Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Praise France for Outreach Patrols Supporting Families in Street Situations, Ask about Violence against Children and the Situation of Children in Overseas Territories
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the sixth and seventh combined periodic report of France, with Committee Experts praising outreach patrols supporting families in street situations, and raising questions about violence against children, including sexual violence, and the situation of children in France’s overseas territories.
One Committee Expert said it was very encouraging that outreach patrols by child welfare services had been put in place in large cities to support families with children living on the street. The Expert asked how effective these had been.
Another Committee Expert said there had been an increase in reported violence against adolescents by law enforcement personnel, and a high level of reported sexual violence by religious leaders against children. Further, the Expert noted that there were many child victims of sexual abuse in overseas territories. What measures were in place to protect such children and respond to abuses?
Several Experts raised other issues concerning France’s overseas territories. One Expert noted that there were large territorial spending disparities, especially in child protection. French Guiana and Mayotte were particularly underfunded. Another Expert said that the difference in quality between health services offered in mainland France and overseas territories, as well as regarding the prevalence of communicable diseases, was disturbing. The Experts asked about efforts to bridge the gaps. One Expert asked about measures to address water contamination, which they described as a “serious issue” in Guadalupe.
Introducing the report, Charlotte Caubel, Secretary of State for Children under France’s Prime Minister and head of the delegation, said France had adopted a comprehensive strategy to combat violence against children. This inter-departmental strategy involved all the ministries and had a specific action plan, which provided for broad prevention and training actions and better support for victims of violence, particularly sexual violence.
The delegation added that local committees had been set up for assisting victims of sexual abuse, including minors. In 2021, a working group on sexual and domestic violence had developed a domestic sexual violence prevention plan. The working group had also proposed improving sexual education and implementing tools for monitoring the phenomenon.
On outreach patrols by child welfare services, the delegation said that over 3,000 homeless families had been supported by such patrols to access housing. Children living in the streets were given priority attention.
Regarding the overseas territories, the delegation said the Government had launched an investment plan that included a one-billion-euro investment in hospitals in the overseas territories. Health mediators would in future visit overseas territories to raise awareness about communicable diseases. Extra resources would be made available to strengthen prenatal and maternal care in overseas territories. In 2016, the Government had also launched a plan to improve the water supply in overseas territories through investment in the construction and maintenance of water facilities.
In closing remarks, Ann Marie Skelton, Committee Chair and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for France, said that the dialogue had demonstrated that France had implemented the Convention to an advanced level in many respects. The Committee welcomed the many policies and programmes for children presented by the delegation. There were areas where work was needed, including regarding sexual abuse of children, the standard of living of children, and the rights of asylum seeking and migrant children, among others. The benefits of the Convention needed to reach all children, including the most marginalised in both mainland France and the overseas territories.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Caubel thanked the Committee for the opportunity to demonstrate France’s efforts to implement the Convention. She said France remained deeply committed to the Convention. Respect for the rights of the child was fundamental for the future of society. There were areas where more effort was needed, and France was committed to addressing these. Ms. Caubel concluded by expressing the State’s commitment to working with children to fulfil their rights.
The delegation of France consisted of representatives from the Secretary of State for Children under the Prime Minister; Directorate General for Social Cohesion; Ministry of Health and Prevention; Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs; Ministry of the Interior and Overseas Territories; Ministry of the Armed Forces; Department of Justice; Ministry of National Education and Youth; Inter-ministerial Delegation for Accommodation and Access to Housing; High Council for the Family, Children and Age; and the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of France at the end of its ninety-third session on 26 May. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
Presentation of Report
CHARLOTTE CAUBEL, Secretary of State for Children under France’s Prime Minister and head of the delegation expressed France’s commitment to the rights of children. This exercise was not just a formality, but an opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation of the rights of children in France. She highlighted the importance of regularly reviewing the contribution of all administrations and actors in ensuring the protection of children's rights, and of raising awareness about children's rights.
