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They are not disposable – UN experts remind States that street children have rights too

Street Children Day - Sunday 12 April 2015

GENEVA (10 April 2015) – Speaking ahead of the International Day for Street Children*, two United Nations human rights experts reminded States that every child matters and that there are no throw-away children.

The UN Special Rapporteurs on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, and on adequate housing, Leilani Farha, called on States to invest in children working or living on the street and to guarantee their full access to rights and services, including housing, health and education.

“Abandoned, casted off, discarded, rejected and thrown out: up to 150 million children in street situations worldwide endure great deprivation and rights violations, with little to no regard given to their best interest,” the experts said.

These children are escaping from poverty, inadequate housing, broken families, domestic violence, displacement, natural disasters, conflicts and wars. They take to the streets because there is simply nowhere else to go. Once on the street they suffer from discrimination and stigmatization.

“Children in street situations, often having escaped from violence, face a very high risk of being sexually exploited,” Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio underlined. “This vicious circle of abuse must be brought to an end by effectively addressing and preventing ill treatment in all settings, including in families”.

The current global economic crisis has greatly affected the quality and quantity of available resources at the national and local level. “Access to emergency shelters which can facilitate the return of children in street situations to their homes or to alternative settings is of primary importance,” Ms. Farha, emphasized.

“States must adopt longer term housing strategies based on human rights which are integrated into economic policies for families, to help prevent children turning to the streets,” she added.

Furthermore, the human rights experts called on States to abrogate any laws which criminalize homelessness through the prohibition of begging, vagrancy and loitering and must be strongly discouraged from adopting such laws.
“There is an urgent need to invest in individualized assistance for children living in street situations, to address the specific circumstances at the source of their predicament,” the Special Rapporteurs noted.

“A key to changing the lives of children in street situations is ensuring, where possible, their participation in the development of human rights based programmes and policies concerning them, as well as providing them with adequate housing and access to education,” they said.

The experts urged States to support children in street situations through specialized interventions to ensure that their rights, including the right to freedom from violence and discrimination as well as their right to adequate housing, are guaranteed.

“Children in street situations are right holders as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and must therefore be recognized, valued and treated as such,” they stressed.

(*) The International day for street children was launched in 2011 by the Consortium for Street Children with the support of AVIVA to raise awareness about the plight of children in street situations.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/ChildrenIndex.aspx

Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/HousingIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms. Nekane Lavín (+41 22 917 94 02 / nlavin@ohchr.org / srsaleofchildren@ohchr.org).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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