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Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Commends Namibia’s Children’s Parliament, Ask about Measures to Address “Baby Dumping” and Online Sexual Abuse of Children

07 May 2024

The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined fourth to sixth periodic report of Namibia, with Committee Experts commend the State party for establishing a Children’s Parliament and raising questions about measures to address the practice of “baby dumping”, the abandonment of children by young parents, and online sexual abuse of children.

Sopio Kiladze, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Namibia, congratulated Namibia on the positive steps it had taken over the reporting period, including establishing the Children’s Parliament. Another Expert asked about funds had been earmarked for the Parliament and the role of its Advisory Council.

Ms. Kiladze and other Experts welcomed legislation on the protection and care of children, which aimed to tackle the serious problem of “baby dumping”, the abandonment of children by young parents. What had the impact of these praiseworthy measures been? Were there plans to strengthen measures to register children in rural areas?

One Committee Expert said nine per cent of children were reportedly victims of online sexual abuse in Namibia, with 20,000 children being attacked or assaulted online. What measures were in place to grapple with online child abuse? How was the State party enhancing awareness of these crimes and its response to them?

Introducing the report, Doreen Sioka, Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare and head of the delegation, said there were various platforms where children could participate in the law-making process, including the Children’s Parliament, where children from all 14 regions in the country were accorded an opportunity to discuss pertinent issues that affected their rights and wellbeing.

The delegation said the Child Care and Protection Act decriminalised the safe donation of children for adoption. “Baby dumping” was a problem in Namibia. The Government was working to raise awareness of the issue and developing facilities where children could be donated safely, such as “baby boxes”. The Government had increased registration points and created integrated registration services in remote areas that also provided services such as immunisation.

On online child abuse, the delegation said Namibia had developed an awareness raising campaign on the dangers of cybercrime that targeted caregivers and children. The State party was working to improve police officers’ digital literacy and capacity to identify cases of online child abuse. Ms. Sioka added that the Government had developed the Cybercrime Bill, which criminalised acts committed towards children in the digital environment. The Bill was at an advanced stage and would be tabled in Parliament soon.

In closing remarks, Ms. Kiladze said that it had been a constructive dialogue. The Committee would ensure that the issues raised in the dialogue would be addressed in its concluding observations. It hoped that these would be addressed by the State party over the next reporting period. Ann Marie Skelton, Committee Chair, expressed hope that the State party would continue to make progress in implementing the Convention.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Sioka said that the dialogue had helped the State party to identify gaps in its efforts to uphold the Convention. The Government’s commitment to the promotion and protection of children’s rights remained unwavering. It would take all necessary measures to make progress in the areas identified that were consistent with the State’s Constitution, she concluded.

The delegation of Namibia consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare; the Ministry of Justice; and the Permanent Representative and other staff of the Permanent Mission of Namibia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Namibia at the end of its ninety-sixth session on 24 May. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public this afternoon at 3 p.m. to consider the seventh periodic report of Guatemala (CRC/C/GTM/7).

Report

The Committee has before it the combined fourth to sixth periodic report of Namibia (CRC/C/NAM/4-6).

Presentation of Report

DOREEN SIOKA, Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare and head of the delegation, said Namibia had taken measures to ensure the effective implementation of the Convention. The report was drafted in consultation with all relevant Government agencies. Namibia was committed to the protection and promotion of children’s rights as prescribed in the Convention. The Government was guided by a rights-based approach in developing policies and programmes.

The State party had passed the Child Care and Protection Act in 2015 and had established several policies and plans to give effect to this legislation and children’s rights. It had conducted childcare and protection forums to train 543 key stakeholders, including teachers, police officers, community workers and public officials, in compliance with the Act, and had plans to further train stakeholders, including children. It had developed guidelines on the implementation of the Act and child-friendly documentation explaining key provisions therein, including on HIV/AIDS.

The Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare was mandated to coordinate activities to protect children’s rights and address issues involving their wellbeing. It worked to promote the participation of children and non-governmental organizations in policy making. A cabinet of ministers met each quarter to discuss issues involving children, and several regional forums on children’s rights had also been set up. The Government was financing various mechanisms for children. It had increased the amounts of grants per month for children with disabilities, tenants and families with vulnerable children. Shelters and rehabilitation programmes were provided for children who were homeless. Government subsidies were also provided for survivors of gender-based violence living in shelters.