The world had changed since the last review in 2016 with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conflict in Ukraine, and evolving challenges related to climate change and digital technology, among other factors. Children had been affected by these changes. France remained committed to ensuring that children had access to a healthy, safe and stimulating environment that promoted their development, autonomy and integration.
The President of France had made childhood a priority of his mandate, creating a Secretariat dedicated to children that Ms. Caubel led. In November, the Prime Minister held the first meeting of the inter-ministerial committee on children, which led to the development of around 40 measures and five priority projects addressing violence, equal opportunities, health, digital protection and the creation of a public service for early childhood.
The Committee’s previous concluding observations had influenced several legislative and regulatory changes. The High Council for Family, Children, and Age was responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention, and had played an essential role in implementing many of the Committee’s concluding observations.
Ms. Caubel highlighted seven significant developments since 2016 related to the implementation of the Committee’s concluding observations. Firstly, France had adopted a comprehensive strategy to combat violence against children. This inter-departmental strategy involved all the ministries and had a specific action plan, which provided for broad prevention and training actions and better support for victims of violence, particularly sexual violence.
Secondly, France had increased the participation of children in decisions and policies that affected them. For example, the Council of Ministers for Protecting Children and the National Council for Refoundation, which included a section dedicated to youth, had conducted numerous consultations with children. Local authorities had also established children's and young people's councils.
Thirdly, two important child protection laws had been adopted since the last review. The first, introduced in 2016, promoted tracking and evaluating the situations of children at risk and protecting their best interests. The second, adopted in 2022, promoted community care for persons up to 21 years old who could not remain with their families, and introduced measures to improve the quality of child protection care.
Fourthly, at the National Disability Conference held on 26 April, new measures to support children with disabilities were announced. Significant resources would be devoted to the early detection of all forms of disability, the development of inclusive schools, the training of teacher aides for children with disabilities, and the improvement of medical and social care for children with disabilities in child welfare centres.
Fifthly, France had lowered the compulsory age of education to three years and extended compulsory training for all students who had dropped out of school to 18 years. The Government was also making efforts to encourage such children to return to school; support measures had led to the return of 3,200 vulnerable children. All students were provided with career guidance from the fifth grade. Teachers’ minimum monthly salaries had also been increased from 1,600 euros in 2017 to nearly 2,100 euros in 2023.
Sixthly, the Government had launched a "first 1,000 days" plan that aimed to improve mother and baby health care and early childhood services. The plan also extended parental leave and increased financial aid for families. This aid included childcare support and financial intermediation to prevent unpaid alimony. The allowance for single-parent families, which represented one-quarter of all families in France, had been doubled.
Lastly, the State party had adopted the Juvenile Criminal Justice Code in September 2021. This Code prioritised educational measures over punishment for juvenile offenders, and set the age of criminal responsibility at 13.
Progress had been made, but more needed to be done to support the most vulnerable children, especially those living overseas, and to improve the health of all children in France. Reviews of paediatric and child mental health services were underway. More also needed to be done to protect children in the digital environment, and a roadmap to implement protective measures was currently being developed. The delegation looked forward to discussing both France’s successes and the challenges it faced to consolidate the State’s policies for children.
Questions by Committee Experts
ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Chair and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for France,said that the State party had made two reservations to the Convention. Was it considering repealing these? Did the State party intend to introduce impact studies of its policies on children? The State’s various strategies for children were commendable. What measures were in place to develop an updated, comprehensive strategy that encompassed these? Did the Secretary of State for Children have the financial means to carry out its mandate?
Education made up a large portion of the French budget, but there were no statistical markers for analysing the effectiveness of spending on children. Were there plans to develop these? What was being done to centralise statistics collection? Did the State party intend to collect data on the impact of air pollution on children?
There were large territorial spending disparities, especially in child protection. French Guiana and Mayotte were particularly underfunded. What was being done to increase spending in these areas? Had the State party introduced any measures to raise awareness of the Optional Protocol on the communications procedure? Was the State party mainstreaming children’s rights in international cooperation policies? What measures were in place to promote equality amongst children, particularly in overseas territories?
