Myan­mar child rights law needs fur­ther re­form, ef­fec­tive en­force­ment, says HRW

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS -

Af­ter years of dis­cus­sion and de­bate, Myan­mar has fi­nally en­acted a law to pro­tect the rights of chil­dren.

Con­sis­tent with the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child, which Myan­mar has rat­i­fied, the law de­fines a child as any­one younger than 18 and pro­vides all chil­dren born in Myan­mar have the right to birth reg­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to Hu­man Rights Watch in a re­port this week.

This is im­por­tant, but other short­com­ings need to be ad­dressed, says the rights group.

Myan­mar should re­vise the law to pro­vide all chil­dren with the right to a na­tion­al­ity and not be state­less – there­fore, full cit­i­zen­ship rights. The chil­dren of par­ents Myan­mar does not rec­og­nize as cit­i­zens, no­tably Ro­hingya Mus­lims, or who face dis­crim­i­na­tory ap­pli­ca­tion of the law, such as Ka­man Mus­lims or women traf­ficked to China, are de­nied Myan­mar cit­i­zen­ship. With­out cit­i­zen­ship, chil­dren have dif­fi­culty en­ter­ing school, ob­tain­ing health care, and trav­el­ing in­side the coun­try as well as abroad. Those born in Myan­mar of­ten will be state­less, which in­ter­na­tional law tries to pre­vent.

The child rights law, passed in July, ap­pro­pri­ately sets 18 as the min­i­mum age of mar­riage, re­gard­less of gen­der. Child mar­riage is hard to track in Myan­mar, but the or­ga­ni­za­tion Girls Not Brides es­ti­mates 16 per­cent of girls are mar­ried be­fore they turn 18. Now Myan­mar should cre­ate a na­tional ac­tion plan to end all child mar­riage, align­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of the law to Tar­get 5.3 of the 2030 UN Sus­tain­able Devel­op­ment Goals. Rel­e­vant min­istries should work to­gether and de­velop a com­pre­hen­sive plan con­tain­ing mea­sur­able bench­marks and clear time­lines.

The child rights law now sets the min­i­mum age of em­ploy­ment at 14 years and for­bids chil­dren from do­ing dan­ger­ous forms of la­bor. But the Min­istry of La­bor, Im­mi­gra­tion and Pop­u­la­tion still needs to fi­nal­ize a haz­ardous jobs list. The In­ter­na­tional Labour Or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mates a mil­lion chil­dren are em­ployed in un­der­age and of­ten dan­ger­ous work in Myan­mar. A draft list has been cir­cu­lat­ing for a con­sid­er­able time, and should be fi­nal­ized in con­sul­ta­tion with unions, civil so­ci­ety groups, child rights ad­vo­cates, and em­ploy­ers.

Myan­mar law still has a long way to go in its treat­ment of chil­dren who com­mit crimes. The new law raises the age of crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity from the ridicu­lously low 7 years to 10 years. Even with the change, Myan­mar is one of the low­est age of crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity for chil­dren of any coun­try in the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN). The UN Com­mit­tee on the Rights of the Child has called on gov­ern­ments to set the min­i­mum age of crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity at 12 or higher.

Myan­mar’s child rights law has filled an im­por­tant gap in the law but re­forms still need to be en­acted and im­ple­mented.

Chil­dren play­ing in Yan­gon. Photo: EPA

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