GENEVA (16 May 2018) - The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fifth to seventh periodic report of Angola under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and its initial reports under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Presenting the report, Ruth Madalena Mixinge, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women of Angola, noted that despite a retreat of investments in the oil industry, which had affected the implementation of a number of Angola’s social projects, the Government had maintained its protection of human rights for all citizens with a focus on the most vulnerable, such as children. A vast package of legal instruments and public policies had been adopted and institutions had been set up with a view to promoting and guaranteeing children’s rights to life, development, participation and protection. The National Council for Social Action had also been created as a body for social dialogue and to monitor the implementation of public policies for the promotion and protection of the rights of children, elderly and other vulnerable groups. To enforce the rights and freedoms of children, birth registration had been universalized. In 2016 the Government had adopted a basic law requiring compulsory, free education from the primary to middle school years in order to extend free national education from six to nine years, eliminate school dropouts and eradicate illiteracy. “Angola 2025” had also been adopted as a long-term strategy to ameliorate and augment social services and holistic programmes to combat rural poverty.
In the ensuing discussion, Committee Experts inquired about how the Convention was invoked before courts, data collection, review of the 2012 Children’s Act, social spending and corruption, the role and functioning of the Ombudsman, participation of civil society, harmful practices such as witchcraft accusations against children and female genital mutilation, minimum age of marriage, polygamy, measures to address the situation of children with disabilities, children living with HIV/AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children, birth registration, corporal punishment and violence against children, juvenile justice and the age of criminal responsibility, orphaned and abandoned children, adoption, infant health and infant mortality, adolescent health, maternal health and maternity leave, abortion, breastfeeding and child friendly hospitals, fighting malaria and yellow fever, child labour, and trafficking in children.
During the discussion on the reports under the two Optional Protocols, Committee Experts raised the issues of disaggregated data on migrant children who may have been recruited abroad, recruitment of children in the Cabinda province by armed groups, the status of children aged 16 to 18 in military law, programmes for protection, rehabilitation and reintegration, extraterritorial jurisdiction, and early identification of children who may be at risk of offences under the Optional Protocols.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Mixinge thanked the Committee for the very warm and cordial welcome, and for the interest expressed in Angola. She noted that the Committee’s interest would be key for improving the wellbeing of children in Angola.
Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, thanked the delegation for their responses, and expressed hope that the dialogue would be a food for thought for the Government of Angola. He flagged the issues of budgets, institutional measures, training, and definition-related issues under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Gehad Madi, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, noted that the Committee was ready to help the State party implement its obligations under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. He appreciated that the age for military registration and conscription was in line with the Protocol.
Velina Todorova, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, thanked the delegation for the dialogue under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which had addressed most of the Committee’s concerns, mostly related to birth registration, alternative care, and access to justice, health and education, and nutrition.
Clarence Nelson, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked the delegation to convey the best regards of the Committee to the Angolan children.
The delegation of Angola included representatives of the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Social Communication, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Public Administration, Labour and Social Security, and the Permanent Mission of Angola to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 17 May, at 10 a.m. to consider the initial report of Algeria under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/DZA/1).
The Committee is considering the combined fifth to seventh periodic report of Angola (CRC/C/AGO/5-7) under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the initial report under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/AGO/1), and the initial report under the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography (CRC/C/OPSC/AGO/1).
Presentation of the Report
RUTH MADALENA MIXINGE, Secretary of State for the Ministry of Social Action, Family and the Promotion of Women of Angola, said that she would like to share with the Committee Angola’s progress and challenges. Angola had enacted a new Constitution in 2010 which extended citizens’ fundamental rights, particularly those of the child, and it was the bedrock for building peace and democracy. The State’s primary source of economic revenue was oil and in the last six years, there had been a growth and then a retreat of investments in that industry, which had affected the implementation of a number of Angola’s social projects. However, even with those challenges, the State had maintained its protection of human rights for all citizens with a focus on the most vulnerable, such as children.
Prepared by the Intersectoral Commission for the Elaboration of National Reports on Human Rights, the report integrated the core national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights in accordance with article 44 of the Convention. The report was drafted after extensive consultation of civil society organizations and some United Nations agencies.
A vast package of legal instruments and public policies had been adopted and institutions had been set up with a view to promoting and guaranteeing children’s rights to life, development, participation and protection. For example, an act against domestic violence provided ways to hold persons guilty of domestic violence against children to account. An act on the protection and integral development of the child defined a legal framework and principles on child protection and reinforced the importance of the implementation of Angola’s 11 commitments in favour of children. Another act that established the norms related to prevention and protection against the trafficking of Women and Children was also enacted.
The National Council for Social Action was also created as a body for social dialogue and monitored the implementation of public policies for the promotion and protection of the rights of children, elderly and other vulnerable groups. This would expand social services with inclusive access to birth records, health, education, drinking water, electricity and a healthy environment.