Had the State party considered developing guidelines for decision-makers on the best interests of the child? It was not possible to determine such interests without listening to the views of children. What measures were being taken in that regard?
One Committee Expert said progress had been made, particularly in overseas territories, in increasing birth registration of children. Had the State assessed measures to promote registration and combat statelessness?
The Expert appreciated the “right to be forgotten” established in French law. How could children use this remedy? Were there examples of its implementation? What measures were in place to help children to understand the importance of protecting their privacy? On pornographic sites, managing companies were responsible for identifying child users and victims of abuse. How did the State hold these companies accountable?
Another Committee Expert said there had been increased expenditure in protecting the rights of the child, which was welcome. How was this spending allocated to different Government bodies? Were overseas departments involved in determining where funding was allocated? There were many child victims of sexual abuse in overseas territories. What measures were in place to protect such children? When would the findings and recommendations of the study carried out by the Commission on Sexual Violence against Children be released?
France had banned corporal punishment. What measures were in place to implement this ban? France was a pioneer in preventing school violence. Was there overlap between the hotlines in place for child victims of violence? What studies had been carried out into cyber bullying? France hosted the third or fourth highest number of pornographic sites in Europe. How was the State dealing with this issue? There had been nine accusations of sexual violence against children by French soldiers in the Central African Republic. What support had the victims been provided with, and what investigations had been carried out? How was the State supporting teachers and medical staff who worked with children?
ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Chair and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for France, asked whether the Government was committed to deinstitutionalisation. Had the Government evaluated the weaknesses in the foster care system, and implemented measures to address these weaknesses?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said France had a reservation on article 30 of the Convention, as it did not recognise the existence of ethnic or religious minorities. All citizens of France were given full protection of their rights, and France promoted ethnic and religious diversity. It also had a reservation on article 40, but planned to limit this to cover only minor offences under police tribunals.
The articles of the Convention were directly applicable in courts. France had instated young ambassadors for the rights of the child, who raised awareness about the Convention and its Optional Protocols with children across the State.
The Secretary of State for Children coordinated child-related policies and developed comprehensive strategies for children. The Secretary had been tasked with examining budgeting for child-related policies. A body made up of over 100 department and civil society representatives had been established in 2022 to standardise regional policies for children. There were four departmental councils for child protection that developed strategies for supporting vulnerable children.
Work was underway to merge State statistics. The National Department for Research in Social Affairs collected data on child protection policies. Funding had been increased for the national and departmental observatories on child protection to improve the quality of their data collection activities.
There were around 41,000 unaccompanied minors and 230,000 children in foster families receiving financial and educational support from the State to prevent institutionalisation. The Social Conference held in 2022 announced an increase in salaries for public servants involved in child protection. Work had been carried out to enhance working conditions for staff in the medical and educational spheres.
France protected freedom of belief in all its regions. Children in overseas territories could practice any religion. The State supported education in local languages. In New Caledonia, the local Government was setting up a distance learning school to support education for local children living in remote areas. There were delays in birth registration in overseas territories where there was limited access to registration services. The Government was working on improving access to registration. Efforts had been made since 2019 to establish welfare centres in overseas territories to discourage institutionalisation.
The law on asylum had rules on accessing French nationality for persons living in Mayotte. The Constitutional Council had in 2018 declared these provisions as being constitutional. Mayotte had a high population of foreigners. Children born to foreign parents were not stateless as they were able to obtain the nationality of their parents. The Government was aware of only three stateless children in the State party’s overseas territories.
Figures on violence against children were frightening. A child died every five days within their homes in France. The Government was developing a roadmap and an awareness-raising campaign to tackle violence against children. A law had been introduced in 2019 to prohibit violence in the education sphere and by parents against minors. Such violence constituted an aggravating circumstance within criminal legislation. In the future, the Government sought to develop a law to recognise children who had witnessed domestic violence as victims and to remove such children from the care of abusive parents.
A 2021 law extended the definition of rape and incest against minors. The statute of limitations for acts of rape of children had been extended to 30 years. Local committees had been set up for assisting victims of sexual abuse, including minors. A new plan on combatting violence for 2023 to 2027 would soon be implemented. The new plan would incorporate various monitoring tools to assess implementation.
