The Committee on the Rights of the Child today reviewed the initial report of Nepal on its implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Introducing the report, Balananda Paudel, Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, said that new and important pieces of legislation had been promulgated to safeguard children’s interest, while the 2012 National Policy on Children aimed at reducing the vulnerability of children to abuse and exploitation. Nepal was cognizant of the challenges in the realization of the rights of the child which included poverty, domestic violence and gender discrimination as well as the importance of instituting and strengthening the system of reporting, data collection and institutional capacity.
Yanghee Lee, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the report of Nepal under the Optional Protocol, welcomed the ratification by Nepal of several international treaties relevant to children and expressed concern over last week’s dissolution of the Constitutional Assembly. Poverty and corruption were major challenges furthering the full realization of the rights of all children in Nepal. Although poverty rates had decreased, Nepal was still the poorest country in South-East Asia and the twelfth poorest country in the world, while education was still not compulsory or free.
In the ensuing interactive discussion, the Committee Experts acknowledged the progress made in the legislative and policy domain in Nepal and raised questions about budgets and resources allocated for the protection of children’s rights, the strategy to build Child District Boards to bring closer the services to the children, particularly in remote areas, and about building an integrated data collection system in the country. Experts also requested clarification concerning coordination and harmonization of child action plans on various levels; government services available to children victims of sale, child pornography and child prostitution, including psycho-social support, legal proceedings and reintegration in the family; and the management of the risk of the sale of children for purposes of the sale of organs and organ smuggling, particularly to India.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Lee said that Nepal should ratify the Hague Convention, establish a comprehensive child protection system, and institute a comprehensive data collection system in the country.
Mr. Paudel said in closing remarks that the 2007 Human Trafficking Act was a major step in efforts to combat human trafficking and the proposed children’s bill was aimed to further strengthening the system of protection of children in Nepal.
Also in closing remarks, Jean Zermatten, Committee Chairperson, expressed the hope for Nepal to soon have a Constitution that would not neglect the rights of children.
The delegation of Nepal consisted of representatives of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The next public meeting of the Committee will be at 3 p.m. today, 4 June when it will consider the fourth periodic report of Australia under the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as its initial report under the Optional Protocol on the sale on children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the initial report under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/AUS/4).
The initial report of Nepal can be read here: (CRC/C/OPSC/NPL/1).
Presentation of the Report
BALANANDA PAUDEL, Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, said that new and important pieces of legislation had been promulgated to safeguard children’s interests, deter violence against them and ensure help for those in need, including the Human Trafficking (Control) Act and Acts to Maintain Gender Equality. Efforts had been intensified to reduce the vulnerability of children to abuse and exploitation through the recently approved National Policy on Children 2012. This policy aimed at creating an environment where all children could fully enjoy their rights, develop their personalities and become qualified citizens of the country. On an institutional plan, the Central Child Welfare Board was chaired by the Minster for Women, Children and Social Welfare and the District Child Welfare Board existed in all 75 districts of Nepal. The Government was cognizant of the challenges in the realization of the rights of the child which included poverty, domestic violence, and gender discrimination. The Domestic Violence (Offence and Punishment) Act of 2009 had provided for necessary services and legal recourse and the Government had been running service centres with safe-houses in 15 districts for women and children affected by domestic violence.
Since 2009, the Government had been running the Child Protection Grant Programme, a child-centred cash transfer initiative targeting more than 400,000 children of all families in the remote Karnali Zone and all Dalit families across the country. The Government of Nepal had been making efforts to ensure children’s access to basic services such as health care and education. The under-five mortality rate in 2011 was 54 per thousand, down from 61 per thousand in 2006, and in education the net enrolment rate at the primary level was 95 per cent. The 2010 Progress Report indicated that Nepal was likely to achieve the Millennium Development Goals targets except for Target 1 on ending extreme hunger and poverty and Target 7 on environmental sustainability. Nepal was aware that many areas needed improvement and that it was important to institute and strengthen the system of reporting, data collection and institutional capacity. International support was therefore critical and this support needed to be aligned with national needs and priorities. The Government remained committed to ensuring broad-based protection of children by educating families, mobilizing communities, enabling service providers, encouraging coalition building and, above all, by empowering children themselves.