The minimum legal age for marriage in Angola was established at 18 years of age, however, exceptions remained for particular circumstances, where men could marry at the age of 16 and women at the age of 15. But authorisation in those cases had to be granted by parents or guardians of the child in question. Angola had joined the African Union campaign to prohibit child marriage.
The Constitution of Angola now enshrined the principles of equality and non-discrimination. For children with disabilities, those principles were materialized through the implementation of several laws and acts.
To enforce the rights and freedoms of children, birth registration had been universalized. It was easier to access registers after the number of registration posts had been increased. The project “to be born a citizen” extended registration periods. An information and awareness raising campaign on registration had also been carried out, fees were now waived on birth registration, and processes to allow for late registration had been established. To date, more than six million citizens were now registered.
Over the last three years, 239 abandoned children had been registered. Children’s homes and centres had been created for children separated from their families and Angola also supported 42,944 orphans that were either abandoned or separated from their families.
Concerning the rights to health and welfare for children, neo-natal mortality rates had fallen to 20 per 1,000 in 2015 from 45 per 1,000 in 2009. The rate of mortality of children under five also fell to 68 per 1,000 in 2015 from 194 per 1,000 in 2000.
The greater access to health enjoyed by Angola’s citizens was attributed to the increase of health care staff at hospitals, the construction of new hospitals as well as family planning services, and the availability of vaccinations, neo-natal assistance and follow-up doctor visits as the child grew. However chronic malnutrition was still at 37.6 per cent.
In 2016 the Government had adopted a basic law requiring compulsory, free education from the primary to middle school years. The plan was to extend free national education from six to nine years, eliminate school dropouts and eradicate illiteracy. Special education programmes were also established and aimed at school inclusion for children with disabilities of all sorts from physical to mental handicaps. All school curricula also included a human rights aspect, which was currently awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers.
Measures had been taken to reduce child labour, with the legal minimum age to work set at 14.
To prevent trafficking, legislation was enacted that defined the trafficking of persons as well as ways to combat it. An inter-ministerial commission was also created to ensure the protection, assistance, rehabilitation and reintegration of victims of trafficking.
“Angola 2025” had also been adopted as a long-term strategy to ameliorate and augment social services and holistic programmes to combat rural poverty. The main aim of those measures was to speed up economic diversification to save the rights of Angola’s most vulnerable citizens.
Questions by the Committee Experts
HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Rapporteur on the report of Angola, commended the State party’s efforts with regard to the rights of the child. Concerning the status of the Convention, international treaties were superior to domestic law in Angola; however, had the Convention been invoked before the courts and on what occasions?
Angola had adopted the Children’s Act of 2012. However, that Act did not cover all the rights of the child, in particular with respect to corporal punishment. Would that law be reviewed?
Also the State had various National Action Plans in place; however, there was information missing as to the prioritization of children’s rights in the State. What was planned for the forthcoming years and why had the State party not adopted an overarching strategy to implement the Convention?
Social spending had increased since 2014. But what were the reasons for the increase and what was the impact of that increase on social spending on children?
Corruption was corroding the State’s budget as well. Were there judicial proceedings that tackled corruption in Angola?
Concerning an independent monitoring system, what progress had been made in that respect? An Expert said that the Ombudsman could receive complaints from children or concerning the rights of the child but did all children benefit from accessibility and confidentiality of that service when the Ombudsman did not cover the entire country? Also, could the delegation specify how information was disseminated to children concerning their rights?
The participation of civil society was key to the promotion of human rights. What measures were being taken by the State to facilitate the work of civil society organizations? It seemed as if it was difficult for those organizations to work freely and without disruption in Angola.
What was being done to safeguard children’s right to a safe environment and how were indigenous lands being protected with regard to economic exploitation from oil corporations, for example?
Reports concerning the limitation of freedoms of expression, conscience and religion had also been discovered. The harmful practices of some religious sects and groups were still occurring. What was being done to tackle those practices against children?
Another Committee Expert, speaking on the minimum age of marriage in Angola, found that the exceptions provided for in the Family Code were discriminatory on the basis of gender, seeing that girls could marry at the age of 15 and boys at the age of 16. The Expert asked for more clarity on the subject of the review of the family code in order to eliminate gender discrimination. Also, would the age of marriage ever be unanimously moved to 18 years of age with no exceptions?
What were the practical measures taken to ensure the equality of all children, with particular attention paid to handicapped children, girls, children living with HIV/AIDS, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children? Were mechanisms in place to address societal stereotypes of those groups?