Namibia had developed a Statistics Strategic Plan on Child Protection, which aimed to improve statistics used within child protection sector programming. The National Agenda for Children 2018-2022 had a strategy for regular data collection, report compilation and dissemination of performance. A database established under the Office of the Prime Minister contained disaggregated data on the number of children receiving child grants. Other databases on education, child welfare, health outcomes and cases of violence against children had also been set up.

The Liquor Act aimed to protect children from the harmful effects of alcohol consumption by regulating its sale, advertising and consumption. It prohibited the sale of alcohol to individuals under the legal drinking age of 18 years. The Act supported initiatives aimed at educating the public about the risks of underage drinking and the importance of preventing access to alcohol by minors. The Liquor Amendment Bill, 2016 included provisions regulating the proximity of alcohol outlets to places where children and adolescents congregated.

There were various platforms where children could participate in the law-making process, including the Children’s Parliament, where children from all 14 regions in the country were accorded an opportunity to discuss pertinent issues that affected their rights and wellbeing. These issues were then submitted to various offices to take them further. In addition, when drafting laws, strategies and policies that pertained to children’s issues, separate consultative processes were held to ensure that there was full participation by children. Children also formed part of various coordinating committees, such as the Permanent Task Force on Children, as well as regional platforms.

The Government had taken successful measures to achieve universal birth registration and ensure that all children were registered. More than 90 per cent of births occurred in health facilities. The Government had established registration offices in high volume hospitals, and an integrated service in communities where birth registration and document certification services were provided. The Government had an ongoing national mass registration campaign targeting the registration of 50,000 people. So, far 33,067 people had been registered under this campaign. Birth registration had been fully digitalised and was an integrated part of the e-National Population Registration System.

For stateless persons, the State party issued a non-Namibian birth certificate until citizenship had been determined. There were no express provisions prohibiting the birth registration of any group of people. The Civil Registration and Identification, which made specific reference to registration of births of refugee and stateless children and aimed to intensify mobile registration programmes in remote areas, had been submitted to Parliament. Several other laws had also been implemented to combat statelessness. The Constitution provided for the entrenched rights of the child including the right of every child to have a name and nationality.

The Government had developed a Cybercrime Strategy and Awareness Raising Plan. The primary target group of this Strategy was children and guardians. Various cybersecurity awareness sessions had been conducted, targeting schools and communities, as build up events to the commemoration of the Day of the African Child as well as the celebration of the Day of the Namibian Child, the theme of which focused on children’s rights in the digital environment. The Government had also established the “Safer Internet Day”, which aimed to educate children and their parents on the safe use of the internet. Further, the Government had developed the Cybercrime Bill, which criminalised acts committed towards children in the digital environment. The Bill, though not enacted yet, was at an advanced stage and would be tabled in Parliament soon. The Government was also finalising the Data Protection Bill, which aimed to protect individual privacy rights enshrined in the Constitution and laid down rules about how individual data may be processed or used.

Marriages of children under the age of 18 years were prohibited and punishable under the Child Care and Protection Act. The prohibition applied to civil, customary and religious marriages. The crime was punishable by a fine of up to 50,000 Namibian dollars, imprisonment for up to 10 years, or both. The Government was now in the process of developing a strategy to end child marriages in the country. It had developed materials to raise awareness of the prohibition of child marriages in the country. The Ministry has committed resources for education and advocacy campaigns to address the issues.

Questions by Committee Experts

SOPIO KILADZE, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Namibia, congratulated Namibia on the positive steps it had taken over the reporting period, including introducing the Child Care and Protection Act and establishing the Children’s Parliament. Namibia also faced challenges and the Committee hoped that the State party would work to address those.

The Constitution defined “children” as being persons under 16 years, which contradicted the Convention. What plans were in place to amend the Constitution to ensure that the rights of all persons under age 18 were protected? What measures were in place to allocate sufficient resources to children, including through the establishment of a Children’s Fund? Were there plans to develop mandatory child rights assessment procedures for policies? What was the status of efforts to renew the national action plan on child rights? What resources would be allocated to the plan? The permanent taskforce on children was operational but faced challenges. Did it have a clear mandate and sufficient resources? Would the State party consider promoting coordination between ministries to implement the Convention? There were several under-funded sectors, such as water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition sectors. Were there plans to increase funding in these sectors? What plans were in place to improve resource procurement systems in health and education sectors?