A Minors’ Protection Office was currently being set up to combat cyber harassment against children and harassment in schools. The police force had a special unit for identifying sexual abuse and explicit content involving minors online. France was bolstering international cooperation to combat online sexual abuse of children. It was also rolling out training for children on the digital sphere and awareness-raising campaigns about the risks posed to children online. The Paris Peace Forum included a forum for developing protections for children online. Two texts had recently been developed at the European level that made moderators responsible for child pornography that they hosted and introduced genuine age checks for pornographic content. Several platforms could be suspended or fined once these regulations were implemented in France.
In 2021, a working group on sexual and domestic violence had developed a domestic sexual violence prevention plan. The working group had also proposed improving sexual education and implementing tools for monitoring the phenomenon. There was also a programme to combat harassment in schools. Within this programme, over 30,000 school staff and 7,000 student ambassadors had been trained in combatting and preventing harassment; 86 per cent of public secondary schools were part of the programme, and the Government aimed to incorporate all secondary schools by the end of the year.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert welcomed the progress that France had made in implementing the Convention. More needed to be done in terms of health, however. Had France assessed the impact of COVID-19 prevention measures on the mental health of children? Had efforts been made to raise awareness about the third Optional Protocol among child welfare providers? France’s repatriation of children who had been in Syria was commendable. Had efforts been made to reunite these children with their families? Had the State party disseminated the Committee’s general comment 14 on the best interests of the child?
Another Committee Expert called for information on policies for protecting the privacy of children in schools. The Expert welcomed measures to promote birth registration in overseas territories. What did the State party seek to do with the biometric data it collected from new-born children?
One Committee Expert asked whether the number of social workers and psychologists in France was sufficient. How were awareness-raising campaigns on violence against children conducted? Did they target children as well as adults?
Another Committee Expert asked which body was responsible for monitoring children in institutions. Was there a complaints mechanism that children in institutions could use? Were the various domestic bodies following up on reports of abuse made aware of the Committee’s communications mechanism?
A Committee Expert said there had been an increase in reported violence against adolescents by law enforcement, and a high level of reported sexual violence by religious leaders against children. What response measures were in place?
What projects were being implemented to support children with disabilities? The Expert called for data on children with disabilities and their attendance in school. There were reports of segregation of children with disabilities within schools, and of high dropout rates. Were there sufficient school staff members supporting children with disabilities? The average age for diagnosis of autism was seven; this was very late. How could the State reach out to children with autism at an earlier stage? There were waiting lists of one year in some cases for autism support treatments. How could the State expedite the provision of support for children with autism? How did the State party intend to address inequalities between children with disabilities in mainland France and the overseas territories?
One Committee Expert asked for data on the impact of COVID-19 on education. The State had reduced dropout rates from 12 to nine per cent in mainland France between 2010 and 2019, but dropout rates were still over 30 per cent in some overseas territories. How was the State addressing this? There were ad-hoc schools in France without a legal framework, with poor monitoring and poor education quality. How would the State improve these schools? Was the State party considering measures to support vulnerable families to take holidays and tackle insomnia amongst children?
Another Committee Expert said the Committee had previously recommended that France implement the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and further promote exclusive breastfeeding practices. What measures had been implemented? How was the Government implementing the “First 1,000 Days” plan and how realistic were its goals? Was the Government addressing the human, financial and infrastructure deficiencies in maternal and child welfare protection centres?
It was very encouraging that outreach patrols by child welfare services had been put in place in large cities to reach out to families with children living on the street. How effective had these been? Suicide was the second most common cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds; 13 per cent of attempted suicides among young homosexuals were reportedly linked to homophobic discrimination. Some reports indicated a drastic increase in cases of suicides in recent years. What progress had been made on implementing the Committee’s recommendations on treating depression in adolescents? The difference in quality between health services offered in mainland France and overseas territories, as well as regarding the prevalence of communicable diseases, was disturbing. What efforts were being made to bridge the gaps?
