Committee on the Rights of the Child
27 May 2009
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today reviewed the fourth report of Sweden on how that country is implementing the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Introducing the report, Karin Johansson, State Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden, said that Sweden had a national strategy for the implementation of the Convention. The aim was for children’s rights and interests to permeate all decision-making relating to children. The Children’s Ombudsman was a fundamental component of the national mechanisms for the implementation of the Convention at the local, regional and national levels. It was important that the Ombudsman was independent within its legislative framework.
Ms. Johansson said the Committee had previously recommended that Sweden strengthen its protective measures for children using the Internet, television and computer games against violence and child pornography. The Government had initiated a dialogue with Internet providers and other actors aiming to improve the protection of children in the media environment. The dialogue had resulted in a joint initiative from the private sector, national authorities and NGOs to establish an Internet portal that would give access to all existing measures and knowledge concerning the protection of children in this environment. Sweden hoped that this joint portal would soon be operational.
On 1 July, Sweden would take over the Presidency of the European Union, Ms. Johansson said. In this role Sweden intended to take more responsibility in promoting support for the European Commission it its work towards a future European Union strategy for the rights of the child. Sweden wanted the future strategy to be inspired by the Committee’s work and recommendations on relevant issues. A priority would be to highlight children’s rights within the United Nations General Assembly. During its Presidency, Sweden would draft and introduce the omnibus resolution on the rights of the child on behalf of the European Union, together with Uruguay, in the General Assembly.
Dainius Puras, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Sweden, said that Sweden was among leaders in the world in its high achievements in the areas of the rights of the child and human rights in general. He said that the Committee would like to reiterate in this dialogue some of the issues the Committee had raised when considering the previous report from Sweden. They were issues related to the role and mandate of the Children’s Ombudsman; coordination of efforts and creating a permanent structure, while implementing the Convention, between central and local authorities and NGOs; the role of the Convention in national legislation; collection of data; problems of unaccompanied children; situations in the area of child sex tourism and other issues.
Hadeel Al-Asmar, the Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Sweden, wanted to know more about follow-up of violations of the Convention, as well as on corporal punishment and violence against women. She also asked about measures had been taken so that all children, including undocumented children and children in hiding, had access to pre-school activities.
Other Experts also raised a series of questions pertaining to, among other things, drug abuse among young people; high suicide rates; increasing abortion rates with young girls; human trafficking; sexual exploitation; services and mandate of the Children’s Ombudsman; health services, including psychiatric care; asylum procedure and the appointment of a guardian for unaccompanied children; the effects of the ban of corporal punishment; adoption; poverty reduction measures; sex tourism and the demand side of child pornography; human rights education and religion in school curricula.
The delegation of Sweden also included representatives of the following ministries: Ministry of Health and Socials Affairs; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Education and Research and the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
When the Committee reconvenes on Thursday, 28 May, at 10 a.m., it will consider the second periodic report of Mauritania (CRC/C/MRT/2).
Report of Sweden
Sweden’s fourth periodic report (CRC/C/SWE/4) says with regards to the Committee’s concerns that an increased number of children in Sweden are placed in institutions and that the proportion of children with foreign background among these is greater than the proportion of Swedish-born children, the proportion of placements in emergency foster homes has almost doubled since 2001. There is much evidence to suggest that they have replaced former emergency institutional placements. From the statistics presented by the National Board of Health and Welfare in the situation report for 2006 it is evident that during 2001 to 2005 the number of children and young people in foster care increased by 5 to 10 per cent while the number of placements in institutional care levelled off. It is primarily placements in emergency foster homes that have increased. Out-of-home care is most common in the 13 to 17 age group - a group that represented about half of the 24-hour care. Children of persons born abroad are overrepresented in institutional care. This should, according to the National Board of Health and Welfare, be viewed against the background of factors related to the family’s socio-economic situation which explain most of the differences between children with foreign and Swedish backgrounds, respectively.
