad conditions – (3%). Moreover, 14% of the children suffer from lingual or dialect problems inside the classroom environment.

As for the medical services, the children face numerous problems; one out of every four children die by the age of five. Besides, on average, every half an hour one mother dies on account of issues related to childbirth. The commission findings indicate that most of, (93%), the children can have access to medical services, but the hurdles such as the high cost of medication – (11.9%), the long distance to the medical centers – (45.6%), the absence of female medical staff – (1.5%), the low quality of medical services and equipments – (11.1%) and finally the shortage of medicine – (6.3%) have all made it quite difficult for the children to have access to the medical services.

The children interviewed by the commission are busy doing various forms of chores and jobs. About 56.9% of them attend household chores, 13% look after the domestic animals or are shepherds, 9.3% work on farms, 2.1% work in factories and the rest are busy in selling things, collecting metals and trash, working in constructions, weaving carpets and so on. About 8% of them work for others just because of being in debt or pay off their fathers’ debts.

Out of the 177 instances of human rights violation which have been registered with the commission during the first six months of the year, 10% (18 cases) of them refer to the early marriages. Most of these marriages have been accompanied with violence, and in more than 5% cases, there have been age disparity of 30 years or even higher. 129 out of the 2804 children interviewed stated that they had gotten married too young. 36.4% of these marriages had taken place in order to solve some economic problems. 41.3% of them were Badal (exchange marriages), which were still meant to solve economic problems; the cost of marrying this way is little.

Among the 177 instances violating child’s human rights, registered with the commission in the first six months of the year, the highest percentage (27.7% - 49 cases) referred to sexual assaults or rape. This figure, as compared with the one in the previous year (32 cases), shows a 20% increase and the rest of them – 23 cases or 13% - are physical or psychological violence, 10.2% are early marriages, 11 cases or 6.2% are related to torture or beating by the police at the time of capture or when in the police custody.

The commission findings show that the rate of civilian casualty is rising; from Jaddi 1388 to Saratan 1389 (January to July 2010), 1325 civilians, including 217 children (16.37%), lost their lives in the military operations conducted by the pro and anti-government forces. The figure compared with the one in the previous year, shows 5.5% increase.

Recommendations:

- AIHRC requests all the warring factions not to target the civilian areas and public utility centers, especially the medical and educational centers, during their armed operations and not to utilize these centers for the purpose of their military objectives.

- The commission asks the government to support the child protection mechanisms even further and step up the serious implementation of the laws protecting children.

- The commission requests the Afghan government to pave the way for employment opportunities for the adults in the country so that the number of child workers reduces. As for the implementation of the labor law – especially in connection with children, the government should take necessary measures. Besides, in order to render quality medical and educational services, the government ought to take necessary measures.

- AIHRC requests the Afghan state, the civil society organs and the international community to take serious notice in terms of raising awareness, throughout the country, about the human rights - especially the child’s human rights. Furthermore, the Afghan government is requested to seriously to prosecute the child’s human rights violators, including the perpetrators of child sexual abuse/ assaults.

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Kamran Mir Hazar: Editor-in-Chief / Email: editor at kabulpress.org

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