It was also noted by the Expert that the identity rights of Angola’s children needed further legal and policy guarantees as the failure to register and document a child’s legal existence prevented the child’s enjoyment of human rights. As of 2014, however, only 25 per cent of children under the age of five had been registered and 49 per cent of children between the age of five to 14 years of age.
Turning to violence against children, the Expert expressed concern that the issue of corporal punishment of children remained unresolved; it remained lawful except in the case where it was applied as a sanction. What were the Government’s plans to prohibit corporal punishment in all settings and in particular at home?
On the same subject, how was violence in closed settings (care institutions) reported and investigated?
Replies by the Delegation
In response to those questions and comments, the delegation stated that the Angolan State had established the 11 commitments for children to engage all stakeholders in respecting children’s rights. When it came to the dissemination of the Convention in society, schools, churches and communities were implicated in the process. Also, civil society and community organizations participated actively in public policy dissemination with regard to children.
With regard to the question on corporal punishment, all forms of abuse were unacceptable in Angola, identified a delegate. When children’s rights were violated, they were given various means of support.
A delegate said that ensuring that citizens could participate in the media was very important. The Ministry for the Media had just established, in conjunction with the United Nations Children's Fund, a plan for high-level advocacy amongst decision makers as well as directors of media programmes on the rights of the child. The goal was that children could contribute to media content and to teach how stories should be handled when they were about children.
The State was the main owner of media outlets in the country with footholds in radio, television and print newspapers. The State broadcast children programming that was created and directed by children and for children. However, journalists that infringed on children’s rights by not protecting their identity, for example, could be taken to court and punished pursuant to the law.
Lastly, Angola had succeeded in using social marketing campaigns for immunization programmes. This strategy was drawn up in conjunction with the United Nations Children's Fund and engaged all media outlets in disseminating messages about the importance of vaccines. This participation of children was largely responsible for the eradication of polio in the country, said the delegate.
Human rights’ treaties were invoked by Angola’s Constitutional Court but also the Supreme Court and ordinary courts. Referring to juvenile courts, in 2016, around 4,600 proceedings had occurred in family courts concerning custody on the basis of articles 3, 12, 14 and 17. So, a series of court rulings and decisions applied the rules of the Convention.
With regard to birth registration, it was free of charge in Angola, according to the law with a range of measures adopted concerning this issue. Campaigns provided an initial birth certificate for any citizen free of charge.
There had been training for midwives as not all births occurred in State hospitals. Those midwives were able to record births and then transcribe those births on an official register. Concerning foreign citizens, their right to birth registration was enshrined, as birth registration did not necessarily speak of the nationality of the child. Around 500 children had been registered in that way.
To protect children from statelessness, Angola provided foreign citizens with refugee status in Angola with ways to obtain Angolan nationality after having stayed a certain time in the country.
Concerning the combat of corruption in the country, Angola had a series of laws that criminalized corruption. The new President set combatting corruption as the main priority of his mandate. There was a new special investigation unit in the Attorney General’s office to fight corruption and a number of cases were currently under investigation involving high-ranking officials.
Questions by the Committee Experts
An Expert, referring to birth registration and the training of midwives in rural areas, asked more specifically how birth certificates were issued to children born and living in the countryside.
Replies by the Delegation
In response, a delegate said that midwives made the initial registration but those ledgers where the information was originally transcribed were sent to create an official birth certificate and then sent back to the family of origin.
Concerning the issue of disseminating the Convention, a project in partnership with the United Nations Children's Fund trained law enforcement personnel and members of the judiciary with specific reference to children. Health assistants and social workers had been trained on the health aspects of the Convention. Pamphlets were also used to disseminate information. The media, as said before, was also used.
The Ombudsman’s office did not cover the entire country, but it could receive complaints via telephone, email or post. In areas where there were courts, the public legal service looked for extra-judicial solutions.
The current debate concerning marriage was to abolish exceptions to the rule but there were a series of cultural principles that made it somewhat beyond the State’s control.
Concerning employment, the minimum age for employment was set at 14 but there were few requests for children to work at that age. The age of criminal responsibility was set to 16 years of.
Questions by the Committee Experts
The Committee Rapporteur, concerning data collection, asked if there had been a national mechanism to collect data concerning all areas of the rights of the child in a disaggregated manner.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation said children living in rural areas were not treated differently under national legislation from children living in urban areas. There was a protection in place for children of all sectors. Any child or person that considered their rights were violated could lodge a complaint with police or the National Children’s Unit. Those complaints would then be channelled into specialised services.
Questions by the Committee Experts
In the next round of questions, a Committee Expert asked about the mandate of Family Counselling Centres and if there was a coordination between those centres and the provincial units of the National Institute of the Child. Also, the Government provided statistics on assisted families but how had that been adjusted to reflect a fast increasing child population?