The Committee was also concerned about children “in hiding” who did not have access to education. The report explains that asylum-seeking children and young people are entitled to education, preschool activities and school childcare on the same terms as children resident in Sweden. However, children who have had their asylum application rejected and who are avoiding enforcement of a refusal of entry or deportation order (“children in hiding”) do not enjoy corresponding rights. The municipalities may, however, on a voluntary basis receive those children at school, and have been allocated extra funds from the Government for this purpose. The Committee was also concerned about the number of unaccompanied children who had disappeared from the accommodation units of the Swedish Migration Board and the protracted processing period for asylum applications. The new Act on Representation and Custodianship for Unaccompanied Children entered into force on 1 July 2005. This legislative instrument is directed at children who come to Sweden alone as refugees or for other purposes and seek a residence permit there. The new Act means, among other things, that the special representative’s powers are extended. Instead of the absent parents, he or she will be able to act as both a guardian and custodian for the child. Having a special representative who also acts as the responsible custodian is expected to reduce the risk of the child absconding from its allotted accommodation. Furthermore, a special questionnaire was sent to several municipalities with the aim of establishing the processing times at present.
Presentation of the Report
KARIN JOHANSSON, State Secretary at the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden, introducing the report, said that Sweden had a national strategy for the implementation of the Convention. The aim was for children’s rights and interests to permeate all decision-making relating to children. This national strategy was periodically updated through Government communications to the Parliament. The last communication was produced in March 2008. Sweden had a specific policy for the rights of the child. The goal was that policy makers should take into account the human rights of every girl and boy. Sweden’s policy aimed to create conditions for this in all areas that had an impact on children’s living conditions.
The Children’s Ombudsman was a fundamental component of the national mechanisms for the implementation of the Convention at the local, regional and national levels. It was important that the Ombudsman was independent within its legislative framework. The Ombudsman was now working on its proposals on how to monitor the national strategic work based on the Government communication on its children’s rights policy. The Ombudsman would also work on development of the methods of using its legal powers. Sweden appreciated the Ombudsman’s initiatives to direct dialogue with the local authorities, using his existing legal powers, which had had a concrete impact on the work of decision makers at the local and regional levels.
At parliamentary level, there was an all-party working group. Representatives of all political parties were cooperating and consulting with each other when it came to legislation or other measures on the parliamentary agenda. Dialogue and cooperation with civil society was an important component of Government policy. This year, the Government was cooperating with an ad hoc network of Swedish NGOs. The major focus of this cooperation was on spreading knowledge about the Convention. The work of local and regional authorities with impact on children’s every-day life was crucial for the implementation of the Convention. The local and regional authorities had a considerable degree of autonomy and had independent powers of taxation.
The Committee had previously recommended that Sweden strengthen its protective measures for children using the Internet, television and computer games against violence and child pornography. The Government had initiated a dialogue with Internet providers and other actors aiming to improve the protection of children in the media environment. The dialogue had resulted in an joint initiative from the private sector, national authorities and NGOs to establish an Internet portal that would give access to all existing measures and knowledge concerning the protection of children in this environment. Sweden hoped that this joint portal would soon be operational.
On 1 July, Sweden would take over the Presidency of the European Union. In this role Sweden intended to take more responsibility in promoting support for the European Commission in its work towards a future European Union strategy for the rights of the child. Sweden wanted the future strategy to be inspired by the Committee’s work and recommendations on relevant issues. A priority would be to highlight children’s rights within the United Nations General Assembly. During its Presidency, Sweden would draft and introduce the omnibus resolution on the rights of the child on behalf of the European Union, together with Uruguay, in the General Assembly.
Questions by Experts
DAINIUS PURAS, Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Sweden, said that Sweden was among leaders in the world in its high achievements in the areas of the rights of the child and human rights in general. Sweden was continuously demonstrating a political will to invest in a child rights approach, not only at home. Sweden systematically supported implementation of the Convention in other countries and regions, especially in the developing world. For many years, they had witnessed in Central and Eastern Europe the enormous support from the Swedish Government and civil society when, after 50 years of totalitarian systems, they were reestablishing a culture of respect for civil rights of their citizens, and especially children’s rights.
The Committee would like to reiterate in this dialogue some of the issues the Committee had raised when considering the previous report from Sweden. They were issues related to the role and mandate of the Children’s Ombudsman; coordination of efforts and creating a permanent structure, while implementing the Convention, between central and local authorities and NGOs; the role of the Convention in national legislation; collection of data; problems of unaccompanied children; situations in the area of child sex tourism and other issues.
