Children’s Rights and the UN Treaty Bodies - An analysis of the work of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities last week, CRIN has published an analysis of the work of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in which they press for the rights of children with disabilities to be addressed with the same consistency and rigour as adults' rights.
The ways in which human rights treaties, such as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), apply to children are often overlooked. It is the responsibility of both children's rights advocates and the UN mechanisms themselves to make the links. Indeed UN committees rely on civil society to bring issues to their attention. CRIN's analysis of the disability committee's work therefore reveals the children's rights violations that are most frequently raised, as well as gaps in its questioning of States' children's rights records.
As a general observation, the analysis noted that States were urged to take action on a wide range of issues facing children. Many of the violations raised relate to the forced placement of children with disabilities in institutions or other closed settings; their situation in those settings, including the torture and other cruel and inhuman treatment to which they are subjected; and medical interventions carried out without their free and informed consent.
Nevertheless, the Committee sometimes fails to consider the specific implications certain rights have for children.
- The principle of progressive realisation of economic, social and cultural rights (reaffirmed in article 4 of the Convention): all steps taken, including legal reform and the provision of judicial remedies, should not only apply to children with disabilities but must also take into account their unique needs and vulnerabilities.
- Access to sexuality education and reproductive health services: the Committee should urge States to take all necessary measures to end harmful practices such as forced sterilisation and discriminatory beliefs about children with disabilities' sexual and reproductive capacities and guarantee access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health information and services.
- The right to work: while stressing the need to protect children with disabilities from labour activities that are dangerous, harmful or hazardous or interfere with their development, the Committee must highlight the need to secure children employed in suitable work the special protection they need, as well as all the guarantees provided for adults.
- The right to privacy of children with disabilities: the Committee should reaffirm this right for children with a focus on those living in institutions who are particularly vulnerable to breaches of their privacy because of the range of situations in which adults have power over them.
- Harmful traditional practices: raise issues of harmful traditional practices against children with disabilities, with a focus on violations against both boys and girls.
- LGBTI children with disabilities: raise the issues faced by LGBTI children with disabilities, especially in light of the bans on "homosexual propaganda" that have either been passed or proposed in many countries to 'protect children from information deemed harmful to their health and development'.
- Austerity measures: challenge austerity measures recently adopted in a number of countries to minimise their effects on children with disabilities and encourage States to allocate more resources for the realisation of children's rights under the Convention.
- Private institutions: examine specific violations unfolding in private institutions. Violations of children's rights in institutions and other closed settings are highlighted throughout the concluding observations of the Committee. This is particularly important in light of the current wave of privatisation of public services.
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