Did the existing data system allow for analysis of child-related data? Did the State party plan to develop indicators of violence against children and trafficking? Did it plan to publish data regularly to better inform stakeholders?

Were there child-friendly complaints mechanisms set up in all sectors? Was legal aid free for child victims? What measures were in place to ensure that children were aware of their rights in the justice system? How were members of the judiciary made aware of children’s rights? Did the State party plan to increase resources for Children’s Advocates? What had been done to disseminate the Convention among children and families? How did the State party cooperate with civil society organizations to implement children’s rights? Were children’s rights incorporated in the national action plan on business? Did the law on business activities include provisions protecting children’s rights?

Birth registration had been improved significantly in Namibia over the reporting period, but there were challenges regarding the registration of children living in rural areas. Were there plans to strengthen measures to register children in rural areas? What plans were in place to address statelessness? Did the State party plan to ratify the Statelessness Convention? What plans were in place to address the practice of “baby dumping”? Were there laws or regulations in place to protect children from threats in the digital environment, and campaigns to promote digital literacy among children?

Another Committee Expert said they greatly appreciated the efforts Namibia had made in the fight against discrimination of children. They welcomed Law 21 of 2018, which had the goal of eliminating obsolete legal provisions, the establishment of a special unit for poverty eradication, and Namibia’s progress in eliminating gender inequality. How effective were the State party’s measures to address discrimination of children from ethnic minorities? Seventy-three per cent of San children suffered from growth deficiencies. How was the State party supporting children living in remote areas? What had been done to promote the best interests of the child in policies and Government activities? Had the State assessed the effectiveness of policies promoting the best interests of the child? Had the Committee’s general comment on the best interests of the child been disseminated among Government officials?

The Expert welcomed the establishment of the Children’s Parliament and the Advisory Council for Children. What funds had been earmarked for the functioning of the Parliament and what was the role of the Advisory Council? What consultations had been held with children on policies affecting them? Had the views of children living in refugee camps been reflected in the State party’s report?

The Expert welcomed legislation on the protection and care of children, which aimed to tackle the serious problem of abandonment of children by young parents. What had the impact of these praiseworthy measures been? Namibia had set up health care services adapted to adolescents. Had staff at service centres been trained to deal appropriately with adolescents?

One Committee Expert said the head of delegation provided many responses to the Committee’s questions in her opening statement. The State party’s effects to gather information on violence against children were positive. Children in Namibia reportedly experienced an alarming level of physical, sexual and psychological violence, which was rarely reported. What progress had been made in implementing the roadmap on preventing violence? What measures were in place to increase the number of social workers and enhance their training? In cases of sexual exploitation and violence, the justice system reacted in a sluggish fashion. A low level of cases had been addressed. What steps had been taken to expedite such criminal proceedings? Many structures working to protect child victims of violence had closed due to a lack of resources. How was the State party addressing these issues?

Nine per cent of children were reportedly victims of online sexual abuse in Namibia, with 20,000 children being attacked or assaulted online. What measures were in place to grapple with online child abuse? How was the State party enhancing awareness of these crimes and its response to them? Regional fora on child rights were positive, but many-faced challenges in terms of resources. How would the State sustain funding for these fora.

The Government had recently repealed legislation on corporal punishment. The Committee believed that a holistic approach to addressing corporal punishment was necessary and promoted the prohibition of corporal punishment in the home. Would the State party make efforts to prohibit corporal punishment in the home and implement measures to eliminate its use in schools? Did the State party have policies addressing harmful cultural practices such as child marriage?

There had been a rise in the number of orphans and there was a lack of funding for support structures for such children. How would the State party promote care of children in a family environment and promote access to the handbook on childrearing in remote areas? What was the relationship between the Government institutes on family affairs and child protection?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said Namibia’s economy had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Government had a lack of resources. The situation was now improving. Grants for children and the elderly had been increased over the reporting period and conditional income grants would be increased in 2025.

The Constitution did not define the age of adulthood as 16. Children needed to participate in compulsory education until age 16 and could not participate in dangerous work until age 16. The age of majority act had been revised to bring the age down from 21 to 18, in line with international standards.

The Children’s Fund had been prioritised by the Government and resources had been established for its establishment this financial year. The Permanent Taskforce was a body made up of stakeholders from various ministries and non-governmental organizations that coordinated activities for children. It reported to the Cabinet of Ministers on the implementation of the national agenda for children and made recommendations for programmes for children.

