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Abuse of Street Children Without Legal Protection

Problems and Basic Recommendations

link check: 2 January 2003    page redesign 21 May 2018
Basic Recommendations
Development and Location of Support Groups
Recommendations from the field
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Lack of legal protection of street children and de facto immunity of civil authorities

Factors Creating the Problem
Major Factors
Increasing numbers of children without primary caretakers congregating in urban centers
Lack of sufficient organized community facilities to handle the needs of this population
De facto immunity of civil authorities which operate outside of the justice system
Survival needs and lack of legitimate resources often bring children into contact with the civil authority structure
Legitimate attempts to work, provide shelter, etc. often contravene rules or laws some of which under different circumstances were instituted to protect children (i.e. child labor laws)
Negative image of the street children

Associated Factors
Insufficient accountability of sectors of civil authority to the larger community
Inadequate legal structure to handle this relatively new situation in many societies
Incomplete adherence to rules and laws which directly effect this population

1 Issue or arrange for issuance of ID cards by an NGO, local or national civil authority
2 Call for support, amending, instituting laws protecting the children against abuse by civil authorities
3 Develop legal channels for the protection and redress of grievances of the child within and outside of the civil structure
4 Development and location of moral, media, financial support groups (governmental or NGOs) within or outside of the community
5 Call for support, amending, and institution of laws protecting the children against extra-legal treatment by civil authorities

Detailed Solutions or Recommendations    to top
Issuance of ID cards

Brief Description
Arrange for each child to receive a card with his identity, photo, name and the name and contact information of a person in authority who is responsible for the child.

This is being done in certain cities in India so that the child is not nameless, and without support when confronted by authorities
Card issuance or possession should not be required.

Alternatives within Solution
Institute a buddy system so that individuals are not alone during certain hours of the day
Provide each group with a mobile phone for contact purposes
Cards may be provided by a sub agency of the government by an NGO or by the regular licensing authorities and may be special cards or regular identity cards

Problems within Solution
Obtaining licensing authority
Obtaining recognition of the ID cards as legitimate
Acceptance by children of carrying any form of ID
Branding effect of the cards
Misplaced, stolen or misuse of the cards.
Obtaining authorities, individuals, or NGOs willing to be the contact any time day or night in emergencies.

Card creating mechanisms. Card should be water proof, durable, not easily forged.
Registration may or may not be kept.

Limitations of Solution
Type of identity card may depend on the attitude of the established authority regarding the street children.
Regular identity cards possessed by most citizens may be the most suitable in certain circumstances. This may mean more problems in obtaining the cards.

Preparations Needed
The acceptance by someone in authority of the idea of issuing ID cards and the establishment of rules and regulations regarding the use of the cards, the use of the information provided on the cards.

Counter Indications (when not effective)
If there is no acceptance of the Cards in the civil authority structure, then the cards may be counter productive, being used as a way of branding and identifying the child as basically unattached and therefore vulnerable.
Records kept on identity cards may be taken or confiscated by civil authorities.
Cards may be misused
Cards may be stolen or forged to gain certain protection, status, support, protection of true identity.

DEVELOPMENT AND LOCATION OF SUPPORT GROUPS (moral, media, financial,governmental or NGOs, within or outside of the community)      to top

The greater the number or the prominence of the groups interested in the condition and instituting help for street children, the more visible the individuals are as a group, the more protection as well as help the children will have. However, this interest and support must be itself visible. Therefore, there must be media coverage at different levels of the society and in the international community.

Limitations of Solution
With greater visibility comes greater emphasis on specific failures being highlighted with a possible boomerang effect.

Side Effects
Publicity may be counterproductive. Visibility may be unwanted, or exposure may have unwanted or damaging consequences.

May lead to potential helping agents to turn elsewhere if a problem appears to be already handled "successfully".
Produces a halo effect for particular groups highlighted, thereby drawing children who might not otherwise be drawn into the situation.

Recommendations from the field - Remedies against abuse of street children by civil authorities    to top
The following is a generalization from one of the best set of recommendations found. Based on an investigation by Human Rights Watch in India between during 02-03/95 and 12/95-01/96.
Source: Ganesan, Arvind, Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Project, Human Rights Watch/Asia November 1996.POLICE ABUSE AND KILLINGS OF STREET CHILDREN IN INDIA
Also see recommendations to the United Nations and to national governments:
Children's Rights - Summary and Recommendations, Human Rights Watch 2001
Index to full report Easy Targets - Violence Against Children Worldwide
See, in particular Conclusion and Detailed Recommendations Regarding Violence Against Children

It is reproduced here only as a format and incentive to create new laws and procedures to protect this vulnerable population.

  • Call for support, amending, and instituting laws protecting the children against abuse by civil authorities.

  • Request through recognized national or international bodies for the implementation of previous national or local recommendations on human rights, judicial and custody, investigative procedures, etc.

  • Call on the government for full implementation of any existing laws currently ignored regarding juveniles which will better their position, safety, prosecution, and treatment of detainees under the law.

  • Call on the government to fulfill its obligations under conventions, international laws regarding the child which it has ratified, and help in the ratification of those international conventions not yet ratified.

  • Call for the enforcement of laws requiring payment of compensation for people who have been victims of custodial abuse

  • Call for amendments to regulations regarding custodial abuse, for the setting up of civilian, judicial and police complaint bodies for cases of abuse, requiring a mandatory judicial inquiry in cases of custodial death or rape and compensation to families of people who have died in custody or have been victims of custodial abuse.

  • Call for amendments of procedures requiring government approval for lifting immunity in custodial abuse or illegal detention cases.

  • Amend Criminal Procedure to require independent medical examination (including age verification) at the time of detention, and periodically during detention with different examiners at the beginning and end to ensure validity which would protect both the child from abuse, and civil authorities from unjust claims of abuse.

  • Call for amendments to laws in accordance with The Convention on the Rights of the Child which gives the right of freedom of association which among other rights will allow children to form and participate in trade unions.

  • Review all laws relating to child labor and the Juvenile Justice Act to ensure that the implementation of these laws does not result in criminalizing children who are forced to work.

  • Establish a civilian review board comprised of NGO representatives, judges, and lawyers to monitor police stations. Members of the review boards should be adequately trained and provided access to lock-ups and detention registers.

  • Establish a high level commission to investigate allegations of custodial abuse and killings of children.

  • Institute prompt and thorough investigations by independent agency with subpoena power of all complaints of illegal detention, physical abuse, and killings of children by civil authorities, and prosecute the responsible

  • Institute investigations of all complaints of extortion and bribes from children, their families, or NGO representatives working with street children and prosecute the responsible

  • Require the registration of each child taken into custody including the time, date, and reason for detention. Such registries should be subject to frequent mandatory review by a judicial magistrate.

  • Conduct a census of street children through city-wide surveys with the assistance of non governmental organizations (NGOs). Without an accurate estimate of the population of street children, it is difficult to plan and implement programs for their benefit.

  • Act to ensure that there is compliance with the reporting mechanisms required under international conventions which have been ratified (i.e. Convention on the Rights of the Child).

  • Work to ratify international conventions which have not yet been ratified (i.e., the United Nations 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment)

  • Ensure that the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention investigate the abuses and killings of street children by civil authorities and allegations of illegal detention, abuse and deaths of children in custody.

  • Encourage the United Nations sub agencies and other international bodies to highlight civil authority violence against street children

  • Maintain detailed records by NGOs of incidents of violence and abuse by civil authorities, and their submission of National Human Rights Commission on a regular basis

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