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The Convention on the Rights of the Child in the Dominican Republic

© UNICEF/DR/2007/R.Piantini

Its impact on the state of Children and Young People in the Dominican Republic: Nineteen years on.

The Dominican Republic’s ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 represented a very important first step in the context of breaking away from the old way of thinking and behaving in relation to children. It changed from focusing on children’s needs to focusing on their human rights. And children and adolescents stopped being objects of need and became subjects of rights. The country took on the Comprehensive Protection Doctrine, leaving behind the Irregular Situation Doctrine.

The Comprehensive Protection Doctrine considers children and young people as subjects of their rights, thus avoiding the compassion-repression dichotomy, and instead promoting protection-vigilance. The determinism of poverty/neglect/criminality disappears and is replaced by juvenile penal responsibility. A judge is an expert who is limited by guarantees, and who can only impose penalties on lawbreakers. Custody is an exception.

In general, we can see that during these last 17 years since the Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the country has progressed the development of a national legislation in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Through its articles, Law 136-03 – The Code for the System of Protection and Basic Rights of Children and Adolescents - establishes the Dominican State’s commitment to guaranteeing the protection of the Basic Rights of Survival, Development, Participation and Special Protection by establishing a National System of Protection.

© UNICEF/DR/2007/R.Piantini

Another area of progress has come about through national debate, which is currently focused on the Doctrine of Comprehensive Protection. However, perceptions of actions aimed at ensuring Children’s Rights are still in the Irregular Situation framework. children and adolescents are still only objects of programmes and policies when their rights have been violated, i.e. when they need special protection.
Debate and “commitment” needs to move forward towards genuinely equitable practice, investment in Public Policies, and towards the need to treat children as a national priority.

Public Policies that guarantee the Universal Right to health, education, protection and participation still pose major challenges for Dominican society. The debate has moved on, but the way we feel and act in benefit of children and adolescents still needs to change.

This is the only way in which we can finally break the cycle of poverty that is experienced by a large sector of the young population, and in this way achieve the positive impact of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and on the conditions that children and young people experience in the Dominican Republic.

The doctrine of Irregular Situation treats children and adolescents as a population group that is an object of protection, but on many occasions this very protection violates or restricts their rights, as is the case when a minor is detained indefinitely in a care facility in order to protect him/her from moral or material danger or high-risk situations. Under this doctrine, judges are seen as good father figures with ‘all-embracing’ faculties and who implement social policies. Care is confused with penal issues, and the abandoned minor is treated like a potential delinquent, guarantees are not considered and  is not given the right to express an opinion.


 

The NGO Coalition for Children opposes the strengthening of Law 136-03

Following up the implementation of the children’s rights protection law

 

 
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