What measures had been taken to ensure that national legislation was brought into full conformity with the Convention? What could be done to ensure that domestic laws and regulations complied fully with the Convention? Similarly, the Committee would like to continue dialogue on the role and status of the Children’s Ombudsman. How could the status and the role of this important institution be strengthened? Mr. Puras also said that the civil society said that coordination of efforts on behalf of children at both central and local levels needed further progress and the Expert asked the delegation to further elaborate on this.
HADEEL AL-ASMAR, Committee Expert serving as Co-Rapporteur for the report of Sweden, wanted to know more about the new child rights forum and the constant follow-up of violations of the Convention, as well as on corporal punishment and violence against women. What measures had been taken so that all children, including undocumented children and children in hiding, had access to pre-school activities.
Other Experts said that there were problems regarding the direct application of the Convention. Could the delegation give examples whether the Convention had been invoked before the courts and whether there was contradiction between internal rulings and the Convention?
On the role of the Ombudsman, it was still difficult to define the Ombudsman’s attributions compared to other figures in the administration. There was ambiguity about who the Ombudsman represented in different contexts. Also, where did the mediator come in? Was this a body of Government control?
On international cooperation, an Expert asked how far Sweden had gone to comply with its commitment to give 0.8 percent of GDP to development agencies. Had the financial crisis had an impact on this global commitment? As to name and nationality, what measures were in place to prevent the non-registration of children born from asylum-seekers? There were also concerns that children disappeared from institutions. What measures had been implemented to prevent the loss of identity for such a child? On the separation of the child from its family, an Expert said that there seemed to be limits to family reunification.
Sweden had said that it took into account the best interests of the child in the area of immigration. An Expert wanted to know how operational that principle was. What was done to ensure that every decision was an individual decision for each child? After reading material from NGOs, the Committee got the impression that the principle was theoretical and not actually applied. What could one actually do? One option was to establish procedural rules and the other was to provide training. It appeared that Sweden’s immigration officers lacked this sort of training.
Turning to religion, an Expert asked what measures were in place to ensure the freedom of the religion of every child. Concerning corporal punishment, an Expert wanted to know about the impact of banning corporal punishment. Even after this ban, many cases had been reported and the Expert asked what measures had been implemented, not only on a legislative level, in order to address the issue.
Sweden’s Ombudsman was seen as an example throughout the world. Therefore, the Committee focused on this issue. There were concerns on the independence of the Ombudsman from the Government. Sweden’s report said that the Ombudsman pushed the Government’s children policy which was alarming. When the Ombudsman prepared his report, it was distributed to the Government, but what happened afterwards? How was the follow-up organized?
How did Sweden measure, with baselines and indicators, progress in the implementation of the Convention? How far had efforts gone to establish such indicators? There were big differences in the implementation of the Convention in the various regions. The report said that there was no use to create a permanent institution responsible for the implementation of the Convention. This was done by the Ombudsman, but should this really be the task of the Ombudsman?
On the dissemination of the Convention, an Expert asked how much Swedish children knew about the Convention. In this regard, the level of knowledge at the municipal level was especially important, since most of the responsibilities lay with the municipalities. Was there any movement on the proposed bill on the minorities which should enter into force in 2010? As to the Act on Prohibiting Discrimination, the Committee had received information that the Act had expired and had been included in an Act of Education. What consequences did that have for the prohibition of discrimination?
Concerning discrimination, an Expert said that children living in different regions did not have the same access to health or access to education and asked the delegation to comment on the issue. Another Expert asked the delegation on the practice of female genital mutilation, early marriages and honour crimes that occurred in foreign families residing in Sweden.
Answers by the Delegation
The delegation explained that human rights treaties did not automatically become Swedish law. But when Sweden ratified such a Convention, the Government went through all relevant legislation and proposed amendments in view of alignment with the Convention. In the ratification process of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, this was carried out. Children’s rights were addressed as well. Sweden was working on a new school law and was working on how this reflected the Convention in the best possible way.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert said in a national human rights institution based on the Paris Principle, all actors involved should participate and not only Government members. Another Committee member underlined that it was not the Committee’s view that should lead the implementation of the Convention in Sweden. This process should take place independently and be tailored to the Swedish situation. An Expert suggested that the view of an independent Ombudsman should be integrated in new legislation. Experts also wanted to know whether judges were aware of the Convention.