Questions by Experts
YANGHEE LEE, Committee Expert Acting as Rapporteur for the Report of Nepal, welcomed the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and expressed her concern over the dissolution last week of the Constitutional Assembly. This would complicate the discussion in the Committee today because the Children’s Act 2012 had been sent to the Cabinet, but the Cabinet had been dissolved. The Committee welcomed the ratification of several international treaties relevant to children and progress in domestic legislation which included the enactment of the Human Trafficking (Control) Act of 2007 and the National Master Plan 2011-2020. Many challenges directly impeded the full implementation of the Optional Protocol and the full realization of the rights of all children in Nepal; two major ones were poverty and corruption. Although poverty rates had decreased, Nepal was still the poorest country in South-East Asia and ranked the twelfth poorest country in the world. Education was still not compulsory or completely free and corruption had been reported to be on the rise which diminished resources for public programmes and might have a direct impact on the well-being and protection of children.
Ms. Lee asked a number of questions concerning the status of international treaties in national legislation, including the incorporation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, revision of the Children’s Act of 1992, and the current revision of the Penal Code. The delegation was further asked to clarify the coordination mechanism in the country, measures to address the lack of adequate data, the budget allocated for child protection, the child protection system, citizenship and statelessness, and adoption and the state of orphanages.
Another Expert acknowledged the progress made in the legislative domain but noted that prevention and protection policies needed adequate resources in order to be implemented. The adoption system in Nepal was still differentiated and the Expert asked about surveillance and monitoring of the system of international adoption. A Committee Expert noted that a large number of children were in orphanages even though they had parents, mainly because of access to education and the poverty of parents, and asked the delegation to expand on the possible informal system of domestic adoptions in the country? What were planned measures to include in the Penal Code concerning adoptions?
The delegation was further asked to provide clarification and information concerning coordination and harmonization of child action plans on various levels; government services available to children victims of sale, child pornography and child prostitution, including psycho-social support, legal proceedings and reintegration in the family; the scope of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in domestic legislation and whether it protected all children under the age of 18; measures to ensure birth registration of children born to unwed mothers and stateless persons; risk of sale of children for purposes of the sale of organs and organ smuggling, particularly to India; and dissemination of the provisions of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and its translation into local languages.
The Committee also wished to hear more about the strategy to build Child District Boards and so bring closer the services to children, particularly in remote areas; envisioning of the future and comprehensive data collection system in the country; the role of Village Development Committees in the prevention of the exploitation, sale and prostitution of children; measures to address sex tourism and arrest and prosecute offenders; initiatives on the grass-roots level to protect children most vulnerable to sale, exploitation and trafficking; measures to eradicate harmful traditional practices such as child marriage, dowry and others; and technical training provided to first line health workers to address the needs of children victims of the sale, sexual exploitation and child prostitution.
Response by Delegation
Responding to questions, the delegation said that only the Constitutional Assembly was dissolved and not the Constitution. It acknowledged the concerns of Experts about the coordination mechanism in the country and provided information about institutional architecture for the protection of children rights in Nepal, which included the Ministry for Women, Children and Social Welfare, the Committee against Human Trafficking, District Child Rights Officers, and the Central Child Welfare Board, which was instrumental in the protection of the rights of the child. There was a national mechanism to coordinate institutions in the preparation of various national plans of action concerning different aspects of children’s rights, while the mid-term expenditure plan helped align budgets with those plans.
JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, noted that there was national level coordination and district level coordination and that many efforts in Nepal were grouped under the heading on human trafficking, and asked what the coordination was between the national policy on the protection of children’s rights and the Optional Protocol itself.
The delegation said the Government had recently approved the national policy on children in 2012 and this was in line with the Convention and its Optional Protocol. The issue was coordination between different agencies involved in different areas of child rights. Nepal had the Central Child Welfare Board with a broad participation of the key stakeholders and the Government acting as coordinator. This new children’s act would include clear indications for the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The integrated data collection system had a key role and right now the Children Welfare Committee was working on developing this system. Currently, data was received from different agencies, including from the National Development Commission and from different national surveys, which contained indicators relevant for monitoring the protection of children’s rights. At the same time, the Ministry for Women, Children and Social Welfare was planning to develop an integrated data collection system that would enable the monitoring. There were help lines in Nepal run by the Government and non-governmental organizations, destined to be used by children. Data collected by different lines were used to prioritize the Government’s intervention, while police could handle any reported case.