There were also reports of a high rate of parental negligence and abandonment due to economic reasons. This affected around 1.3 million children in Angola. The Government said that orphaned and abandoned children were provided with foster and institutional care, yet the Expert still had reservations. Did the Government collect data concerning children deprived of the care of their biological parents? How many children were available for adoption and what were the alternatives available to children temporarily or permanently deprived of parental care? Lastly, how many children experienced separation due to the imprisonment of a parent?
Addressing health and education, and firstly addressing children with disabilities, an Expert commended the State on its protections in place for this group. However, what was the specific impact of laws and policies intended to cover children with disabilities and was there disaggregated data to this effect? Were there figures as to the number of children with special needs included in education? What policies were in place to include all children?
A programme related to infant health was very positive, however, there were still extremely high rates of infant mortality when children were born in rural and poor areas or to mothers with low education.
With regard to adolescent health, what measures were in place to bolster reproductive health programmes for adolescents to foster responsible parenting and provide them with contraceptives?
What were the circumstances in which abortion could be decriminalized and would there be national policy to that effect?
Pertaining to living standards, specifically the national malnutrition strategy, did it cover all sectors in all parts of the country and did it prioritise breastfeeding mothers and children? Further, concerning breastfeeding, what hospitals in the country were breastfeeding friendly and did they meet the 10 protocols set out by the United Nations Children's Fund?
With regard to HIV/AIDS and the policies to combat it, what measures were being taken to guarantee full and complete access to people who needed anti-retroviral medications and how were mothers who contracted the virus assisted by the Government?
Another Expert said that work in the diamond mines was still an issue with regard to child labour. What was being done to counter the exploitation of children in labour?
Concerning juvenile detention, what measures had been taken to improve the juvenile justice system, particularly rehabilitation and alternative measures to incarceration?
The trafficking and smuggling of persons was also of concern. A recent report from 2016 stated that minors were sent to work as domestic workers or were subject to sexual exploitation. There was little prosecution in those cases and information would suggest that that was due to corruption. How was child trafficking prosecuted?
A Committee Expert noted practices concerning children believed to be witches. Believers even abused those children. What was being done to protect those children from abuse and even murder?
Replies by the Delegation
RUTH MADALENA MIXINGE, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women of Angola, said that the National Statistics Office oversaw the collection of data and the authorities were working to improve the quality of data collection. The Government aimed to improve the delivery of social services at the municipal level. There was a programme of cash transfer for vulnerable families, namely for families with three children under the age of five. There were two million children out of school. Accordingly, the Government aimed to recruit 20,000 new teachers and construct 5,000 new schools in the next two years. It also planned to increase the spending for child-centred projects.
As for the need to safeguard against natural disasters and climate change, there was a national contingency plan and the work of the National Committee on Civil Protection and the Food Security Committee. Fifty-four per cent of persons living in urban areas had access to drinking water. The authorities had a programme to extend the access to drinking water for all people in urban and rural areas, Ms. Mixinge clarified.
With respect to people on the move, the authorities wanted to transfer them to safer areas through a programme of social housing in various municipalities. In terms of healthcare, there were nine child friendly hospitals in the country. The Ministry of Health and the United Nations Children’s Fund oversaw of the project and provided training. Women were told about their responsibility to breastfeed and that they should breastfeed for a minimum of six months. Breastfeeding coverage stood at about 80 per cent, and Angola had an agreement with Brazil to set up a breastmilk bank. The Government was also developing marketing rules for breastmilk substitutes.
On harmful practices, as soon as they were discovered they were immediately prohibited and the Government conducted raising awareness activities for traditional leaders. One of the good practices was to combat accusations against children for witchcraft. Those children were returned to their families following training and reintegration programmes. Training was also provided on the issues of widows’ inheritance and early marriage. Empowering of girls was an important task for the Government.
With respect to child labour, children may be authorized to enter into apprentice programmes. But there was a list of occupations that were prohibited for children, such as work in mines, explained Ms. Mixinge.
The delegation clarified that the Ministry of Health attacked child mortality through the extension of the coverage of health facilities at the municipal level. The Ministry had also launched a comprehensive package of healthcare for mothers and children. Those measures had helped cut maternal and infant mortality rates. The extended immunization programme had been carried out in cooperation with international partners, such as the World Health Organization and the Vaccine Alliance GAVI. On 9 April 2018, the Government had launched a campaign to immunize three million children.
Malaria was one of the main causes of death in Angola. Pregnant women and children under the age of five were particularly vulnerable. The Government had been handing out mosquito nets, and had joint projects with other Southern African countries. The Ministry of Health had concluded partnerships with all neighbouring countries to fight malaria, especially in border areas. The authorities had conducted a massive outreach and awareness raising campaign about the use of mosquito nets.
