Committee on the Rights of the Child
24 September 2015
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fourth to fifth periodic report of Chile on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Presenting the report, Maria Estela Ortiy, Executive Secretary of the National Council for Children, said that Chile, since the ratification of the Convention, had made significant progress in the areas of universal healthcare, protection of children and justice for family disputes. According to the recent statistics, Chile had the highest level of life expectancy, primary school attendance, reduction in poverty level among all Latin American countries.
Over the years, the Government had undertaken several policy changes, introducing new reform programmes and strengthening institutions, which were working on children’s rights, directly or indirectly. Among other positive changes, the Government had decided to establish the institution of children's ombudsman. Despite the progress made, Chile still needed to address violence against children as well as the socioeconomic inequality. It was very unfortunate that in 2013 more than 24,000 cases related to violence and abuse had been received by the Public Prosecutor.
During the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts congratulated the Government for developing several programmes and policies directed to children and youth populations. Several Experts inquired about the mechanisms to ensure successful coordination between Ministries and other actors. Experts also raised questions about child labour, civil rights, birth registration, mistreatment and violence against children, constitutional reform, awareness raising programmes, discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex children, and the best interest of the child. They wanted to hear more about the coordination between State institutions, role of the civil society, corporal punishment, care centres, adoption, structural change, juvenile justice, family courts, child hearings, children of migrants and refugees and possible decriminalization of abortion.
Jorge Cardona Llorens, Committee Member and Country Rapporteur for Chile, in closing remarks, noted that six-hour-long meeting was simply not enough to discuss all the aspects of the issue. Hope was expressed that the Committee would soon be able to hear about the outcome of the listed programmes and policies.
Ms. Ortiy stated that the delegation looked forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations. Development was not possible without an allocated budget for children. Chile was fully committed to the promotion and protection of children’s rights. However, the inequality in the country was limiting the policies from reaching their potentials
The delegation of Chile included representatives from the National Council for Children, Supreme Court, National Service of Minors, Ministry of the Interior and Public Security, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education, Ministry of External Relations, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, National Institute for Human Rights, and Ministry General Secretariat of the Presidency.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, 25 September, to consider the combined second to third periodic report of Timor-Leste (CRC/C/TLS/2-3).
The combined fourth to fifth periodic report of Chile (CRC/C/CHL/4-5) is available here.
Presentation of the Report
MARIA ESTELA ORTIY, Executive Secretary of the National Council for Children, said that Chile was the 18th country to ratify the Third Optional Protocol. Since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the State party had executed its obligations and made significant progress in the areas of universal healthcare, protection of children and justice for family disputes.
Beginning in 2014, the Government had initiated a reform programme guaranteeing the protection of the right to education. In that context, the Government had approved the School Inclusion Act, which regulated the national education system with special attention to public and private schools receiving state subsidies. Starting from 1 March 2016, the Act would gradually eliminate the “profiting from education”, which was a residue of the military dictatorship. The law would also regulate school admissions.
The Act was expected to make a very successful reform in the education system, creating a more equal and capable system, offering development opportunities to all children and adolescents, guaranteeing the rights to education, and strengthening public education at all levels.
The recent indicators had shown that Chile had the highest level of life expectancy, primary school attendance, reduction in poverty levels in among all Latin American countries. However, such success was shadowed by the existing inequality in the country, increasing the level of violence. It was very unfortunate that in 2013, more than 24,000 cases related to violence and abuse had been received by the Public Prosecutor. In order to address the challenges related to violence and abuse, the Government had undertaken policy changes, created bills and laws and strengthened institutions, which were working on children’s rights both directly or indirectly. In addition, the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, had created the National Council for Children, which was composed of representatives from State institutions, international organisations and the civil society.
Among other developments, over the following weeks, Ms. Ortiy said, an institution of children's ombudsman would be created. Its establishment would lead to a significant development in children’s rights in Chile. Regarding children’s participation, it was noted that children had become an inalienable part of the creation of national policies and structural changes concerning them. Their proposals had been included in the national debate, reflecting their views and opinions. As children were representing the country’s present and the future, their involvement was extremely crucial for a greater and more profound change.
