28 January 2002
Expert, in Preliminary Remarks, Recommends that
the National Committee for Children is Strengthened
The Committee on the Rights of the Child this afternoon concluded its consideration of an initial report from Bahrain on how that country was giving effect to the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In preliminary remarks, a Committee Expert said the dialogue with the Bahraini delegation had been productive, interesting and useful and had given the Committee a clear picture of the rights of children in Bahrain. The high level of the delegation was an indication that Bahrain wanted to further develop the rights of children in the country.
Among other things, the Expert said that the National Committee for Childhood required strengthening, consolidation and greater effectiveness. The Committee was sure that Bahrain would revise its legislation concerning children. And finally, more work needed to be carried out in Bahrain from the educational point of view. Knowledge of children had to be expanded, and not enough importance was attached to pre-school children.
Over the course of their consideration of the report, Committee members raised a number of questions on equal educational opportunities for boys and girls; preventive measures against marriages of persons of the same family which were dangerous; reproductive health and sexuality; the HIV/AIDS situation; treatment of diabetes in children; the measures taken to rectify the lack of iodine; causes of school dropouts; the school inspection system; the share of assistance to child-refugees; the practice of "honour killings"; and the juvenile justice system, among other things.
Formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Bahrain will be issued by the Committee at the end of its three-week session on 1 February.
As one of the 191 States parties to the Convention, Bahrain is obligated to submit periodic reports to the Committee on its various activities, including legislative, judicial and administrative measures, intended to implement the provisions of the treaty. A 9-member Bahraini delegation was on hand during two meetings to introduce the report and to answer questions raised by members of the Committee.
When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 29 January, it will start to consider the initial report of Andorra.
Response of Bahrain
In response to a number of questions raised by the Committee Experts, the Bahraini delegation said that torture was prohibited in the country and the State had acceded to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in April 1998. Any allegation of torture was given serious consideration.
Asked what had happened to cases of torture before the State approved the Convention against Torture, the delegation said that those cases had been based on allegations and they had never taken place. The Government was ready to look into cases of torture, but these cases were based on information from a third party and they could not be verified.
Children without parents were subjected to placement, the delegation said. At present there were 30 such children under the age of four in placement centres. For children whose parents were unknown, there were associations which looked after them before they were placed in families. Families that adopted handicapped children were provided with financial grants from the State. The children could be adopted by both nationals or non-nationals.
Could children born out of wedlock be adopted by non-Bahrainis, an Expert asked. The delegation said that the law concerned children born from unknown parents, however, if the child was born from a foreign father, he was encouraged to adopt the child.
A Conference held in Bahrain last October had recommended that the Government create a post-trauma centre for child victims of abuse, the delegation said. The Conference had also made a series of recommendations on the issue of child abuse to which the Government would take follow up measures.
Forced and early marriages were not major problems in Bahrain, the delegation said. The consent of the individuals was essential in any act of marriage.
Asked about the situation of Bidoon families, who were stateless, the delegation said that in the last 15 years, the Government had granted 50,000 passports to the so-called Bidoons. In 2001, another 10,000 passports had been granted. In 2002, there had been no requests for any passports and it had been concluded that the issue of Bidoon families had been resolved.
Corporal punishment and verbal abuse of children were prohibited in schools, the delegation said. The code of school discipline promulgated by the Ministry of Education was designed to develop a sense of responsibility among schoolchildren. It prohibited beatings and corporal punishment in all schools. Pupils were given the opportunity to lodge complaints and grievances with their school's governing body. They could also use a "hotline" to bring their questions and problems to the attention of the Ministry of Education, from whom they received a direct response.
The Committee Experts moved on to the last three clusters of main subjects concerning basic health and welfare; education, leisure and cultural activities; and special protection measures; and raised a number of questions. In the Ministry of Education of Bahrain, were there plans to expand primary schools and to make them fully free, an Expert asked. Why was education not always available to both sexes on an equal basis? Did foreign children enjoy access to the right of non-discrimination in education? What percentage of handicapped children were in public schools or private ones? What measures were taken against hereditary anaemia? What guidance was provided to prevent dangers occurring from marriages of persons of the same family? Did the Government encourage breastfeeding?
Further questions were also asked on such issues as measures taken in the field of health for adolescents; reproductive health and sexuality; the HIV/AIDS situation; treatment of diabetes in children; the measures taken to tackle the lack of iodine; causes of school dropouts; the school inspection system; the share of assistance to child-refugees; the juvenile justice system; the practice of "honour killings"; and the care given to victims of sexual exploitation, among other things.
Responding to the questions, the members of the delegation said that if any minor was involved in a crime, he or she were apprehended by female police officers and presented to the immediate courts. Law offenders above 15 years enjoyed the right to have lawyers or legal counsellors. According to the penal code, for offenders between 15 and 18 years, the judge could consider the situation according to extenuating circumstances and could suspend any severe sentences. The commitment of serious crimes, such as homicide, rarely occurred involving minors. In many cases, even children who committed crimes were still considered to be victims.
Asked about the educational system for non-Bahraini children, the delegation said foreign children could join public schools, which were free, without discrimination. Schools intended for foreigners were not free and Bahrainis could join those schools paying fees. Foreign schools followed the educational curricula of their respective nations, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, India or Pakistan. In higher studies, the co-education system was practised while in the lower level, there was separation between boys and girls.
There was a draft law pending in the hands of the Government to make medical examinations compulsory before a marriage in order to detect hereditary diseases, the delegation said. In addition, awareness-raising programmes had been launched against marriages between close members of a family.
Children with disabilities were integrated into normal educational institutions besides the vocational training provided to this category of children, the delegation said. There were also centres whose access was limited to Bahraini disabled children. The Ministry of Public Work and Social Security and other institutions also contributed to the rehabilitation of mentally handicapped children.
There was a high rate of breastfeeding in the first few months of the newborn, the delegation said. Working mothers were granted only 40 days maternal leave, which attributed to the decrease in breastfeeding. There was a plan to increase maternity leave up to six months.
Iodine deficiency was not severe in Bahrain, the delegation said, adding that iodinated salt was widely available to compensate any deficiency in iodine.
"Honour killing" did not exist in Bahrain and if so happened it was considered as a crime punishable by law, the delegation said.
Formal, written concluding observations and recommendations on the initial report of Bahrain will be issued by the Committee at the end of its three-week session on 2 February.
In preliminary remarks, a Committee Expert said the dialogue with the Bahraini delegation had been productive, interesting and useful and had given the Committee a clear picture of the rights of children in Bahrain. The Committee realized the growing concern of the Government about providing even greater services to children in Bahrain. The high level of the delegation was an indication that Bahrain wanted to further develop the rights of the child in the country. Bahrain was a developing country, one which still needed human development, based mainly on children. The National Committee for Childhood required strengthening, consolidation and greater effectiveness.
The Expert said that although sports were essential to the youth, emphasizing only sports might be a concern. Children needed services and the intervention of more than one party. Concentrating all services in the hands of one body alone might not allow it to live up to the services expected in the future. The Committee was sure that there were different areas which the Government would rectify. The Committee was also sure that Bahrain would revise its legislation concerning children. And finally, more work needed to be carried out in Bahrain from the educational point of view. Knowledge of children had to be expanded, and not enough importance was attached to pre-school children.
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