As for sexual and reproductive health, the Ministry of Health had a strategic plan to raise awareness among adolescents about the issue, and had managed to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies. The Ministry had also launched a comprehensive strategy for adolescent health in cooperation with the United Nations Children’s Fund, USAID, and the United Nations Population Fund. It had signed a funding agreement with the World Bank to strengthen the national health system, which would help equip 300 primary health centres, mostly for women and girls of reproductive age, and for children under the age of five.
Turning to mental health, the delegation explained that there was an integrated system at the provincial level. The Government worked with civil society to treat mental illnesses. As for HIV/AIDS, the authorities had focused on universal access, diagnosis and treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS. There was a national plan to eradicate mother to child transmission, which included the drafting of a manual for nurses. All treatment was free of charge. There were also training events for peer educators, and raising awareness programmes. The prevalence stood at 2 per cent, one of the lowest prevalence rates in the South African region. However, only 14 per cent of children with HIV/AIDS actually received treatment. Angola believed that international agreements achieved under the auspices of UNAIDS were important for the treatment of people living with HIV/AIDS.
As for yellow fever, there was an outbreak in 2015 and 2016 due to the arrival of foreigners with falsified medical records. Some 844 cases of yellow fever had been identified in the country, out of which 381 died in 16 provinces. Some 46 cases were children under the age of four. Currently, there were no more cases of yellow fever in the country. Angola had a problem with blood banks, which was why awareness raising had been conducted. In cooperation with civil society, the Government had called on the population to donate blood.
Some 15 per cent of the overall budget should be devoted to healthcare. However, the Ministry of Health only had 6 per cent of the whole budget. More than 90 per cent of resources for the purchase of vaccines came from the national budget, and the rest from partners such as the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Vaccine Alliance GAVI.
The delegation explained that health services covered all of the national territory. Vaccination coverage was universal, but campaigns were carried out at the provincial level. There was no problem of accessibility to rural areas as all the roads had been cleared of mines. All the campaigns for the distribution of mosquito nets and immunization campaigns were in principle available in all corners of Angola. The Ministry of Social Communication used an interpersonal communication approach through civil society partners, especially women, who visited families to sensitize them about the benefits of healthcare services, including on the use of mosquito nets. The Government had taken over all of the social mobilization efforts on health, as well as training for activists in rural areas.
The delegation explained that the Government strived to provide immediate birth registration, and to use alternative documents for recognition. Adoption and guardianship were regulated under the Family Code. A person or a couple wishing to adopt had to be above the age of 25 and needed to have the necessary mental and economic capacity. International adoption required the approval of the National Assembly. If the minor to be adopted was over the age of 10, he or she was entitled to have his or her opinion heard about the adoption. Due to the importance of extended family ties in Angola, adoption by grandparents, uncles and aunts did not require a legal adoption process. Angola had not yet conducted a detailed analysis of potential accession to the Hague Adoption Convention due to the low number of international adoptions in the country.
Angola had ratified the Palermo Protocol on trafficking of women and children, and it cooperated with United States institutions with respect to human trafficking. It had established a commission to combat human trafficking, and it provided relevant training to law enforcement forces, judicial personnel, and social workers. Victims of trafficking could be sheltered in various social institutions and centres run by civil society. Most of the trafficked persons in Angola were from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and certain Asian countries. The Angolan authorities did not tolerate police violence against youth. The rarest offenders were firefighters, and the most common ones were police officers.
The current Criminal Code was somewhat outdated, but abortion was illegal because it presupposed the taking of someone’s life. There were very strong opinions about the decriminalization of abortion. Some 80 per cent of the population in Angola was Christian and they strongly opposed the decriminalization of abortion, whereas women’s associations were pro-abortion. Maternity leave for public and private sector workers amounted to three months, in addition to another month of annual leave. An additional month of maternity leave was granted for twins.
Speaking of alternative care for orphaned and abandoned children, the delegation explained that keeping children in an institution was the measure of very last resort. Angola had been developing a programme of family reunification, or placement in foster families. Those children who could not be placed in foster families or be reunited with their families, were placed in children’s homes where they attended educational programmes. Children aged 17 were offered vocational programmes so that they could be integrated in the community and the labour market.
Children from the Democratic of Republic of the Congo exploited in mines were given the same treatment as any other children, the delegation stressed. The authorities immediately tried to identify their families, and if they could not identify them, they placed those children in appropriate institutions. The delegation drew a distinction between exploitative activities, such as child labour, and parents simply teaching farming skills to their children. Children were able to voice their concerns when they felt that they were being exploited, noted RUTH MADALENA MIXINGE, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women of Angola.
Ms. Mixinge underlined that once peace had been achieved in the country, there had been a decrease in the number of children in need of foster care outside the family environment. There were mechanisms in place that facilitated the re-insertion of children in communities and families. In that respect, the Government aimed to improve adult education and awareness raising about the wellbeing of children.