The Government recognised that access to justice was a fundamental right. It provided legal aid to children under the age of 18. Sixty-nine legal officers were employed in 14 regions to ensure that legal aid was available in each region. A child-friendly court had been built to allow child victims of sexual and gender-based violence to provide testimony in a separate location to alleged offenders. The Government had also implemented measures to promote awareness of legal aid services, including among children. The Children’s Advocate was mandated to investigate complaints of violations of children’s rights. The Ombudsman Bill, which was tabled for Parliament this year, would separate the institution from the Government and strengthen its mandate to protect fundamental rights.

Namibia was amending the Child Care and Protection Act, including to strengthen children’s rights in the business and mining sectors. In this process, it was consulting with key stakeholders, including businesses and children.

There were children who had not had access to identity documents, but the Government had increased registration points and created integrated registration services in remote areas that also provided services such as immunisation. Even in the absence of documents, children could still access education and health care. Refugee children had been able to go to school and enrol in universities. The Government worked with traditional leaders to identify hotspots where children who did not have documents lived and targeted those regions with awareness raising campaigns. The Civil Registration and Identification Bill aimed to ensure that all persons were registered in the civil register, including foreign residents, asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons. The State party had a committee analysing whether Namibia could ratify international conventions such as the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, but it had not decided on whether to ratify the Convention yet.

Namibia had signed the “We Protect” commitment, which aimed to protect children from online sexual exploitation. The Government had developed an awareness raising campaign on the dangers of cybercrime that targeted caregivers and children. A study had been conducted on online child abuse and the Government was working to implement the recommendations of this study. The Government had also developed applications that helped to protect children online.

The Child Care and Protection Act decriminalised the safe donation of children for adoption. “Baby dumping” was a problem in Namibia. The Government was working to raise awareness of the issue and developing facilities where children could be donated safely, such as “baby boxes”. Unemployed mothers could receive State grants. The State party was working to strengthen these measures.

Indigenous children were being mainstreamed in the State education system. Children who had completed grade 12 were encouraged to pursue higher education or vocational training through State funding programmes.

Namibia had developed systematic programmes for promoting the best interests of the child. Training on the Child Care and Protection Act was being provided to social workers, teachers, healthcare providers, parents and other stakeholders. The State determined the best interests of the child in domestic violence cases on a case-by-case basis. The State monitored the condition of children placed in foster care. Children had been consulted on surveys on violence against children and online abuse and in development of various child rights policies. The National Advisory Council investigated issues affecting children and provided recommendations on how to address them. The State needed to revive this body.

A school health taskforce and tools of assessing the needs of adolescents in schools had been established. Community health workers provided reproductive health services at a community level. The State worked with development partners to increase awareness of and access to family planning services. The pregnancy management service was also working toward this aim.

The number of social workers had more than doubled to over 200 throughout the past two years. Access to the services of social workers was thus improving across the State. The State party was also working to establish “social auxiliary workers”.

Namibia had a national plan on violence against children. The State party was encouraging the community, including child victims themselves, to report such violence, and was advising police officers on how to protect and interact with child victims. It had trained stakeholders on how to identify victims of child abuse. Police could remove victimised children from their homes and place them in childcare facilities.

Questions by Committee Experts

One Committee Expert said major investments had been made in education in Namibia; 20 per cent of the latest budget had been allocated to education. What measures were in place to promote access to early education, particularly in rural areas and for minorities? Had the State party attained its objectives in terms of enrolment in compulsory education? There were concerns about the prevalence of school dropouts. How was the State party tackling this issue? Had human rights been incorporated into the school curriculum and were teachers trained on children’s rights? What measures were in place to promote access to leisure?

Could the State party provide statistics on the proportion of teenage pregnancies? Had the State’s policies and laws had an impact on reducing teenage pregnancy? There were reports that teenagers were hesitant to utilise reproductive health facilities due to the negative attitudes of their staff. How would the State party address this issue?

Another Committee Expert asked about strategies being implemented to improve early detection of disabilities and to address social stigma regarding disability. Was the State party working to align its inclusive education policy with international standards? The Expert welcomed that the State party had increased pensions for children with disabilities. However, there were shortcomings in schools in terms of reasonable accommodation of children. How would the State party increase the number of schools adapted to children with disabilities and the number of interpreters for deaf children? Children with albinism were reportedly rejected within their families. How was the State party addressing this?

