One of the main problems affecting children and young people is related to their right to protection against all types of violence, exploitation and abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation, human trafficking and child labour. There are other situations that put both girls and boys at increased risk and vulnerability, such as the absence of parental care or coming into conflict with the law.
The Dominican Republic has made important efforts to adjust the judicial framework to the mandates established in the CRC, and to the Convention’s Facultative Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and the Use of Children in Pornography, which was ratified by the country in 2005.
However, despite the progress that has been achieved, concerns are growing by the day due to the apparent increase in levels of rights violations in the country, including violence against children and young people, which can take place in different contexts and by different actors: families, schools, neighbourhoods, communities and institutions. Weak institutional responses to reported cases are another cause for concern.
Illegal migration, human trafficking and trading of minors constitute another set of serious threats to the fulfilment of Children’s Rights. A desire for improved living conditions motivates Haitian families to migrate or to send their sons and daughters to the Dominican Republic. During the course of the journey, arrival and sojourn in the country, these children and adolescents are exposed to conditions of alarming vulnerability.
Child labour is defined as a threat to the right to education and submitting children to abusive and exploitative situations. All boys and girls under the age of 12 who carry out any type of economic activity, and children between the ages of 12 and 14 who carry out hazardous tasks are considered to be experiencing exploitative child labour conditions. The worst forms of child labour, according to Convention 138, are those that put children’s lives and physical and mental integrity at extreme risk, whether due to the nature of the work or the conditions in which it is conducted (night time, high-risk work on the streets, agricultural work using chemical products, sale of fireworks).
Another issue that has caused a lot of concern due to the lack of protection that it entails, is the treatment meted to young people who break the law, who according to current legislation should not be treated in the same way under the law as adults, because they are still in the process of development and should be given more opportunities for re-education and social re-integration.
Society is jointly responsible and must be aware of the incidence and reality of these serious violations of the rights of minors. Response institutions must also exercise Zero Tolerance for violence against children and adolescents.
The UNICEF-Santo Domingo office has been supporting the country since the 1990s in the process towards improved protection against commercial sexual exploitation and the trafficking of children, cooperating with a range of programme and communication campaigns aimed at preventing these violations of children’s rights.
UNICEF- Santo Domingo.