As for minorities in Angola, there were cultural specificities in the northern regions of the country. There was also a challenge for the Ministry of Education to create educational programmes for children from nomadic families. Everyone was entitled to have access to land, especially women. The authorities incentivised women to have access to land and production resources so that they could create better lives for their children, Ms. Mixinge clarified.
Ms. Mixinge said that there were 81 recognized religious denominations in Angola. Freedom of religion, belief and worship was guaranteed. Churches provided social and spiritual support to children and their families, as well as family counselling.
Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts
An Expert expressed concern about children who fell victim to sexual violence, especially in rural areas. Many families could not afford a certificate that proved sexual violence. Were there child psychologists available to victims?
HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, raised the issue of juvenile justice and amendments to the Criminal Code, namely the raising of the age of criminal responsibility. When would Angola amend the age of criminal responsibility?
Ms. Idrissi also inquired about polygamy and the recognition of polygamous marriages. What measures had the State party undertaken to fight female genital mutilation?
Replies by the Delegation
RUTH MADALENA MIXINGE, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women of Angola, explained that sometimes it was difficult to deliver medical services in rural areas. Hospitals had the duty to deliver medicines free of charge. Angola had signed a protocol with Cuba in the field of mental health. There were child specialists in hospitals.
Female genital mutilation did not occur in Angola. But there were nationals of other African countries in which that practice persisted residing in Angola. The Government was, therefore, analysing its migration act to ensure that foreign nationals respected Angolan national legislation, Ms. Mixinge clarified.
The delegation said that primary healthcare was free of charge, as well as the medical assessment of victims of sexual abuse. There was a broad South African campaign against female genital mutilation, which Angola had joined.
The new Criminal Code attempted to be as modern as possible, and thus criminalised discrimination of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The draft Criminal Code retained 16 as the age of criminal responsibility. There were more than 3,600 juveniles in detention. Even though they were held in ordinary prisons, they were separated from adults in special cells. Mitigating circumstances were applied in hearing cases concerning juvenile offenders. Those cases were fast-tracked, and the authorities were working to develop the use of alternative measures to detention.
There were fewer than 100 children living with their mothers in prisons. There was a discussion about how to best deal with those children, especially with children below the age of 3, who were still breastfed.
Experts’ Questions under the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, commended Angola’s compliance with the Optional Protocol, but noted that it needed to define the recruitment of children under the age of 18 as a war crime.
There was a lack of reference to the measures undertaken to disseminate provisions of the Optional Protocol to the general public and children in particular.
Mr. Madi further asked for comprehensive disaggregated data on migrant children who may have been recruited abroad, and information about the recruitment of children in the Kabinda province by armed groups.
What was the status of children aged 16 to 18 in military law? In the absence of a birth certificate, army conscription was still possible if two witnesses verified the age of the person, Mr. Madi reminded.
The National Assembly could order the army enlistment of persons aged 18. Which cut-off date of birth applied?
ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, noted that Angola had not yet ratified the Rome Statute. What was the State party doing to eradicate impunity for war crimes? Was there legislation providing for extraterritorial jurisdiction?
Turning to protection, rehabilitation and reintegration, Ms. Skelton inquired about the amount of funds for such programmes and their content. There was information that the Government had assisted some 13,000 former Angolan child soldiers. Were the services offered to former child soldiers applied equally regardless of their allegiance?
What was the number of identified former child soldiers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, namely the Kasai province? Ms. Skelton further asked about child victims of landmines. Had progress been made in the removal of landmines?
Experts’ Questions under the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, commended the fact that Angola had ratified a number of international instruments in conjunction with the Optional Protocol and adopted a range of measures to counter trafficking in women and children.
The Committee was still concerned that data did not cover all the offences under the Optional Protocol, and that data may be skewed. What measures did the State party envisage to improve the collection of disaggregated data?
What measures did Angola intend to take to ensure that all violations under the Optional Protocol would be properly covered by the penal legislation, including possessing pornographic material, and that would cover all children up to the age of 18? What measures would be taken to ensure proper prosecution?
Mr. Kotrane inquired about extending criminal responsibility to all violations under the Optional Protocol, about establishing extraterritorial competence, and about the draft bill on special protection of child victims and witnesses.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, inquired about the old National Plan of Action on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and its evaluation. What body was in charge of coordinating the implementation of the Optional Protocol? Had there been an increase in budget allocation for prevention?
Mr. Mezmur further asked how the Government monitored the quality of shelters and psycho-social support provided to child victims by civil society. What were the lessons learned in trafficking occurring in border regions of the country? What information was available about the early identification of children who may be at risk of offences under the Optional Protocol?
Could the 2018-2022 National Development Plan address some of the issues under the Optional Protocol? What was the strategy on human rights education and its link with the Optional Protocol?
