Egypt Programme Profile: Child Protection
Situation in Egypt
Children in Egypt are affected by widespread violence, exploitation, human trafficking and inadequate family care resulting in thousands of children living on the street, in residential care or caught in the juvenile justice system for minor offences. This situation is aggravated by the lack of preventive and responsive child protection services and a dysfunctional justice for children system.
Important achievements in legislation - notably the 2008 amended Child Law, the Criminalisation of FGM/C and the Law to Combat Human Trafficking of 2010 - were not accompanied by the necessary government resources to implement the new legislative provisions. For example, despite thousands of girls undergoing Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) every year, no single perpetrator has been sentenced.
74% of girls in the age group 15-17 underwent FGM/C (2008 EDHS). The use of physical and emotional violence as a disciplinary method at home concerns 84% of Egyptian children 2-14 years (IDSC, 2009) creating an environment where the use of violence may appear legitimate to solve conflicts. Research by UNICEF in 2013 confirmed both a high degree of acceptance of violence as a disciplinary method and high prevalence of violence against children with at least 80% of children aged 13-17 reporting recent exposure to at least one form of violence (physical, emotional or sexual).
A national survey on child labour conducted in 2010 (CAPMAS/ILO) estimates that 1.6 million children aged 5-17 are engaged in child labour. This estimation however does not include household chores which could show much higher child labour figures. According to the survey, four out of five child labourers are boys. 64% of employed children are unpaid family workers, mainly in agriculture, followed by work in small business and work in factories. The latter concerns 1 out 10 children at work.
According to the National Centre for Social and Criminological Research (2011) and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons (2011), the main forms of child trafficking in Egypt include seasonal or temporary marriages, trafficking for the purpose of slavery or forced labour, trafficking for the purpose of removal of organs and trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation. The exact number of children victims of trafficking is unknown and there are no reliable surveys or data collection systems to determine the magnitude of the problem.
The lack of specialized child protection services with a dedicated and qualified workforce (e.g. social workers, caregivers, judges, police, and prosecutors) is a major gap in Egypt’s child welfare system. This is particularly important for children victims of violence, exploitation and neglect who are in critical need of qualified professionals able to prevent any potential harm and respond to children in need of care and protection.
The justice system focus on prosecution of perpetrators of child abuse or, in the case of juveniles, on detention, leaves little room for the rehabilitation of child victims and children in conflict with the law. The majority of children in contact with the law do not benefit from the fair trial guarantees outlined in the Child Law. Police abuse, arbitrary detention and overreliance on detention during all stages of the criminal procedure are a major challenge to children’s access to justice.
The child protection programme works at policy level while pursuing its direct work with communities on prevention of violence, operating various kinds of child protection services, promoting children’s rights and advocating for their rights when grave abuses occur such as unlawful detention or major violations of national/international Law.
The main areas of intervention are:
· Strengthening specialized child protection services. This involves consolidating community-based Child Protection Committees for the early identification of and response to children in need of care and protection. At national level the main focus is on strengthening the Child Helpline, the specialisation of social workers on child protection and specific project interventions for children living in the street and children victims of trafficking.
· Preventing violence against children. The programme engages with communities, government and religious leaders to prevent violence against children, including FGM/C. Prevention of violence in schools is another new area of work that aims at developing and implementing national child protection policies as part of a safe learning environment.
· Supporting children’s access to justice. This intervention concentrates on providing legal aid to children in contact with the law, reintegration programmes and capacity building of justice actors (judges, prosecutors, lawyers, police).
· Developing independent mechanisms for promoting and protection child rights. UNICEF works with the National Council for Human Rights in operationalizing a children’s unit mandated to receive complaints, mediate and independently investigate alleged grave violations of children’s rights. In parallel, civil society groups are supported to monitor the situation of children in Egypt and advocate for their rights.
· HIV prevention interventions concentrate on the most at-risk populations, such as children living in street situations and sex workers.
Programme Expected Results 2013-2017
· Child Protection Committees cover at least 30 districts and reach at least 50,000 children in need of care and protection.
· A national budget and human resources plan for the implementation of Child Protection Committees is approved.
· Legal aid and social follow-up of children in contact with the law reaches at least 15,000 children.
· A comprehensive and sustainable legal assistance and social support programme for children in contact with the law is institutionalized.
· The FGM abandonment programme reaches at least 300,000 families who have girls at risk of FGM/C.
· 2 million people are reached through media and public awareness programmes to prevent violence against children.
· Establishment of a child protection policy in schools as one of the requirements for the accreditation of schools.