SOPIO KILADZE, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Namibia, on behalf of ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Chair, asked about the reasons for the “brain drain” of health professionals out of the country and measures to address it. Why had the State party not met its target for improving nutrition levels? Legal grounds for abortions remained restrictive. Were there plans to revise them? What was the timeline for adopting the mental health bill? What were the current rates of HIV/AIDS? What measures were in place to prevent mother-to-child transmission?

How was the State party working to promote children’s resilience to climate change, protect water resources and reduce water-borne diseases? How was it regulating businesses that harmed the environment? Was it including child rights impact assessments in procedures for assessing development proposals?

What amendments was the State party making to the Refugee Act? Where did children wait while their asylum requests were being processed? The Government needed to raise the minimum age of employment to 16 years and the minimum age of employment in hazardous jobs to 18. Was it considering doing this? Was the number of street children increasing? Had the State party considered implementing the Barnahus model for the protection of child victims of sexual abuse? Children reportedly continued to be held in pretrial detention for long periods. What measures were in place to promote alternatives to detention and to keep children out of the justice system?

Ms. Kiladze, in her follow-up questions, said that there were several drafts of bills being developed and several bills before Parliament. How would the Parliament address its backlog of bills to assess? Was the Children’s Fund currently functional? Legal aid appeared to be accessible in all regions, but was it free for all children in all cases?

Another Committee Expert asked about mechanisms in maternity hospitals for registering children. Was there a time limit for registration and were there costs involved? What follow-up had been undertaken regarding the national action plan on promoting birth registration? What did the State do with abandoned children? About 23 per cent of schools did not have healthcare facilities. How would Namibia make toilets and water, sanitation and hygiene facilities available in schools?

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said that when an abandoned baby came into the State’s care, the State sought first to locate the baby’s parents, and when that was not possible, the baby was put up for adoption. The State registered all abandoned children and provided them with necessary care.

Namibia had taken measures to improve access to education for children from marginalised groups. The Government had constructed early childhood development centres in remote areas and was providing subsidies for teachers’ salaries and learning materials at these centres. Further, the Government provided transport to school for marginalised children and cosmetic packs for girls staying at boarding schools. The Government identified children in need of support and had integrated around 350 homeless children into schools last year. Support programmes encouraging secondary school graduates to continue to university were also in place and measures to improve literacy rates and increase the quality of primary education had been developed. Dropout and repetition rates had declined thanks to these measures.

Namibia prohibited discrimination on the grounds of disability and promoted equal rights of persons with disabilities. The Government provided sign language interpretation to persons with disabilities who had experienced violence and had facilitated training for police officers and other officials on sign language. It had also trained health practitioners on early detection of disability. The Ministry of Education was finalising accessibility standards for schools. It provided education grants for children with disabilities that were five times higher than the grants provided to other children. The State party had not received complaints of discrimination against persons with albinism, who qualified for the disability grant and were provided with lotion and other treatments specific to their condition. Namibia was reviewing its disability policy to promote integration and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities.

The State party was not aware of the number of children who were eligible for State grants, but more than 373,000 children were currently benefiting from those grants. The Government was conducting campaigns to educate the community on how to apply for grants.

Namibia had a national policy on climate change that incorporated sector-specific strategies, including strategies for protecting the rights of children. People living in rural areas participated in planning and implementation of climate change policies. Climate change and gender were addressed in training modules for public officials.

Legal aid was free for minors and pensioners. Courts could order that legal aid be granted to children if their caregivers could not afford it. The Government was constructing courts specialised in gender-based violence in various regions. Electronic filing systems for courts had been introduced, and 10 court rooms had been equipped with victim-friendly facilities. Magistrates were on duty after business hours to respond to complaints of domestic violence immediately. Mobile units provided information on State legal aid services to the community, including children.

The Child Justice Bill specifically defined the age of legal capacity. Police and prosecutors had been trained on international standards for working with children. A project was underway to promote alternatives to detention such as community service for juvenile offenders. Namibia had legislation calling for adults and juveniles to be detained separately. There were currently seven convicted juveniles in detention and seven juveniles in pretrial detention. They participated in arts and crafts workshops and vocational education programmes.