Replies by the Delegation
RUTH MADALENA MIXINGE, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women of Angola, explained that after the signing of the Luena Memorandum of Understanding in April 2002 and the establishment of peace in the country, the Government had made progress in normalizing the political, economic and social situations, but had faced some challenges in the implementation of the two Optional Protocols. With the ratification of the two Optional Protocols, Angola had established 11 commitments to children, namely those on life expectancy, food and nutrition security, birth registration, early childhood education, primary education and vocational training, juvenile justice, prevention, treatment, support and reduction of impact of HIV/AIDS on families and children, prevention and fight against violence against children, social protection and family competences, child and social communication, culture and sport, and children in national plans and State budget. The two Optional Protocols were related to the eighth commitment on the fight against violence against children, Ms. Mixinge said.
The minimum age for military enlistment was 21, whereas military registration took place at the age of 18. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, military recruitment had served to facilitate the regular and qualitative renewal of the armed forces personnel. Women only signed up for the military on a voluntary basis. Ms. Mixinge stressed that boys under the age of 18 could not voluntarily join the armed forces.
In the aftermath of the civil war, some 500,000 children had been reunited with their families. Those families had received land, and medical and education assistance, Ms. Mixinge explained. Some 70 per cent of development funds were intended for the reintegration of war veterans and their families. Turning to the demining activities, Ms. Mixinge informed that the Government was currently conducting humanitarian demining which would open up land for development.
Angola had received 31,241 refugees from the Kasai province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, out of which 23 per cent were children. The authorities registered them to enable their access to education and healthcare, and they had identified 11 child soldiers. The Government was developing an adapted curriculum for refugee children with Portuguese language lessons. There were some 98 unaccompanied minors who had been taken on by foster families and institutions chosen by refugees. Refugees also benefited from social assistance in food, clothing, access to drinking water, and security, Ms. Mixinge said.
In the context of the demobilization and reintegration process, which had culminated in the signing of the Namibe Memorandum of Understanding on the Cabinda province, the Government had developed a series of actions aimed at developing public awareness about the need to pay special attention to children as a vulnerable population directly affected by the armed conflict, involving traditional leaders in the protection of their rights.
Ms. Mixinge underlined that the protection of children was a priority for the Government, particularly in the fight against poverty. The Government was committed to having each municipality receive $ 3.3 million to assist the families of veterans, and to speed up economic diversification. The authorities would do their utmost to promote the rights of children in the country.
Answering questions under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the delegation said that military registration took place at the age of 18. Since the end of the Angolan civil war, most of the military conscription was voluntary. Many entered the Military Academy to become professional soldiers. There were no militias in Angola, the delegation stressed, adding that they should not be confused with private security companies.
The authorities had been disseminating the two Optional Protocols through brochures, broadcasts on television and radio, as well as through the materials of the National Children’s Institute. A law on private security companies laid down the rules of recruitment. There was no lowering of the recruitment age, which was 18. Failure to respect those rules led to the withdrawal of operating licenses and fines. The armed forces of Angola under no circumstances recruited boys under the age of 18, the delegation stressed.
The draft Criminal Code would have an extended section to cover the crime of human trafficking. The National Plan for Combatting Human Trafficking would focus on the key provisions of the Palermo Protocol, namely on prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership. The Government was currently working on a regional platform developed by the Southern African Development Community for case tracing. Recently, a unit had been set up within the police to deal with cases of human trafficking. But there were still drawbacks in terms of training of law enforcement forces. With significant border flows, especially on the borders with Namibia and Zambia, that training was particularly needed.
In 2010, the Government had approved a code of conduct for the tourism industry to counter sexual exploitation of children. Civil society organizations had provided the authorities with input. Combatting impunity was a real concern for the Government. Some 100 police officers had been held to account through various forms of disciplinary measures. The fact that Angola had not ratified the Rome Statute did not absolve it from its international obligations and it pursued bilateral agreements in that sense. The recruitment of children carried the strictest sentences in the Criminal Code, ranging from 5 to 25 years of imprisonment. All former child soldiers, regardless of which army they fought in, were given the same treatment.
On the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ms. Mixinge noted that the national law prescribed a sentence of five years in prison for the enslavement or sale of children. All forms of advertising of pornography was forbidden, as well as any stereotyped images of women and men. The Government was particularly concerned about child labour, and it conducted awareness raising among families in order to explain the difference between the exploitation of children and children’s domestic obligations. The Human Trafficking Commission provided protection to victims of trafficking, and it developed regional partnerships to combat trafficking. The National Strategy for Combatting Sexual Exploitation of Children was being revised. An SOS helpline was in operation to receive complaints from family members, communities and children themselves. Between 2015 and 2017, 10,221 complaints had been received.