Answers by the Delegation
The delegation said that most judges knew about international conventions and all international human rights legislation. The teaching and training about the Convention, including among police officers, was systematic. The Government had taken many initiatives to spread the knowledge on the Convention for people working with children at the municipal and regional levels. It was to explain what the articles of the Convention meant for the daily work of the persons. The Government of Sweden helped UNICEF to develop a handbook on the implementation of children’s rights. Knowledge was spread not in a theoretical way, but in many practical ways. Children knew much about their rights, but not necessarily that they stemmed from this Convention. Since there were always new children coming to Sweden and new children were being born, activities had to be ongoing.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert suggested that children’s rights should be a part of the curriculum and should not be selective. This helped to make it a social value. Many good Swedish social values were already incorporated in the school curriculum. Mr. Puras, Committee Expert acting as Rapporteur for the report of Sweden, said it was important to introduce training on banning corporal punishment. Another Expert said that there had been an initiative to introduce human rights education in primary and secondary school. What was the result of that initiative? There were concerning reports from the Ombudsman and civil society about the lack of knowledge among judges and in schools about the Convention. In a very practical way, an Expert asked where a child could go to if he or she had a problem.
Answers by the Delegation
The delegation explained that the national board of education was assigned to promoting human rights. During the current revision of the Education Act, human rights and the promotion of the Convention on the Rights of the Child was also being discussed. The lack of juridical status of the Convention was not a barrier to the implementation of the Convention. The Government was working at the highest possible level to implement the Convention. Maybe municipalities had some difficulties because of the economic crisis, but they wanted to do more.
Ms. Johansson said that the Government had undertaken measures to increase knowledge about the Convention. It was an important topic and the Government focused on it. The delegation further explained that Sweden had a completely different system compared to other countries. The Government gave instructions but the State agencies were completely independent. Despite the economic crisis the budget for the Children’s Ombudsman would stay the same. It was important that this year the Ombudsman had nearly no instruction, which meant that he was even more independent than before. He had special legal powers, for example, he could get information from municipalities and State agencies and call them for a dialogue. The task of the Ombudsman was wide and covered many areas. He reviewed legislation and whether it was in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. His input was crucial to mainstreaming children’s rights into society.
If a child had a problem with a disability and could not go to school or had a problem with bullying, the child had to go to the municipality that dealt with this problem. If the municipality did not react, then a child could go to the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman could review individual cases and would give advice on where the child could go to. The Ombudsman could not provide remedies, but would direct the persons to the relevant institution.
The delegation explained concerning asylum-seekers that children who were refugees and asylum-seekers had the right for pre-school and secondary schooling in the same way as Swedish children. The Committee had proposed to give children in hiding the same opportunities. This proposal was widely circulated. A number of children were deprived of the right, for example children that had arrived illegally and were undocumented in Sweden. The Government had now looked into that subject and additional funding had been allocated to the municipalities to include those children.
Children who were seeking asylum had the same access to medical care, including dental care, on the same basis as resident children. Undocumented children also had access to medical care but had to pay for it. However, no one could be denied emergency care even though he or she could not pay for it. The child perspective had been given a more prominent place in immigration policy and the Aliens Act. Each case was judged on merit and a system for appeals was set up. The migration board had been instructed to make an assessment of the child’s individual grounds for asylum. Staff with special competencies would handle children’s requests.
Questions of Experts
Mr. Puras asked what the current situation of integration of children with disabilities was, especially for children with multiple disabilities. Sweden had always been moving towards a zero tolerance in drug and alcohol abuse. The report said a lot about prevention, but what about the treatment possibilities? What measures had been taken specifically for adolescents? Were there adolescent-friendly services for those cases where prevention had failed? Also, suicide prevention was a problem; there had been dramatic cases in the past. The Government had an ambitious plan for mental health care and the Expert wanted to know how comprehensive that was? Civil society had informed the Committee that there was a 30 years old ban to treat children with alternative medicine under a certain age. The Expert wanted to know more about this ban which seemed to be unique in Europe.