Child labour was prohibited in Namibia. The State party had signed the International Labour Organization Convention 182 on the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention. Labour inspectors conducted inspections of businesses to identify cases of child labour.

Namibia did not practice conscription or any form of forced military service. Candidates were required to prove that they were adults. Namibia was ranked sixth in the Sub-Saharan region on the Global Peace Index.

The Child Justice Bill and the Civil Marriage Bill were among the bills to be tabled in Parliament this year. The bills on sexual and gender-based violence and mental health were still being drafted. Fourteen bills would be tabled in Parliament this year.

A parliamentary committee had consulted with citizens regarding abortion legislation. Most of the public did not endorse abortion. Currently, citizens were able to access abortions if they had medical conditions or if the abortion was the result of rape. The Government was promoting various support services for persons who fell pregnant. It was recruiting and training a growing number of foster parents, had established facilities for housing orphan children, and provided financial support to single parent families. Private orphanages were subsidies by the State.

There were 28,000 children living with HIV in Namibia. Ninety-five per cent of children had access to antiretroviral therapy; the Government’s target in this regard was 100 per cent access. Namibia had achieved a 70 per cent reduction of vertical mother-to-child transmission of HIV in the last 20 years. In 2022, only four per cent of babies born to mothers living with HIV acquired the virus. As a result, the World Health Organization had awarded Namibia “bronze tier” status for its progress on eliminating HIV. Mothers who registered the births of their children immediately received birth certificates.

The Ministry of Education had a strategic plan to build toilets and improve access to clean water in schools. This was a priority for the Government. Flushing toilets had been built in 82 per cent of schools, and over 80 per cent of schools currently had access to clean water.

The State party was working to place asylum seeker children outside of refugee camps and determine their status. The Government had made no requests to repatriate asylum seeker children and funded their basic and tertiary education.

Namibia had a national committee working to support homeless children and a programme promoting these children’s rehabilitation and integration into families and schools. Four million Namibian dollars had been spent on developing a rehabilitation centre for homeless children, which would be operational soon. The Children’s Fund was not yet functional. There were finances allocated for the establishment of this Fund. The State party would make the Fund operational soon.

Questions by Committee Experts

One Committee Expert said the Committee was concerned about the establishment of “baby boxes”. Could the State party explain its policy in this regard? There was only one school in the north of the country that had been adapted for children with disabilities. Could the delegation share the results of the recent survey on the accessibility of schools? Many regional courts had been closed due to a lack of funding. How would the State party ensure that these courts were maintained? Was the State party planning a holistic approach to tackling corporal punishment?

A Committee Expert asked about measures to ensure equitable distribution of financial resources to improve children’s results in school. Had there been an assessment of the results of the State’s Development Plan? How were plans for promoting early childhood development coordinated? What early education support was provided to children with disabilities?

Another Committee Expert asked why 22 per cent of children were not registered. How would the State party support more children to access birth certificates? What support was provided for homeless children in support centres? Were there campaigns being rolled out to eradicate child marriage and programmes to support women with obstetric fistula? What was the situation of young people living with HIV/AIDS? Were there bodies established that dealt specifically with issues related to adoption? Had the State party signed the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction?

One Committee Expert welcomed that there was a low number of detained children in Namibia. The State party needed to aim to house children in separate detention centres from adults. Were there plans to address this issue? Would the State party work to identify the number of children who were eligible to receive State grants? Most child pregnancies were not voluntary. Did the State party have any programmes or policies to raise awareness of the dangers of early pregnancies?

A Committee Expert asked how the State party ensured access to early development centres in remote areas, and how it oversaw their quality and ensured that they had appropriate funding. Did children with disabilities have access to these centres, and were there teachers in the centres who were trained to accommodate children with disabilities?

Another Committee Expert asked whether Namibia had developed policies supporting the inclusion of children with disabilities into the mainstream educational system.

One Committee Expert congratulated Namibia on its progress in reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Its achievements were highly commendable. Had the State party identified gaps in legislation that would help it work with other countries to address child pornography and child trafficking?

ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Chair, said Namibia had a heavy reliance on residential care. Had it considered removing perpetrators of sexual violence from homes rather than victims? Was it using technology to allow victims to provide testimonies remotely? Ms. Skelton welcomed that the Child Justice Bill would be tabled in Parliament this year and asked about the State party’s plans to prevent pre-trial detention of children. The Committee called for decriminalisation of abortion. Lawmakers needed to be courageous in this regard.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the State party was addressing the issue of child abandonment. Baby boxes were set up at early development centres. These were boxes with an alarm system to notify staff when a baby had been placed inside. The State party was facilitating international adoption based on the rules of the Hague Convention. Intercountry adoptions were restricted to adoptions by Namibians living abroad. Adoptive parents were assessed, registered and matched with children based on set criteria. Most abandoned babies were put up for adoption. Namibia did not have a law on surrogacy. The State party was considering whether to allow or prohibit surrogacy. There were cases where the State had helped surrogate mothers to register their children.

Namibia had an early detection and intervention programme for children with disabilities. Tests were conducted in hospitals after children were born to check for abnormalities. Health workers also visited households to perform tests for disabilities. Training was provided to teachers on identifying disabilities and supporting children with disabilities at school.

Namibia had conducted awareness raising campaigns on the effects of child marriage since 2014. It had conducted formative studies on child marriage and developed recommendations and strategies for ending child marriage. Child marriage was prohibited in legislation.

The School Safety Framework was being implemented at schools. Corporal punishment at schools was banned. Teachers who had engaged in corporal punishment had been prosecuted. The State party was developing policies to discourage the use of corporal punishment at home.

Previously, the State party had conducted a campaign in 2016 that identified around 55,000 vulnerable children who were eligible for State grants. Around 40,000 of these children had since been provided with grants, and the State party was working to provide grants to the remaining 15,000. It was developing a system for identifying vulnerable children in a timely manner.

The Government had developed guidelines on the Child Justice Bill that aimed to strengthen child welfare services and reduce the number of children who came in conflict with the law. The State party agreed that children needed to be separated from adults in detention centres. The current arrangement was a temporary measure implemented while prison facilities were being constructed and renovated. Children were placed in different buildings within prisons from adults. Correctional workers inspected the wellbeing of juveniles in prisons. Namibia issued warnings for minor offences such as petty theft to reduce detention of juveniles. The Child Justice Bill made an allocation for a child justice court and specified how the court operated. The gender-based violence protection unit in one region could take video statements from victims, and there were plans to expand this unit across the country.

The first option that a social worker considered in cases of domestic violence against children was separation from the perpetrator or transfer of victims to extended family members. Placing victims in State care was a last resort measure.

Children with disabilities were placed in mainstream schools. The Government was working to ensure that children with disabilities could access early childhood development centres, which were constructed to meet accessibility standards. The Government allocated budgets for constructing these centres in different regions based on the needs of those regions.

The State party had developed policies to support police officers to identify trafficking cases. The State party was working with the United Nations Children's Fund and Interpol to improve police officers’ digital literacy and capacity to identify cases of online child abuse, and to improve families’ awareness of the issue. Psychosocial support was provided for the victims of online child abuse and trafficking.

There were interim shelters in which homeless children were accommodated until a family or school placement could be found. The Government funded these children’s education and transport to school. It planned to expand the rehabilitation centre for homeless children in future.

Young people could receive HIV testing without the permission of their parents. Civil society was implementing the “Dreams Project”, in which spaces were established where children could discuss concerns related to HIV and reproductive health. Various awareness raising campaigns were conducted in schools and communities concerning HIV, family planning and sexual and reproductive health.

Concluding Statements

SOPIO KILADZE, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Namibia, said that it had been a constructive dialogue. The Committee would ensure that the issues raised would be addressed in its concluding observations. It hoped that these would be addressed by the State party over the next reporting period.

JULIA IMENE-CHANDURU, Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, on behalf of DOREEN SIOKA, Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare and head of the delegation, said that the dialogue had helped the State party to identify gaps in its efforts to uphold the Convention. The Government’s commitment to the promotion and protection of children’s rights remained unwavering. Reviews by the Committee helped Namibia to reflect on its human rights obligations. The delegation thanked the Committee for acknowledging the State’s progress in implementing the Convention and for identifying areas where further efforts were needed. The Government would take all necessary measures to make progress in the areas identified that were consistent with the State’s Constitution. Namibia had experienced dwindling donor funding for several important initiatives. It called on the international community to support the State party’s efforts to uphold the rights of the child. In closing, Ms. Sioka thanked the Committee for its constructive spirit.

ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Chair, said that the Committee and the State party were working together to improve the situation of children in Namibia. It hoped that the State party would continue to make progress in implementing the Convention.


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