Child Protection - Country Programme 2010-2015
In 2011, 10,266 children lived in residential care institutions; a 20 per cent decrease from 2005. Still, the conditions in residential care institutions are often inadequate and and their institutional mandates are divided between various line ministries depending on the age, the disability and at risk status of children. The Child Rights Units established as pilots with UNICEF support in 2006 and taken to scale by the Government afterwards play a role in both making recommendations for referring children to placements and protecting the rights and interests of these children. The reform of the child protection system is affected by a lack of services for prevention of family separation, family support and substitute care and weak gatekeeping mechanisms.
Children with disabilities (CWD) are among the most vulnerable children in Tajikistan. There is no appropriate data collection on CWD, according to MLSP about 27,000 (official data of MLSP as of October 01, 2011) CWD (up to 18 years of age) are receiving disability assistance. Given the internationally acknowledged disability rates among children, this number is likely to be an underestimate. Day care services for CWD have limited outreach. CWD constitute about 15 per cent of the total number of children in residential care institutions including the boarding schools. A National Concept on Inclusive Education was adopted in 2011 which is now awaiting implementation. The majority of children with disabilities do not receive an adequate education, and general schools are not adjusted and equipped to receive CWD. Parents tend to “hide” their CWD, due to existing stigma in the community, especially in rural areas. Although the 2009 Regulation of Social Assistance at Home Units allows its staff to offer services to children with disabilities in their homes, the SAHU staff does not yet have adequate skills to work with CWD. Moreover, their allocation of resources is insufficient to cover all needy children, which prevents them from reaching all children who require assistance. The last polio outbreak in 2010 left more than 500 children with some form of disability mainly in the eastern and central parts of Tajikistan.
Child abuse and neglect is a problem, and children are exposed to physical and psychological punishment. Among children 2-14 years, 76.7 per cent of boys and 71.8 per cent of girls experienced some forms of punishment. Severe physical punishment applied to 18 per cent of boys and 14.2 per cent of girls in the same age group. Children consider physical violence/abuse to be a “normal” form of discipline used by parents and relatives to punish and teach children obedience. Many children and parents also consider various non-physical, psychological punishment to be normal (MICS 2005). : This wide scale acceptance of physical and non-physical punishment can lead to underreporting of cases of violence against children. The Global School- based Student Health Survey (2007) indicates that 12.6% of students reported seriously considering attempting suicide; and 12.0% actually making a suicide plan in the past year. Around 200,000 children aged 5-14 are engaged in some form of child labour (excluding non- intensive household chores) and 65,000 children aged 5-14 are engaged in paid work (MICS 2005).
There is no specialised juvenile justice system in Tajikistan yet. A National Plan of Action on Juvenile Justice System Reform for 2010-2015 was adopted to bring the legislation and practice in line with international obligations and to set up a specialised juvenile justice system. Due to the lack of coordination and monitoring of the reform process and financial shortfalls, the implementation of the plan has been slow. Children occasionally face pre-trial detention for non-serious crimes and extended deprivation of liberty, often for minor offences. Administrative detention in the closed type special school and the special vocational school is an actual problem. In 2011, there were 545 reported juvenile offenses (TransMonee data Base), about 75 per cent of which were theft (Juvenile Justice Assessment 2012). In 2011, 382 children were convicted out of whom 118 received a custodial sentence.
The 2010 observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the second periodic report by the Government of Tajikistan point out issues such gender discrimination, discrimination against children with disabilities, situation of children in care institutions, children living in rural areas, lack of access to family support services for children with disabilities, the deterioration in the quality of education and health services, additional household costs of school attendance and the lack of a specialised juvenile justice system.
Women and girls face great challenges. For instance, only one in ten parliamentarians is a woman, and one woman in six marries before the age of 18 years. The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women noted in her concluding statement of May 2008 that while gender equality is promoted in law, in practice the situation of women has regressed in the past 15 years.Action
The Child Protection Programme aspires to the child care system to be transformed into a comprehensive set of services that rely more on community-based services, especially for children with disabilities and family substitute care, and the juvenile justice system to respect the best interests of the child, and community-based alternative practices aiming at minimising deprivation of liberty to be available and used.
In Child Care System Reform, the project supports the Government in developing a national policy framework and plan, and their implementation, and encourages a stronger coordination, as well as the adoption of common strategies, among partners. This includes further building the social work function, detection, assessment, ‘gate keeping’ and referral, and monitoring; increasing the range, availability and quality of community based services and family support services, particularly for children with disabilities and those affected by polio; and expansion of quality family-substitute services.