Ms. Mixinge said that various ministries had partnerships with the Southern African Development Community on the situation of children, namely on avoiding abuse in the travel of children. The Government was developing mechanisms to prevent the abuse of children. It could block some inappropriate websites for children, but it was up to parents to ensure appropriate monitoring. All State sectors were obliged to present activities that would combat violence against children and exploitation of children.
Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts
HATEM KOTRANE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, observed that the delegation’s answers had focused on human trafficking. There were no cases of trafficking of children for sale. The State party should address all the cases of sale, prostitution and child pornography, noted Mr. Kotrane, adding that it was a starting point for the implementation of the Optional Protocol. He further inquired about online exploitation of children.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, inquired about the legal framework that regulated child pornography and prostitution online. How did the implementation of the Code of Conduct for Tourism work out?
An Expert reiterated the question about the minimum age of criminal responsibility and criminal majority. Were there programmes for child victims of landmines?
What was the situation of refugees from the Kasai province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo working in illegal diamond mines?
HYND AYOUBI IDRISSI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, inquired whether Angola could prosecute cases abroad based on double criminality. Could the Optional Protocol be used as a basis for extradition?
ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, asked whether the delegation was aware about the ongoing Global Study on children deprived of their liberty.
Replies by the Delegation
RUTH MADALENA MIXINGE, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women of Angola, drew attention to the protection of children on the Internet through a list of technological and regulatory measures, such as the blocking of inappropriate cyber content, including pornographic materials and materials that incited to violence. The Government was currently drafting the so-called Computer Crimes Law, and it was training magistrates to prosecute crimes committed on the Internet.
With the support of UNICEF, the Government was reviewing assistance and care for children, Ms. Mixinge noted. By improving its workflow programmes, the Government would strengthen the protection of children. Furthermore, the authorities used to hold a week of reflection on the protection of children from violence, and as of 2018 they began holding a month of reflection.
The delegation noted that sexual exploitation of children and child pornography were expressly prohibited under the law. In 1999 a plan had been drafted to monitor commercial sexual exploitation of minors in the tourism sector. Investigative bodies were able to shut down tourist establishments where violations were identified. A sentence of 3 to 10 years of prison could be handed down. The authorities had noticed a drop in the number of cases of sexual exploitation of children in the tourism sector.
The minimum age of criminal responsibility was 14, and the draft new Criminal Code would retain the same age of criminal responsibility. If a child under the age of 14 committed a criminal offence, the case was referred to juvenile courts, which would analyse what correctional measure to apply. As for extradition, Angola used bilateral agreements and cooperated with the International Criminal Court in that respect.
In the post-war period there was a broad programme of rehabilitation in partnership with the Red Cross, namely the building of a factory for prostheses. The territory of Angola had been a theatre of war for many foreign armies, leaving one of the largest numbers of landmines in the world. Through demining programmes, and with support of many international partners, the authorities were marking areas with mines. Landmines continued to have a deep impact on the population. The goal was to declare Angola clear of mines by 2025.
The Government had not yet received a questionnaire for the Global Study on children deprived of their liberty. The Global Study would benefit from greater coverage, and the Government would do its best to respond to the questionnaire once it received it.
As for the situation of refugees from the Kasai province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo working in illegal diamond mines, Ms. Mixinge noted that those working in such mines were engaged in illegal activities. But the authorities would not mistreat their children.
MARGARIDA IZATA, Permanent Representative of Angola to the United Nations Office at Geneva, noted that some 30,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained in reception centres in the north of Angola, adding that they had been receiving support from the Angolan Government. United Nations agencies and other international organizations had tried to do their best to help those refugees.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, thanked the delegation for their responses, and expressed hope that the dialogue would be a food for thought for the Government of Angola. He flagged the issues of budgets, institutional measures, training, and definition-related issues under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, asked for any English translation of legislation relevant to the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
GEHAD MADI, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, noted that the Committee was ready to help the State party implement its obligations under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict. He appreciated that the age for military registration and conscription were in line with the Protocol.
VELINA TODOROVA, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Angola, thanked the delegation for the dialogue under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which had addressed most of the Committee’s concerns, mostly related to birth registration, alternative care, and access to justice, health and education, and nutrition. The dialogue had demonstrated the commitment of the Government to promote and protect children’s rights, and Ms. Todorova expressed hope that Angola would be able to deliver on all 11 commitments made to children.
RUTH MADALENA MIXINGE, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Social Action, Family and Promotion of Women of Angola, thanked the Committee for the very warm and cordial welcome, and for the interest expressed in Angola. She noted that the Committee’s interest would be key for improving the wellbeing of children in Angola.
CLARENCE NELSON, Committee Vice-Chairperson, asked the delegation to convey the best regards of the Committee to the Angolan children.
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