Concluding, Ms. Ortiy noted that the Government attached great importance to the essential role of protecting human dignity and the enjoyment of human rights. Such protection had been and would be shown in all State policies and programmes. To that end, the State party would take all necessary measures to ensure the best interest of children.
Questions by Experts
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Chile, praised the State party for submitting its combined fourth and fifth periodic report and replies to the issues on time. That would definitely contribute to a constructive dialogue. Measures taken by the Government to further promote children’s rights were also welcomed.
However, there were ongoing concerns related to families and children who continued to live in camps in the aftermath of earthquake. What had the State party done with regards to settling those families’ situation?
On civil rights, Mr. Kotrane drew attention to the birth registration of migrant and indigenous children. What kind of measures had the State party undertaken with regard to the non-registration of such children?
Question was also asked about measures taken by the Chilean Government to recognise the identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children?
The Expert raised the issue of the mistreatment and violence against children, including sexual abuse. What kind of measures had the State party taken to completely eliminate such acts?
JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Chile, echoing the previous statement, thanked the State party for the timely submission of the report as well as the replies to the list of issues.
Chile was planning to initiate and implement programmes and reforms, including the constitutional reform, juvenile justice system, and the Ombudsman for Children. However, the Committee had not seen any of the relevant documents on the Internet. Could the delegation tell the Committee more about the most recent constitutional reform, as well as other new bills and programmes with regards to ensuring the protection and protection of children’s rights? How did the State party ensure that all those new laws and regulations would be coordinate in order to achieve success?
What awareness raising programmes had the Government established on the Convention and children’s rights in general?
The delegation was asked about mechanisms and regulations to combat human rights violations? Was there a complaint mechanism to report such violations?
What kind of measures undertaken by the Government to eliminate discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex children and adolescents, and to protect them from discriminatory practices and bullying in schools?
Question was also asked about measures taken by the State party to ensure that intersex children were not subjected to unnecessary surgery without their consent.
Another Expert inquired how the best interest of the child notion was implemented in policies and programmes.
In relation to the level of coordination, one Expert asked what kind of mechanisms were implemented to ensure that there was a comprehensive coverage. What would be done differently in order to achieve successful coordination between all Ministries?
What role did the civil society play in advocating children’s rights in Chile, the Expert asked.
Did the Government and Ministries hold regular events and meetings where children could take part? Did the children of Chile feel that they were included in the decision- making?
One Expert inquired what was being done at the moment to address the needs of poor children under the age of 13. He also asked whether there was any monitoring and complaint mechanism for care centres.
On the corporal punishment, an Expert expressed appreciation for the progress made in the State party. Did the State party intend to ban corporal punishment in all institutions?
One Expert acknowledged the steps taken by the Government with regard to establishing the Ombudsman for Children. Would the State party give the authority to the Ombudsman to initiate awareness raising campaigns?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said since the ratification of the Convention, the Government had initiated several programmes and policies, making the children’s and adolescent’s rights a priority.
With regard to the issue of coordination, it was noted that all Chilean policies had either direct or indirect impact on children and adolescents. The State party should focus on the implementation of policies and programmes, and the realisation of positive coordination between all partners in different sectors. The Government had been working to ensure strengthening the participation and contribution of families and civil society at the local, regional and the country level.
A change in culture was a critical challenge. The Government had adopted five bills to amend and revise current laws pursuant to the new legislation with regard to ensuring the promotion and protection of children’s rights. Due to the current structural change, the Government would still need a decade to monitor and evaluate the impact of all policies and programmes executed, even if the country had all the resources.
Children were in the central of the reform process, the delegation stressed. Various programmes and policies had ensured that children and adolescents were listened to. As the programmes were currently in progress, no data could be currently provided.
Every child needed to be part of the decision-making when it came to the issues concerning them. Further, as it was set out in various laws and bills, any State body needed to take into account the best interest of child at all times.
