24 January 2001
Welcomes Government's Enactment of Code for Minors,
Urges Strengthening of Data Collection
The Committee on the Rights of the Child completed its public review this afternoon of an initial report of the Dominican Republic, calling, in preliminary remarks, on the Government to take into account the plan of action adopted at the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and to adopt the Convention against Torture.
An Expert, speaking on behalf of the Committee, welcomed the enactment of the Code for Minors in the Dominican Republic, which was important as a base for further development of a national plan of action. The Expert also said, among other things, that the Government should strengthen data collection and should give priority to allocation of funds for children. The Member State should also combat economic and social disparities and should advocate non-discrimination regarding children with disabilities.
Formal, written conclusions and recommendations on the report of the Dominican Republic will be issued towards the end of this week before the Committee adjourns its three-week winter session on Friday, 26 January.
Over the course of the meeting, Committee members commented that child prostitution was a double concern because of the involvement of children in prostitution and the increase in cases of HIV/AIDS; while tourism was encouraged as a source of income to the Dominican Republic, child prostitution was increasing parallel to it, the Experts said.
The delegation stated, among other things, that the Government was working on projects to tackle the problem of child prostitution. To that end, police were carrying out investigations to pinpoint the areas where such practices were carried out; the tourism industry was the main cause for the generation of prostitution as in other countries. It was hoped that with the additional measures to be taken by the Government, child prostitution would be reduced and then eradicated, the delegation said.
The report of the Dominican Republic was presented this morning by a seven-person Government delegation whose members passed the day responding to questions put by Committee Experts. Discussion this afternoon continued on the main subjects of family environment and alternative care; basic health and welfare; education, leisure, and cultural activities; and special protection measures.
The Dominican Republic is among the 191 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and on that basis it is obliged to present periodic reports to the Committee explaining how it was implementing the provisions of the treaty.
When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 25 January, it will meet in private to act on remaining draft conclusions on country reports already considered. The Committee is expected to conclude its three-week session on 26 January after issuing its final concluding observations and recommendations on the nine country reports it has examined.
During the meeting, the discussion continued on the remaining clusters of the main issues of family environment and alternative care; basic health and welfare; education, leisure, and cultural activities; and special protection measures.
Responding to questions raised this morning, the Dominican delegation said that the Government was aware of cases of police brutality in which minors were the victims. The Government was prompted to modernize the police and enact the Code for Minors in order to cope with the occurrence of brutality against children. In addition, the establishment of a special police was envisaged to guarantee the freedom of opinion of children.
To perpetuate the family tradition, many children from poor families were placed with more well-to-do families in the name of procuring a better education, the delegation said. However, these children, instead of having a better education, were exploited and used as domestic servants.
Street children were considered a sign of family disintegration in the country, the delegation said; there were an increasing number of single parent families. The problem of street children was being taken care of by a number of non-governmental organizations which provided support and psychological assistance to those minors. However, resolving this problem needed external technical and economic assistance. The Dominican Republic had the necessary infrastructure to provide street children with education and training, the delegation said; however, what the country lacked was the technical know-how and assistance in the field; and the Government was expecting much from the international community.
Adoption was regulated by law, the delegation said; and a certificate of aptness to adopt a child should be filed before the process was started. Other criteria should also be fulfilled, such as certificates of marriage and income. If it concerned international adoption, the procurator general should examine the compatibility of the adoption with international norms. On the part of biological parents, a certificate of abandonment of the child should be submitted. In the process of the adoption, the views of the child were considered to reflect the child's best interest.
Children who were victims of violence and difficulties were placed in rehabilitation shelters, especially girls who were victims of such abuses, the delegation said. The Government had build such homes in which girl victims were given assistance and were later integrated into the society.
Birth certificates were compulsory in order to have access to education, but because of traditional beliefs, some families did not even bother to note the birth date of their children, the delegation said. With regard to Haitian children, the problem was an historical one; the children came and went as they wished and there was no constant attendance of school; pregnant Haitian women had access to health facilities; and if there was a case of denial of access, it was an isolated case.
In order to increase school attendance in remote areas, the Government was endeavouring to build additional schools, the delegation said. The measure was part of the plan to modernize the educational system in the country.
Children did not participate in the decision-making process in their schools, the delegation said. However, at the secondary level, students participated in choosing their teachers and subjects.
At present, the number of school drop-outs was not determined due to the lack of statistical data, the delegation said. The Government was working on establishing the numbers of teachers, students, and other statistics dealing with education.
Committee members continued to query the Dominican delegation on a number of issues. An Expert observed that because of the involvement of children in prostitution, and with the risk of the spread of HIV/AIDS, the situation was considered of great concern. While tourism was encouraged as a source of income to the country, child prostitution was increasing parallel to it. Had the Government taken any drastic measures to correct the situation?
What was the situation of child labour, asked an Expert. Children were working in sugar and coffee plantations and used as domestic servants.
Educational programmes were concentrated in urban areas to the detriment of the rural regions, an Expert remarked; did the Government realize that situation and had it taken measures to rectify it?
An Expert asked whether the courts and non-governmental organizations were cooperating in the handling of juvenile offenders before and after they were sentenced. The Expert said that considering the number of offenders, the country's prisons were too small to accommodate them. Did the Government envisage to extend prison facilities? Were child offenders imprisoned with adult inmates?
Responding to the Committee's questions, the delegation said that the issuance of birth certificates was free of charge and every child had the right to have one. Measures had also been taken concerning children of Haitian origin who were born in the State or belonged to Haitian migrant families regarding their access to birth registration, education, health care and other social services.
The Government was working on projects to tackle the problem of child prostitution and to that end the police were carrying out investigations to pinpoint the areas where such practices were carried out, the delegation said. The Government had also increased its vigilance so that such activities were not expanded to other areas. The Government had realized that the tourism industry was the main cause for the generation of prostitution as in other countries. It was hoped that with the additional measures to be taken by the Government, child prostitution would be reduced and then eradicated. With the help of the Catholic Church, programmes had been implemented to eradicate child prostitution in some areas.
The Dominican Republic had ratified the main International Labour Office (ILO) conventions on child labour and was implementing their provisions, the delegation said; efforts to implement the provisions in areas where children were employed, particularly in the agricultural field, had been made in collaboration with the ILO. A pilot project had been set up in some areas where child labour was dominant.
Children in conflict with the law received fair treatment in police custody and in prisons, the delegation said; at present, the country did not have the necessary infrastructure to enable young offenders to be detained in different premises apart from those for adult prisoners. There were only two detention centres for juveniles from all regions of the country.
There was a school for the judiciary where judges received continuous on-the-job training, the delegation said. Such training enabled the judges to update their knowledge and to be effective in their judgement.
On behalf of the Committee, an Expert said the dialogue had been fruitful and frank, and the delegation had been cooperative in responding to the Committee's questions. The Dominican Republic should be congratulated for the work it has carried out for its children.
The Expert said the Committee welcomed the enactment of the Code for Minors, which was important as a base for further development of a national plan of action; it found as a positive aspect the measure to strengthen the coordinating role of the governing body in an effective manner at national, regional and local levels, and to have broader NGO participation. The Committee recommended, among other things, that the Government strengthen data collection; give priority to allocation of funds for children; further continue dissemination, social mobilization and training activities on the rights of the child; combat economic and social disparities and advocate non-discrimination regarding children with disabilities; take into account the plan of action adopted at the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children which had been held in Stockholm; and adopt the Convention against Torture.
* *** *