Child Protection

Special Protection

Prevention of Child Abuse

 

Special Protection

© UNICEF/DR/2006/Martinez

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 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which was ratified by the Dominican Republic in 1991, sets out directives and principles for development and guidance of protection policies against violence against children and adolescents.
In article 19, the Convention states that it is the obligation of “States Parties [to] take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child”.

Likewise, article 39 outlines the obligation of “States Parties [to] take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child”.

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.

Law 136-03 or the Code for the System of Protection of Basic Rights of Children and Young People establishes the concepts, roles and responsibilities for the protection of children and young people. One of the most relevant aspects of this instrument is that it defines operational mechanisms for the protection, care and reintegration of this population group, as well as guaranteeing its rights.

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.

One of the threats to Children’s rights is the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSE), which is defined as the use of children and adolescents for sexual satisfaction by adults in return for remuneration in money or in kind, paid to the child or to a third party. It amounts to a form of coercion and violence against children and is defined as a contemporary form of slavery.

© UNICEF/DR/2000/Guzman

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.

 

 
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