Priority was given to work with family courts to review and improve mechanisms aimed at the adoption of protective measures and full compliance with them. Such mechanisms would be carried out through programmes that handled children and adolescents whose rights had been violated, especially those separated from their families. The programmes included workshops with the Centre for Precautionary Measures of Santiago and Family Courts of Valparaíso, as mandated by the Supreme Court.
In the field of juvenile justice, the delegation explained that the Eleven Measure Plan for Youth Rehabilitation sought to meet the challenge posed by the provisions of Act No. 20084, on the criminal responsibility of adolescents. The Plan held juveniles accountable for crimes they committed, but also ensured that individuals in their formative years would not resort to a life of crime but rather build a new life plan based on the full development of their potential and opportunities. While doing so, the Plan observed the principle of the best interests of the adolescent.
On the questions related to discrimination, referring to the reform process, a delegate said the concerning bill ensured non-discrimination of children regardless of their cultural background, racial origin or sexual orientation. The first measure was the creation of a joint project with the civil society, aiming to guarantee the right to education for all children regardless of their sexual orientation.
Questions by Experts
What programmes were put into practise with regard to special services for children?
In divorce proceedings, was there a policy guaranteeing that children were listened to?
One Expert inquired about the legal procedure of the civil and birth registration for migrants and refugees.
An Expert said that there was a national plan on the children with disabilities. However, there was a very limited information about the plan on the internet. What kind of measures were taken to ensure that the 2013–2020 National Policy for the Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities had an appropriate approach to issues related to the rights of children with disabilities? What specific indicators and monitoring mechanisms had been used, particularly in the spheres of inclusive education, occupational training, health, recreation and culture, accessibility and the fight against discrimination?
Another Expert asked about the measures taken to ensure that girls with disabilities were not sterilized merely because they had a disability.
How did the authorities intend to respond to the Committee’s recommendation that the State party should decriminalize abortion in cases of rape, incest and situations where the life or health of the mother was at risk?
There was an increasing number of cases involving child labour. Were there any inspections to eradicate that phenomenon?
An Expert asked about the progress made on the implementation of the Juvenile Criminal Justice Act at both organizational and operational level. What specific measures had been taken to set up specialized juvenile justice units in the Public Prosecution Service, the Public Defender’s Unit and the Police and to set up courts presided over by specialized judges? Another Expert asked for further information on the measures taken to ensure the quality of the conditions in juvenile detention centres.
With regard to the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, what specific measures were taken by the Government to explicitly prohibit the forced recruitment of children in wartime?
Question was asked about the existence of policies or programmes on family support to prevent parents from abandoning their children.
There were countless cases of sexual abuse by the religious clergy. What measures were undertaken by the Government to restore the rights of children and adolescents?
One Expert said that there was a high level of alcoholism in the country. What kind of measures was the Government taking to reduce that level? What kind of rehabilitation centres were available?
What kind of campaigns had been carried out to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS?
In the light of the alarming increase in the number of suicides committed by children between the ages of 10 and 18 years, the delegation was asked to provide more information about measures taken by the State party to reverse that trend and to support children’s mental health. Was there a help line provided by the State party?
With regard to domestic adoption, statistics was showing an increase. The Expert asked for further information regarding gender, age, and ethnicity.
There was a very limited information on international adoption. Could the State party inform the Committee about the procedure?
Another Expert noted a high number of juveniles held in pre-trial detention for a long time. Why was that the case?
Replies by the Delegation
Regarding the budgetary allocation, the delegation said that there was a commitment made by the Government that new services and policies concerning children would be provided with enough financial resources.
On the subject of migrant and refugee children, the Government had guaranteed that any child born in Chile was registered regardless of its nationality.
Within administrative and judicial proceedings, the law clearly stated that children needed to be heard in all cases. In the cases of non-hearing, reasons had to be provided to the concerning authority.
With regard to sexual identity, a delegate underlined that there was a modification on the bill, allowing children to request a change in their identity.