Turning to domestication of international treaties and legal provisions, the delegation said that the 2007 Constitution provided detailed provisions on the ratification of treaties. Nepal had enacted a Nepal Treaty Act to regulate the applicability of international treaties in national legislation. If inconsistency happened with the domestic law, the international treaty applied. In order to ensure the full and consistent incorporation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Government had prepared a draft bill which was now before the Cabinet. Nepal was unable to pass the new bill on child’s rights, but in line with the Convention and its Optional Protocol, Nepal had incorporated all the provisions in the earlier act. Nepal criminalized all the acts from the Optional Protocol on the sale of children in its Criminal Code, including the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography and others. There were still gaps in bringing legislation in line with the provisions of the Convention and its Optional Protocol; the Council of Ministers was in the process of submitting a bill to Parliament to improve the legislation.
An Expert asked if Nepal had the intention to amend the law on the protection of children, in particular children whose rights had been violated, and the Law of Social Controls which sometimes treated children as offenders?
Responding, the delegation said Nepal was the signatory of the Hague Convention but still had not ratified it, because it still had not completed the process of amending its national legislation following the years of civil conflict. The Government had enacted clear guidelines on international adoption with five criteria, including the right of the child to stay with his or her parents or blood relatives, and prioritization of national adoption. Those directives established a very transparent system whereby no one could identify children to be adopted and all proceedings were done through the central authority and without involvement of an agent or intermediary authority and with a coding and decoding system in place to protect the identity of the child or adoptive parents.
Experts asked whether Nepal intended to ratify the Hague Convention, what monitoring systems were in place for domestic and international adoption, whether there were Placement Committees in place to match children and parents and how they functioned, whether there was a moratorium and suspension on international adoptions, and how many cases of international adoptions there were in the past two years.
In response, the delegation said a Matching Committee existed, composed of representatives of the relevant ministries, which reviewed all requests for adoption. Nepal still needed to enact a law to guarantee the comprehensive implementation of the Hague Convention. International adoptions had been suspended until 2009, but the system was starting to function now. The delegation was unable at this point to provide the number of international adoptions. On regulating the system of setting up and maintaining orphanages and protecting children from child pornography and child prostitution, there was a mechanism to monitor violations and all abuses were reported to the police.
JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, asked what had been done to remove children from bars and cabins and how those children victim of sexual abuse, prostitution and pornography had been supported?
The delegation said support to the victims was offered within social and health services and through rehabilitation centres. There were seven centres at the moment and a further eight were being established throughout the country, which provided psycho-social and health services as well as love and affection to the children. In terms of compensation to the victims, the 2012 bill of children stipulated that the court might provide the child with 75 per cent of the fine imposed on the offender. The children victim of abuse would be asked to provide their testimony in the court only once and no repeated questioning was allowed. Nepal had also been trying to improve the system, policies and laws in this regard, and ensure more resources.
YANGHEE LEE, Committee Expert Acting as Rapporteur for the Report of Nepal, in closing observations said that many questions were answered and more queries remained. Nepal was starting a new phase in its political development and the Committee hoped that this phase would not impede the enjoyment of children’s rights. Nepal should ratify the Hague Convention, establish a comprehensive child protection system, protect all children from crime and abuses, and institute a comprehensive data collection system. The Committee was looking forward to see the functioning of the new 2012 Children’s Act.
BALANANDA PAUDEL, Secretary of the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare, said in closing remarks that the dialogue today was a unique opportunity for Nepal to discuss the implementation of the provisions of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Nepal thanked the Committee for their deep interest in the situation of child rights in Nepal and for raising the questions that the delegation tried its best to answer. The 2007 Human Trafficking Act was a major step in efforts to combat human trafficking and the proposed children’s bill was aimed at further strengthening the system of protection of children in Nepal. Nepal would consider the ratification of the Hague Convention and believed that the Committee’s concluding observations would serve as a meaningful guidance for the future.
JEAN ZERMATTEN, Committee Chairperson, also in closing remarks, said that the Committee hoped that Nepal would soon have a Constitution that would not neglect the rights of children, like the Constitution that unfortunately had not been approved.
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