Child protection

All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse. Hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq, including internally displaced children and refugees, need protection from violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect.

A girl stands in a playground in Iraq
© UNICEF/UN0162067/Jeelo

Challenges

Justice for Children A lack of implementation of the law and a system that isretributive rather than restorative, including an overuse of deprivation of liberty, poor conditions and lack of services while in confinement, a low age ofcriminal responsibility, and a significant increase in thenumber of children detained since December 2015 creates a situation of significant deprivation for children in detention.  

Gender Based Violence (GBV)Pervasive GBV against women and girls, and in particular sexual violence and exploitation, family violence, forced and child marriage, continue to take place.  Fearsof harassment, and stigmatization, including honour killing, remain real obstacles to seeking justice for GBV survivors.

Grave Violations of Child Rights. Conflict related violence has continued unabated, exacerbated by years of conflict in the country.  According to the UN’s Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism (MRM) in Iraq, killing and maiming of children is the most widespread grave violation of child rights. In addition, the UN has verified 271 cases of child recruitment and use of by parties to the conflict since 2014.  

Unaccompanied children Over the course of the conflict, incidents of unaccompanied minors or children separated from their parents has seen a significant upward trend.  In addition, at least 10% of children who are registered as being unaccompanied children are of foreign nationality Deprived of a caregiver, these children are among those most vulnerable to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect. 

Birth Registration for Children under ISIL ControlBefore the conflict, Iraq’s national birth registration rate was above 99%. However, the situation changed dramatically when ISIL took control of wide areas of Iraq. Children were born in areas under ISIL control where no official birth registration system was functional, and up to 25% of children under 5 in those locations have no documentation.  This lack of civil documentation will have long term effects on children’s ability to access basic education, health, and social welfare services. 

Lack of Child Protection Systems, Psychosocial Support and Case Management Services Hundreds of thousands of children have been exposed to violent conflict and displacement, with many experiencing multiple displacements which further exacerbates their vulnerability. High level of exposure to violence and displacement is detrimental to any child’s psychosocial well-being, and available psychosocial and mental health services are concentrated mostly in camps,  and do not therefore meet Iraq’s growing needs

Solutions

Improving legal, policy, and institutional frameworks for child protection. 

Laws and policies to create and support a safe environment and a robust protection system must be child-centred, in line with international standards, and be consistently implemented. Institutions with the mandate to protect children or respond to their experiences of violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect must be strengthened.  Work also needs to be done to strengthen the Iraqi public’s confidence in the ability of institutions to protect children 

Increasing availability of child protection services.

There is a shortage of case management and other specialized services to assist children suffering from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence. Access to services must be also be equitably distributed, including to disabled children. 

Changing attitudes toward and practices of violence against children and women.

Harmful social norms discourage children and families from seeking and getting assistance. Engaging communities in order to change deeply rooted behaviours is a critical component of changing attitudes and practices, so that children and families become aware of their rights and of the availability of services that can assist them.