The rights of the child in the amended constitution
July 4, 2004
Copies of our amended constitution are now available and should be in the hands of all those who bemoan the sad state of our economy and who wish to see a reversal of our fortunes.
Last week I mentioned article 13 of the con- stitution which seeks to allow citizens to participate in decision-making. Patrick Denny, Editor of Current Affairs, a supplement of the Stabroek News, in the issue of June 16 also mentioned this article and said that it is now for the government to create the environment which would allow this to happen.
Today I will refer to articles 212U and 212V of our constitution, which deals with the Rights of the Child Commission. This commission is intended to promote initiatives that reflect and enhance the well-being and rights of the child.
There are two categories of members: First, not less than five and not more than 15 members with the ministry responsible for children's affairs and the Ministry of Education and others determined by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all the elected members of the National Assembly.
Secondly, a member who shall be a nominee, without the right to vote, chosen by and from each of the following commissions : the Human Rights Commission, Ethnic Relations Commission, Women and Gender Commission and Indigenous Peoples Commission.
The functions of this commission include the promotion of the rights and interests and respect for the views of the child.
The commission has to ensure that the rights and interests of children are taken into account at all levels of the government, other public bodies and private organisations when decisions and policies affecting children are taken.
There is at present a Commission on the Rights of the Child. This commission has to monitor compliance and make recommendations for the compliance with international instruments to which the government accedes from time to time, including those already acceded to and which relate to the purpose of the commission.
The commission is therefore required to monitor compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child which the government ratified in 1991.
There are 41 articles in this convention. Those that caught my eye are listed hereunder.
Article 18: States parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child.
States parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for the care of children.
States parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities for which they are eligible.
There is the right of the child to free primary education. This is to be compulsory. With this right one would expect that there is a right to have the means of attending school. Many children are deprived of consistent education because they lack the clothes, shoes and nourishment to attend school. Children who are hungry are unable to pay attention in classes.
With this right is the right to physical education. Girls, in particular, have little opportunity to participate in games.
Little is done to comply with Article 29 which advocates that the education of the child shall be directed to the development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.
Article 37 enjoins that no child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. "The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time."
Then it provides that "Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority and to a prompt decision on any such action."