Following the 2010 polio outbreak, a community based rehabilitation project for children affected by polio and other children with physical was supported by UNICEF by bringing the key line ministries: MOH, MLSP and MOE as well as the NGOs to work in Khatlon oblast and the DRD to provide the ground of training the medical care workers, social workers and educational establishments’ staff to provide services at local level.
UNICEF has been supporting the transformation of Medical, Pedagogical Commissions to Psychological, Medical, Pedagogical Consultation Centres (PMPC) that are operating under the guidance of the MoH to carry out assessment of CWD, develop an individual plan for each child and provide them with short term rehabilitation and legal support. PMPCs also work with parents to increase their awareness on caring for their CWD. PMPC now consider placement of children in residential care institutions as a last resort. This resulted in preventing the institutionalization of children with disabilities to some extent. For the past years, the PMPCs are enhancing their focus on early intervention and are working closely with Associations of Parents of CWD. Currently there are 9 Psychological Medical Pedagogical Consultation Centres providing assessment and short- term rehabilitation for CWD. During 2010- 2011 more than 4,000 CWD were screened in 9 PMPCs all over the country.
Social work is a new profession in Tajikistan. The first department of Social Work was established under the Tajik National University in 2008 with UNICEF support. Since 2010, staff working as Social Workers including SAHU (Social Assistance at Home Units) workers and CRUs in 12 priority districts received a series of short term orientation trainings and got acquainted with the international and national legislation on social protection of CWD and how to work and provide basic support to CWD in a home environment.
In Juvenile Justice, the project continues to support legal reforms based on international standards and to develop the capacity of the personnel involved in the administration of juvenile justice. It promotes alternatives to custodial sentences, including diversion to community-based services and non-residential rehabilitation services. The focus is on under-age, first-time and least-serious offenders.
In 2010-2011 with funding from Swiss Development Cooperation, UNICEF supported the process of scaling up of the Juvenile Justice Alternatives Project from being implemented in 5 districts based on NGOs to 14 districts based on a governmental structure with another district in the pipeline.. A Juvenile Justice component has been added to the Centres for Additional Education in all the 14 districts and their selected staff have been trained on juvenile justice, adolescent psychology and communication with children. In addition, more than 250 judges, 90 police officers, 30 prosecutors staff, and the staff of the Child Rights Units from the JJAP districts were trained on national and international legislation, child psychology as well as importance of using diversion and alternatives for children in conflict with the law as a means of prevention of re-offending.
Cooperation was expanded with the Council of Justice, Ombudsman Office and Law faculty of the Tajik National University. A specialized course is established at the University on child rights with the main focus on Juvenile Justice and teaching materials are developed with UNICEF support.Impact
The Child Protection Section works with the relevant line ministries: to ensure the children with disabilities are receiving a continuum of services. In 2010-2011 a more comprehensive approach was introduced by involving more key players: the ministries, local authorities, including Child Rights Units, SAHU, Social Protection Departments, the International and Local NGOs to provide the community based rehabilitation for children affected by polio and other children with physical disabilities. As a result, 133 health care workers, social workers and staff from education establishments went through two rounds of TOT training, 687 health care workers, social workers, education staff, community leaders and volunteers were trained, 398 parents were involved and the total number of children covered is 674 (531 polio/AFP affected and 143 with other physical disabilities). Three hundred CWD received orthotics, 18 schools in Khatlon oblast and DRD have been made accessible for CWD, 21 CBR support rooms were established in districts, equipped with locally made facilities, to provide rehabilitation services for CWD.
Since 2010, more than 250 staff working as Social Workers in 12 priority districts received short term orientation training and reached 435 CWD and provided them with service at home and/or linked them with the existing social services.
Since 2010, a total of 246 children in conflict with the law and at risk of offending were referred to the Centres for Additional Education providing juvenile justice alternatives in 14 districts. Referrals were made mainly by the Child Rights Commissions and to a lesser extent by the police, the prosecutors and the courts and more than 60 children benefitted from whushu (martial arts) classes provided at the centres. More than 120 children placed in the MoI Reception and Referral Centres were reintegrated into their families. A Juvenile Justice Unit was established under the MoJ to support the implementation of the National Plan of Action in Juvenile Justice System reform 2010-2015. Between 73% and 77% during the years 2005 to 2010, according to data provided to the assessment team by the Ministry of Interior