The State had broadened the definition of poverty in order to reform its public policy. In order to address the existing inequalities, the Government had initiated a very ambitious programme, called “Chile Grows with You”, designed to strengthen the development of children from birth until they entered the school system. It was a way of ensuring child development, especially of vulnerable children, which had become a sustained public policy since 2009. The programme also offered children fast-track access to services and benefits that met their needs and supported their development at each stage of their growth. It also supported families and communities in which children were growing and developing, and provided appropriate conditions in a friendly and inclusive environment.
The National Service for Minors had initiated several programmes promoting physical and mental health for children, in coordination with the local health services. Also, as part of the redefinition of rights violations affecting children, they could access required psychological care, whether preventive or specialized. Moreover, the Service, together with the Ministries of Health and Justice, was designing a pilot mental health care model for children and adolescents with moderate to severe bio-psychosocial conditions and special needs, mainly users of specialized outpatient and residential programmes in the Metropolitan Region.
Since 2007, the National Service for Prevention and Rehabilitation of Drug and Alcohol Consumption had been implementing the comprehensive treatment programme for adolescents in conflict with the law, with drug/alcohol consumption problems and other mental health disorders. The treatment model had been designed in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the National Service for Minors, with the principal objective of providing treatment, rehabilitation and facilitating the integration of children and adolescents with alcohol and drug abuse problems. The model targeted applying a quality holistic clinical approach, within an integrated network.
The delegation informed that the Government had introduced a new act introducing organizational and procedural changes to the Family Courts Act No. 19968, prohibiting corporal and psychological punishment of children. Furthermore, the amendment to the Article 234 of the Civil Code stated that parents’ right to punish their children should exclude all forms of physical and psychological abuse, and should in any case be exercised in accordance with the law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
On violence against children, the delegation said that new measures had been introduced. The new law combatted sexual harassment against children, child pornography and possession of pornographic material. It also established penalties for anyone sending, delivering or displaying sexually explicit images or recordings of themselves or of minors under 14 years of age to cause arousal, via any medium, including remotely, using electronic methods. If the victim was a minor, but aged over 14, that penalty might be applied if force or intimidation had been used. Alternatively, the penalty might be applied if the victim had been taken advantage of. If the offender falsified his identity or age, the punishment was to be increased by one degree, with up to a 20 years’ imprisonment.
Answering the question related to priests, a delegate noted that Chile was a secular state. The person responsible for abuse of trust or rape was subject to punishment under the Criminal Code. According to the Article 150 of the Constitution, if a police officer conducted a mistreatment against children, he could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison.
Regarding rehabilitation and social integration, a delegate said that a strategy called “Eleven Measure Plan for Youth Rehabilitation” had been introduced. The plan not only sought to hold juveniles accountable for crimes they committed, but also strived to ensure that individuals in their formative years would not resort to a life of crime, but rather build a new life plan based on the full development of their potential and opportunities. The plan included an area on reintegration that sought to strengthen young people’s skills and prepare them for reintegration, delivering quality services in the areas of education, job training, extra-curricular activities, staff specialization, and fostering participation, avoiding recurrence of criminal behaviour and effectively implementing a new life project.
Turning to the questions on children with disabilities, the delegation informed that the Government had established the Presidential Advisory Committee in 2014. The State needed to take necessary steps to ensure that children with disabilities could fully enjoy and exercise their rights. Such rights included the respect for their dignity, the right to be part of a family and to retain their fertility on an equal basis to others, and to ensure their inclusion in education. Furthermore, the Bureau of Children and Disabilities had been established in May 2011.
With regard to forced sterilisation, a delegate explained that the Mental Health Department had a technical rule stating that anyone with mental disorder and under age of 18 could not be sterilised.
Questions by Experts
Was possession of child pornography a crime under the law, an Expert asked.
What kind of measures were taken by the Government to eliminate the sale of children?
Clarification was sought on the minimum age necessary to attend military schools.
An Expert reiterated questions on domestic and international adoption.
