COMMITTEE ON RIGHTS OF CHILDREN CONCLUDES CONSIDERATION OF INITIAL REPORT OF GREECE
16 January 2002
Expert, in Preliminary Remarks, Recommends
Carrying out a Study on Child Abuse
The Committee on the Rights of the Child this afternoon concluded its review of an initial report of Greece, saying, in preliminary remarks, that a study should be carried out on the phenomenon of child abuse and measures had to be taken to break the vicious circle of abuse by perpetrators.
In preliminary observations, a Committee Expert said, among other things, that the focus in Greek society should be on right-centred measures, instead of a paternalistic approach to children; a study should be carried out on the phenomenon of child abuse and measures had to be taken to break the vicious circle of abuse by the perpetrators; and while the offender was punished, the child-victim should be rehabilitated in order to recover his or her dignity.
Responding to questions raised by Committee Experts, the members of the Greek delegation said that isolated cases of xenophobia might have happened in the country as in all other countries. However, it was rare that aggression against foreigners took place due to the society's tradition of tolerance; and no Greek political parties had manifested xenophobic attitudes in the past.
The delegation also said that the situation of street children was a new phenomenon in Greece, and the Government, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, had created centres and child-villages to resolve the problem; the centres provided free health, educational and psychological services, including pocket money, until the children finally returned to their families.
Final, written concluding observations and recommendations on the initial report of Greece will be released by the Committee towards the end of its three-week session, which will conclude on 1 February.
As one of the 191 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Greece is obligated to provide the Committee with periodic reports on how it was giving effect to the provisions of the treaty. A 14-member Greek delegation was on hand throughout the day to present the report and to answer questions raised by the 10-member Committee.
When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 17 January, it will meet in private before taking up the initial report of Gabon at 3 p.m.
Responding to questions raised by Committee Experts this morning, the members of the Greek delegation said that isolated cases of xenophobia might have taken place in the country as in all other countries. However, there was no aggression against foreigners because of the society's tradition of tolerance. No Greek political parties had manifested xenophobic attitudes in the past. In addition, those who carried out acts against foreigners could face criminal charges and punishment.
Asked about the status of statelessness, the delegation said that the Government had adopted the 1954 convention on statelessness and measures had been taken to reduce the number of stateless persons through naturalization processes. Greek law maintained a combination of the acquisition nationality jure sanguinis and jure soli. The child born of a Greek man or woman acquired Greek nationality at birth, regardless of where the child was born. Greek nationality was also acquired at birth by any child born on Greek territory, unless it acquired at birth a foreign nationality. The application of the jure soli helped to avoid the undesirable phenomenon of children being born without nationality.
Responding to a question on artificial insemination, the delegation said that each sperm bank was obliged to keep records showing the particular donor whose sperm was used for the artificial insemination of specific recipients. The records were confidential; however, a child had a legal interest and might be informed, through the judicial channels, of the identity of its natural father.
Concerning the Roma population, the delegation said that a social reinsertion programme in matters of health had been implemented, particularly to vaccinate all Roma children. However, many Roma parents were suspicious of the programme and were reluctant to accept the services proposed in health matters. The Government could not compel a family that did not want to vaccinate its children to do so. In most Greek schools, vaccination was prerequisite to enrolment. Although some Roma representatives were collaborating in 51 municipalities, the situation of fully integrating the Roma within the Greek society had met with difficulties.
Concerning the issue of abortion, it was practised in an unofficial manner, and it was difficult to collect information from private clinics that were reluctant to disclose any numbers. It was estimated that 200,000 abortions took place every year and the expenses were covered by the social security schemes. No reports were registered with regard to maternal mortality following abortion because of high standard technologies. However, the tendency of every Greek family was not to have more than two children.
The cases of abuse and neglect of minors amounted to 382 in total between 1998 and 2000, the delegation said. Children might be abused by their parents, persons in charge of their upbringing or persons belonging to their environment. Because of their dependence, it was hard for children to report abuse to authorities. Most of the offences of sexual abuse were prosecuted.
The Ombudsman that was created in 1998 was child-friendly, the delegation said; it had so far received 25,000 complaints in connection with human rights issues and State-citizenship relationships. Besides children, other members of vulnerable groups were also turning to the office of the Ombudsman to lodge complaints of all nature.
The Committee members continued to raise questions under the main subjects of basic health and welfare; education, leisure and cultural activities; and special protection measures. They asked, among other things, if children had choices of educational subjects in accordance with their interests; about trafficking in children; why 12 per cent of the children population was not attending school at all; the situation of street children and the measures taken to reinsert them into society; access to primary health by Roma children; why pre-school education was run exclusively by females; and why breastfeeding was declining in the country.
In Greece, there was only one officially recognized minority, namely the Muslim minority of Thrace. This religious minority consists of persons of Turkish origin, Pomaks and Roma, the delegation said. The Greek policy was one of integration and not assimilation in all fields, including education. A multicultural educational system had been adopted to fulfil the aspirations of all other groups in the country.
The Government had taken measures to socially integrate disabled persons in conjunction with non-governmental organizations, the delegation said. Vocational training was also made available to disabled persons, including children who reached a certain level of education. In addition, there were 22 centres to deal with children with disabilities.
Only students at the upper secondary schools had the possibility of choosing courses, the delegation said. The dropout rate in the Greek educational system was not precisely known, the delegation said. In order to prevent school dropouts, measures had been taken to deal with children having difficulties in learning; and night schools were provided.
The situation of street children was a new phenomenon in Greece, the delegation said; the Government, in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, had created centres and child-villages to resolve the problem of street children; and the centres provided free health, educational and psychological services, including pocket money, until the children returned to their families.
In preliminary observations, a Committee Expert said that the dialogue with the Greek delegation had been fruitful; the final concluding observations and recommendations would be issued in a public session on 1 February, the last day of the Committee's three-week session. The Expert said that the focus in Greek society should be on right-centred measures, instead of a paternalistic approach to children. A study should be carried out on the phenomenon of child abuse and measures had to be taken against the vicious circle of abuse by perpetrators who repeated the act; and while the offender was punished, the child-victim should be rehabilitated in order to recover his or her dignity. Further, education should be provided not only to children but to adults on tolerance.
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