An Expert asked questions pertaining to a national breastfeeding strategy; measures taken to address bullying in schools; and measures taken to prevent sexual exploitation of children. As to children seeking asylum, an Expert asked questions about adequate housing; family reunification; the knowledge of the child of its rights; and the appointment of a trustee within 24 hours. An Expert recalled that the question regarding sex tourism had not been answered but was very important.
As to human rights education, an Expert said that five years ago the Committee was not very satisfied. The Expert would now like to receive more information on the integration of human rights in school curricula. Also, what were drop-out rates? Did the children have a second chance to finish school? The transition to the labour market was a critical period in a young person’s life, did the Government support young persons. The Expert said that he was impressed by what Sweden had done to counter bullying. But the numbers of children bullied stayed the same, this was maybe already a good sign, but why did they not see more progress? The victims might suffer a long time from bullying, was there any assistance to those victims? Another Expert noted that children often lacked the possibility to invoke their rights.
On children placed out of family care, an Expert wanted to know more about forms of placement and the length of stay. Who made such decisions? Was there any research on the outcome of the placement? How was Sweden taking care of children who were posing danger and committing crimes? On commercial sexual exploitation, the Expert said that she was impressed by the improvement that had been made and that the Swedish were also looking at the demand side and what preventive measures could be carried out. Experts were also concerned about a possible negative impact of the current economic crisis on children.
Answers by the delegations
Ms. Johansson explained that Sweden did not intend to establish Children’s Ombudsmen in every municipality. However, the municipalities were free to establish such an institution and some had already done so.
The delegation explained that some years ago, the Government had initiated the Child Rights Forum. Earlier on, the Government had invited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and they had met and informed each other on their respective issues. NGOs were not very satisfied with this procedure. The procedure had changed, now, the Government invited NGOs to speak about specific issues, such as violence against children for example.
Combating violence against children was a priority for the Government. Many areas of the Government were concerned and there were now efforts to coordinate the different ministries. As to the effect of the ban of corporal punishment, the delegation explained that the positive attitude had decreased from 50 percent in the 1950s; in the year 2000 only 10 per cent of parents had such a positive attitude on corporal punishment. Sweden could be proud of the work of the last 50 years, but children were still exposed to violence. However, the numbers did not keep decreasing. The data was based on only very few cases and was not reliable enough. The Government in cooperation with Save the Children would publish a book on the anniversary of the ban of corporal punishment this summer. In March 2009, the Government had adopted a strategy for increased parental support, since the main responsibility lay with the parents. As to the shaking baby syndrome, the delegation referred to a project that showed that education of infant care personnel and parents showed good results.
Turning to unaccompanied children, the delegation explained that in 2008 there were 1,510 unaccompanied minors, 122 of those had run away and 69 of them were still on the run, 49 of those were still under 18 today. Guardians for unaccompanied children should be arranged as soon as possible. The chief guardian in the municipality had to find a suitable person which was not always possible to achieve in a predetermined number of hours. Most of the unaccompanied children had a guardian appointed to them in between 24 and 48 hours after their arrival. The organization of interpreters had also to be taken into account when speaking about a fixed time frame and was the reason why the Government was not intending to fix such a time frame. Even if a guardian was not appointed, the child was cared for by the social services in the best interests of the child. A guardian had the same rights as the parents, which was a very important role. The municipality appointed the guardian and tried to find a guardian that spoke the same language as the child. The migration board had the responsibility for unaccompanied children until 2005. After that this responsibility was referred to the municipalities.
Questions by Experts
Experts noted that Sweden had signed the Convention on Enforced Disappearances and the Convention on the Protection of Migrant Workers. Did Sweden now plan to ratify them? Appointing a guardian was a very urgent matter and it seemed as though the Government did not see it that way. The guardian had a vital role, which could not be postponed to 72 hours later. The guardian had to give procedural guidance and was therefore important right from the beginning. An Expert said that when conditions for family reunification were established, this could only be done respecting international standards. Legislation was being developed, but Sweden had to taken into account the child’s right in that regard. An Expert cited a case about a girl who was refused entry to rejoin her parents despite a court ruling. He asked the delegation to comment on this particular case.