Replies by the Delegation
The issue of preventing teenage pregnancy was given priority and a holistic focus, the delegation said. The Government had set up a free and confidential hotline, seeking to inform, guide, contain, accompany, refer and deliver psychosocial care. The hotline involved 80 professionals, mostly psychologists, social workers and sociologists specializing in various topics including teenage pregnancy, mourning the loss of a child, pre- and postnatal depression, postnatal legal consultation, adoption, unwanted or unplanned pregnancy, and pregnancy in situations of conflict, and sexual abuse. To prevent teenage pregnancy, the Government had also initiated a new programme strengthening the education of sexual and reproductive health, home visits to prevent second pregnancies, supporting teenage mothers.
With regard to child labour, a delegate stated that nobody under the age of 15 was allowed to work. The number of children between the age of 15 and 18 constituted 6.6 per cent of the total population.
Regarding adoption, it was explained that the search for an adoptive family was focused on the characteristics and needs of the child or the adolescent, who needed his or her right to have a family restored. Full safeguarding of that principle was the central objective of the Adoption System Reform Project, on which the National Service for Minors was currently working, together with the Ministry of Justice.
Law criminalized smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons and provided for prevention and effective criminal prosecution. Recently, the Government had amended other legislation to introduce rules for the protection of victims, including the right to apply for a temporary residence permit for at least six months either to settle legal action in their favour or to regularize their stay in Chile. Further, the National Service for Minors, in conjunction with the International Organization for Migration, had run a training programme consisting of five days of workshops on the detection and treatment of children and adolescents at risk or in actual trafficking situations.
On juvenile justice, the law stated that no adolescent could be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in word or deed, or be subjected to unnecessary rigour in applying the rules of the regulation. In turn, it required all officials working in detention centres to report to the appropriate authority any situation that might constitute a violation of rights or abuse.
In juvenile justice, freedom of opinion and right to participate for children should be promoted, prioritized and facilitated. From the first contact with young people, professional teams had to listen to and respond to their opinions, interests, motivations, needs, resources and risks, building their action plan in accordance with the measure or penalty concerned. Later, during detailed diagnosis processes and the development of specialized intervention plans for convicted juveniles, their opinion should be taken into account when defining the work focuses and commitments associated with compliance with the penalty, and be signed by them. During the process, their opinion was essential in assessing progress and deciding on any appropriate readjustments.
Turning to children and parents deprived of their liberty, the delegation said that the Government had created a comprehensive support strategy. It provided services, including psychosocial support and counselling to parents, tutoring for children, and other specialised programmes.
With regard to the question on the duration of pre-trial, a delegate said that it might last up to 80 days. The reason was that the judges needed to coordinate with all partners, communicate with lawyers, and process the information.
The delegation noted that the minimum age for military schools was 18. It meant that persons who went to those training schools were either 18 or over. Even if there was a conflict, it was not possible to send children under the age of 18 to participate in it.
The Ministry of Health targeted reducing the use of cigarette, alcohol, and drugs. Local authorities had created many initiatives ranging from primary health care to services to detect tendency to addiction. The Ministry had also carried out interviews and held a number of meetings and events targeting awareness raising.
Decriminalisation of abortion was widely discussed by the Government, but without a clear outcome yet.
JORGE CARDONA LLORENS, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Chile, noted that the six-hour meeting was simply not enough to discuss all the aspects of the issue. Unfortunately, the Committee was not able to get all the answers that they were looking for. The Experts mostly heard that the State party was “working on it”. It was hoped that within 10 to 15 years, the Committee would be able to hear about the outcome of the programmes and policies.
MARIA ESTELA ORTIY, Executive Secretary of the National Council for Children, thanked all the Committee Members for their questions and comments. The delegation looked forward to receiving the Committee’s recommendations. Development was not possible without an allocated budget for children. Chile was fully committed to the promotion and protection of children’s rights. However, the inequality in the country was limiting the policies from reaching their potentials. It was, unfortunately, not possible to answer all the questions posed due to time limitations.
BENYAM DAWIT MEYMUR, Chairperson of the Committee, thanked the State party representatives for their detailed answers to the questions. Despite existing challenges and natural disasters, Chile had managed to make progress and show resilience. Mr. Meymur said that he looked forward to receiving the upcoming reports, and sent his best wishes to the children of Chile.
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