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Making the invisible visible – UN expert calls on Armenia to shed light on violence against children

YEREVAN / GENEVA (19 May 2015) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, called on the Armenian Government to devote more attention to the issue of violence against children.

Despite the low figures of cases of child sexual exploitation reflected by the official data, the human rights expert flagged the gaps in terms of child-friendly identification, detection and reporting mechanisms, and urged the national authorities to establish a comprehensive data collection and information system.

“There is a need for the provision of adequate resources and an integrated approach in the domain of child protection,” Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio said at the end of her first official visit* to the country, while calling for the creation of care and recovery services to ensure the rehabilitation and reintegration of children victims of violence and neglect.

The Special Rapporteur called for the incorporation of child participation mechanisms in the development of an effective national child protection system. As a teenage girl told her during her visit in Gyumri: ‘Adults should listen to us when taking decisions that affect our lives.’ Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio asked the Government to make this call a reality with the ultimate goal of better protecting children in Armenia.

The independent expert welcomed the current legislative reform process, and urged legislators to speed it up in order to bring the family code and the criminal code in line with the international obligations of Armenia, including in relation to adoption.

“Adoptions must be governed by the best interest of the child, instead of the prospective adoptive parents, and should constitute a measure of last resort,” she said. She also urged the Government and legislators to prioritize the adoption of the law against domestic violence as an important tool to prevent and combat abuse and violence against children as well as gender inequality.

Among her recommendations, Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio encouraged the Government to shift its focus from institutionalization of children in vulnerable situations and children with disabilities, towards care in family environment and community based services.

What is more, the child protection system has revealed weaknesses, which can be addressed through the appointment at the local level of trained accountable professionals to the Guardianship and Trusteeship Commissions.

“The status of the National Commission for the Protection of the Rights of the Child must be revised to provide it with coordinating and supervisory functions in respect of comprehensive child protection policies” further underlined Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio.

The Special Rapporteur commended the multi-stakeholder coordination work of the inter-agency working group of the juvenile police and the inter-agency bodies to fight trafficking in persons. More importantly, she stressed that these models should be expanded and replicated to combat cases of abuse, violence and exploitation of children.

In respect to the prevalence of child marriage among the Yezidi minority, the human rights expert urged authorities to conduct awareness-rising and engage with leaders of the Yezidi minority to eradicate child marriage.

Regarding the fast-increasing internet penetration rate, Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio noted that it offers many opportunities to Armenians but also requires the education of children and parents about the risks associated with internet usage. “The Government must work with ICT companies, schools and NGOs on digital education campaigns which target both children and parents,” she emphasized.

During her visit to Armenia, from 12 to 18 May, the human rights expert met with Government officials, members of the police, the office of the prosecutor and the judiciary, members of the legislative, the office of the ombudsperson, lawyers, representatives of telecommunications operators, non-governmental organizations working on child protection issues and children themselves.

A final report on the visit will be presented by the Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council in 2016.

(*) Check the full end-of-mission statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=15971&LangID=E

Ms. Maud de Boer-Buquicchio was appointed by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in May 2014. As a Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organisation and serves in her individual capacity. To learn more, visit: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Children/Pages/ChildrenIndex.aspx

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Armenia: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/AMIndex.aspx

For further information and media requests, please contact Ms. Nekane Lavín (+41 22 917 94 02 / nlavin@ohchr.org) or write to srsaleofchildren@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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