Answers by the Delegation
Mother tongue and bilingual instruction played an important role and Sami children could obtain an integrated pre-school and primary school education, the delegation said. Religious education was part of the compulsory school curriculum which was on all world religions. The objective was to generate interest and curiosity in religions and philosophy and promote respect.
Ms. Johansson said that children under the age of eight were not allowed to be treated by unqualified personnel with alternative medicine because those children could not yet express their will and evidence based treatment was especially important in that case. The delegation also said that the Government supported many organizations active in the field of prevention of suicide.
Questions by the Experts
An Expert was very surprised to hear that there was a zero tolerance policy by the Government in terms of suicides. Young people seemed to undergo a decrease in well-being. Perceived stress was still a problem as the Ombudsman had said. The number of girls receiving care for anorexia was increasing. An Expert said that 4.6 per cent of young women, as opposed to 2.3 percent of young men, bought anti-depressants. Even drug and tobacco abuse was bigger with girls than with boys which was surprising. Also, abortions of young girls were increasing. Had the government working group on unwanted pregnancies started working yet? There seemed to be a very narrow approach in terms of mental health instead of lifestyles.
Answers by the Delegation
Ms. Johansson said that Sweden did not believe that it had the perfect health care system for young people. It had invested billions of euros in the improvement of the programmes but the effects were not visible yet. The number of abortions was increasing which was worrying. The virtual youth center was on www.umo.se and had more than 100,000 visits each month. A total of 2.7 million Swedish krones were being invested in children’s programmes and a big part of it was in the mental health care system. The National Agency of Education planned measures to implement programmes regarding gender equality. The Government’s position was that schools must ensure that stress in schools was prevented. A center for the early discovery of mental illnesses had been established. There was no mandatory national breastfeeding strategy, but all mothers were trained in breastfeeding in hospitals. There was a very high level of breastfeeding in Sweden up to six months.
As to drug abuse, the delegation explained that there were only very few young persons who injected drugs. Most of them drank, smoked or snuffed the drugs. The families were always included in helping the child to stop using drugs. Services were tailored for young persons. There was a chain of services and a follow-up of the treatment was in place. There were no closed private or municipal facilities. There was some awareness in the society and social services of the importance of dealing with children that committed crimes at a very early age. Progress in each case was evaluated systematically. Most municipalities used the same system of evaluation. Treatment in separation, some would say in isolation, could only be used within the facilities under the care of the national board of health.
In 2007, there were 11,000 children in foster care and 3,000 in institutional care and 570 in care under the national board of institutional care. There was no difference between the sexes in foster or institutional care. Children of foreign background seemed to be stronger represented because of the socio economic background, or parents with issues of mental health for example. As to children of families with alcohol abuse, the delegation explained that the Government had put a lot of effort in identifying children in such families. Many municipalities now had groups for children who had parents with alcohol issues or mental illnesses. Municipalities were asked to cooperate on such issues, since municipalities in Sweden were very small.
Questions of the Committee Experts
An Expert raised questions pertaining to human trafficking and the reluctance of women to denounce the perpetrators of trafficking. There was no law to punish trafficking in persons in Sweden and he wanted to know in what way the situation of the victims had improved as the report stated. Also, he asked how many offenders of human trafficking had been prosecuted.
An Expert reiterated the importance of the consideration of the impact of the economic crisis on services for children. Non-Swedish families and single-parent households had increased in two of the three biggest Swedish cities. Millions of krones had been used to reduce poverty, but not inequality. What were the results of those measures? As to violence, an Expert said that information on the issue was rather disaggregated in the report. She thought that Sweden needed a rights-based approach to the issue. Violence against girls, female mutilation, the impact of pre-natal violence, and girls and boys who witnessed violence were issues that needed further elaboration. How could these issued be treated? Stereotypes generated violence, an Expert said, and asked what was being done in education to counter this development? What results had been achieved in reducing adolescent violence?
As to adoption, an Expert referred to the difficulties of adopted children who were adolescents. Sweden had much experience with adoption and the Expert asked the delegation to elaborate on the subject. How did Sweden make sure that for example a Swedish agency that cared for teenage mothers in Colombia did not have an adoption agency next door?
