Agenda Item 64: Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Children
11 October 2016
United Nations, New York, 2016
Thank you Madam Chair,
My delegation expresses its appreciation to the Secretary General for the substantive reports submitted under this Agenda Item. We also thank the Special Representatives for their presentations and for their tireless work in advocating for children's rights.
Much progress has been made globally to realise the rights of children, especially the most vulnerable and disadvantaged. It is highly encouraging that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most widely ratified international Convention with 196 State signatories. This means that there is almost universal agreement that the protection and promotion of the rights of the child is a legal, social and moral imperative for us all.
Under the Maldives Constitution, children are entitled to special protection and assistance by the family, the community and the State. They are also guaranteed the right not to be harmed, not to be sexually abused, and not to be discriminated against in any manner, and the right not to be subjected to child labour or any other form of exploitation.
In addition to the rights guaranteed to children under the Constitution, the Maldives has enacted a number of laws to provide further protection to children. To give effect to the CRC, Maldives enacted a Child Rights Act in 1991. Further, a special emphasis is placed under the Protection of Disabled Persons Act to providing protection to disabled children, including the right to their views being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity.
The Maldives is proud of its success in the education and health sectors. Substantial progress has been achieved in reducing child mortality, improving maternal health and combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases. Health insurance is guaranteed to all. Further, the Government ensures free education for all children.
The Maldives has also initiated extensive reforms to align the domestic legal framework with CRC standards and international best practices. The new Bill on Child Rights, builds upon the rights guaranteed to all persons under the Constitution of Maldives and will further give effect to the provisions of the CRC. The Government has also drafted a Juvenile Justice Bill to give effect to United Nations standards and norms in juvenile justice.
As highlighted in the report of the Special Representative on Violence Against Children, at least half of the world's children have endured some form of violence in the past year alone. Given that a lot of cases go unreported, we can only imagine the real magnitude of this issue. Violence against children is not justifiable, nor should it be tolerated. It is imperative that national laws and programs fully comply with international human rights standards to promote and protect the rights of children.
The Maldives has enacted the Child Sexual Offences Act and the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act, which criminalise sexual and other exploitative activities against children and provide additional procedural rights to child victims. The Domestic Violence Act further provides for a mechanism where children who are subjected to domestic violence are able to make applications for protection orders.
Our work should not end with the enactment of laws and regulations. Equal importance must be given to translate the laws into action and place accessible and effective reporting mechanism to support the laws. The Government, in collaboration with law enforcement and family social protection agencies is working towards providing a comprehensive and multi-sectoral response to all forms of violence against children. Since November 2015, we have embarked on a campaign named 'Ahan' or 'Listen', which aims to change attitudes, perceptions and behaviour of the community towards violence against children. Since its launch, the program has created greater awareness resulting in more reporting of cases of abuse. The Child Helpline, amongst others, operates as a nationwide toll-free mechanism for reporting by children themselves and the general public, of incidences of abuse. As part of its nation-wide advocacy campaign, the Government has conducted awareness programmes this year, on child rights issues, and vulnerability issues concerning children, their families and the environment they live in.
In an age where bullying of children both at school and outside has become widespread, and where children have increasing access to the Internet, bullying and cyber-bullying is a matter of serious concern. While we are still in the process of developing a comprehensive legal framework on cyber-security, efforts are being undertaken to address this issue holistically. This includes the implementation of a child protection policy for children that addresses bullying and violence in schools.
Children are one of our foremost priorities. They are not only our future, but they are present here and now and in need of our full efforts to ensure their rights. The Maldives reiterates its commitment to promote and enhance the rights of children and to ensure that each child grows up in a safe environment that is free from violence.
Thank you Madam Chair.