Other Experts asked questions concerning the assignment of refugee children to municipalities; the duration of the treatment of a request for asylum; the high rate of alcohol consumption and legislation that prohibited the sale of alcohol to minors; the practice of isolation in detention centers; educational measures for minors that had committed serious crimes; HIV and young persons; human rights education; run-away children; protection and safety-nets for families in poverty; and sports and treatment for obese children.
Answers by the Delegation
Ms. Johansson said that in the report there was Sweden’s latest action plan against sexual exploitation and the action plan against prostitution and human trafficking. In addition to that, children who were sexually abused were under the responsibility of the social services. The delegation further explained that there was a Swedish initiative on bilateral agreements, namely with countries around the Baltic Sea. There was a system of national contact points in the countries around the Baltic Sea. The care in separation should only be used if the child was a danger to himself or to others and was an exception. On drug consumption, the delegation said that Sweden was part of the European School Survey which also tackled drug consumption. The trend among young people today was not to drink. Young people had many role models who promoted that policy.
Turning to sex tourism, the delegation explained that the Swedish Government was concerned about sexual exploitation in Sweden and by Swedish citizens traveling abroad and abusing children there. There was a website of the Minister of Foreign Affairs that had guidelines for measures one could take in case one witnessed such actions abroad. There were liaison police officers in Bangkok for example, supporting the Nordic countries. Sweden was also closely working together with Interpol. At the home front, a dialogue with the tourism sector had been initiated; twelve representatives of private companies had been invited to discuss the issue. Some of them were very conscious of the problem, but many did not want to have to deal with the problem. Nevertheless, the Government continued its efforts in that regard.
The delegation said that unaccompanied minors were transferred to the municipalities. They stayed in group housing. As to child poverty, the delegation said that poverty was difficult to define. Access to employment was the most important factor to avoid social exclusion. Follow-up showed measures in that field reduced poverty and measures had benefited young people and immigrants specifically. Resources for labour market policies had been boosted. Municipalities that played an important role, like in housing, schooling and health care, made an analysis of the impact of the slowdown of the economic on social services. The Government would allocate additional funds in order to alleviate the pressure on municipalities. Since 1995, the Children’s Ombudsmen published a comprehensive report on children in Sweden every three years. In 2005, a working group was appointed in order to develop indicators to measure success of implemented measures regarding the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
On education, the delegation said that human rights were the base of the school system. All school activities should be carried out based on human rights. Human rights were formally part of the civics education and pupils should at the end of their schooling be thoroughly familiar with human rights. The Swedish Government was aware that there was bullying in schools. Schools used various programmes which were sometimes not properly evaluated. The Government had now provided for systematic evaluation. The Government was also aware of cyberbullying and the dangers that new technologies could pose for children. A dialogue with Internet providers had been initiated to protect children. A joint Internet portal was the result of these discussions. Regarding drop-outs, the delegation clarified that there was a possibility to finish school later on.
There was no national action plan for children’s rights, but the national action plan on human rights covered many children’s rights. It also included the promotion of children’s rights and the spreading of knowledge about children’s rights.
Regarding poverty, the delegation said that the tax reform had made low income tax payers gain more. This would solve some of the problems. According to the social services act, people were guaranteed a certain level of life and would get support. The Government set a certain bottom line which included costs for housing and other necessities, but if one had to go to the doctor there were additional provisions.
Concerning adoption, the delegation said that there were some organizations working with adoptions in Sweden. There was now legislation that tried to avoid the practice of buying children to which some organizations could resort in raising prices for adoption. The Government had taken steps to ensure that children were adopted in a sure way. Problems would increase overtime because there would be fewer children available for inter-country adoption. Ms. Johansson stressed the importance of the Hague Convention.
Mr. PURAS, the Committee Expert acting as Co-Rapporteur for the Report of Sweden, said that the dialogue was very meaningful. The more advanced the country was, the more fruitful the dialogue. The bar was now raised up to the ceiling. He thanked the Ombudsman and civil society for their engagement and hoped that the comments would be useful for their work.
MS. JOHANSSON said that the weaknesses that the Committee had identified were definitely issues that had to be addressed. The Committee had great expertise and Sweden appreciated all the input.
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