The Committee was concerned about the situation of unaccompanied migrant children who could not access protection measures in France. What steps had been taken to improve access? The age assessment procedure needed to incorporate an assumption of minority. Was this being implemented? Detention of children based on migration status was a violation of the Convention. How did the State party ensure that such violations did not occur? The national action plan to combat human trafficking ended in 2021. Was a new plan in place? What measures were in place to protect children from trafficking? There had reportedly been a sharp increase in minors in pre-trial detention. Why was this?
ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Chair and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for France, asked whether State legislation complied with articles two and three of the first Optional Protocol on the sale of children. Conscription of children was no longer permitted in France. Was France now able to lift its reservation on the second Optional Protocol? There were several children with French citizenship living in camps in Syria. What efforts were being made to repatriate these children?
Another Committee Expert said that the Committee was working on a general comment on the right of children to a healthy environment. What measures were in place to promote this right and involve children in the development of environmental policies? Water contamination was a serious issue in Guadalupe. What measures were in place to address this crisis?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said France respected its international obligations regarding the recruitment of minors in the armed forces. Minors could not be recruited until they reached the age of 17 and had their parents’ permission. Minors were prohibited from participating in hostilities or dangerous situations. The French armed forces had a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse by its soldiers. Soldiers who were suspected of abuse were tried domestically. Five judicial proceedings had been opened following accusations against French soldiers in the Central African Republic, and these had led to three dismissals. Investigations were ongoing.
France promoted the appeals process under the third Optional Protocol through its national human rights institute and child rights defenders. Campaigns targeted secondary schools. Educational projects on the Convention were also organised by local governments. France reviewed the Committee’s views regarding communications and took appropriate actions in response.
Specialised care resources were available in hospitals for child victims of abuse. There were 135 hospitals with such resources, and the Government planned to increase these resources. The Government identified children who were convicted of animal ill-treatment and conducted studies on the link between animal ill-treatment and other forms of violence. Inspections of institutions were carried out by local authorities and private organizations. There were 130,000 professional social workers with at least three years of training. Training was provided for social workers at both the local and national levels.
Law enforcement personnel could intervene when there were suspicions of abuse of migrants. The national police inspectorate conducted regular checks to ensure that migrants were not being abused by law enforcement personnel. Authorities found to have committed offences were held legally accountable.
France was particularly vigilant regarding data protection. It had developed a general law on data protection that set 15 as the age from which children could protect their own data online. The Government was working with the medical sector to ensure that patients’ confidentiality was protected. Data privacy and related topics were addressed in the primary and secondary school curricula. Education campaigns on data privacy targeting parents were also being conducted.
France had created a disability benefits scheme in 2005 and promoted the inclusion in society of persons with disabilities. Departmental houses for persons with disabilities were one-stop shops that conducted comprehensive evaluations of disabilities. They had long waiting lists, with an average waiting time of around four months. Public interest groups managed these houses, and there were plans in place to strengthen their resources and reduce waiting times.
The Government was this year renewing its strategy on autism, planning to strengthen training for autism specialists. There was a platform for coordination of autism professionals that 30,000 children had so far benefitted from. Extra staff had been provided to this platform. The 2005 disability law promoted the establishment of inclusive schools. There had been an increase in children with disabilities who attended mainstream schools; over 85 per cent of all children with disabilities attended mainstream schools in 2022. There was no segregation of children with disabilities in mainstream schools, but there were services providing dedicated support for children with disabilities within mainstream schools. A project set up in 2020 provided education to students on psychosocial skills.
Almost three per cent of teenagers in France had tried to commit suicide. The Government had developed a comprehensive strategy to prevent suicide that incorporated training for mental health professionals and the establishment of suicide prevention hotlines. There was a system for maintaining contact with people who had tried to take their lives. Suicide rates had dropped by over 35 per cent for those benefiting from the system. Since 2019, the French Government had invested 20 million euros annually in psychiatric services. This investment had led to an increase in psychiatric health care services. A national conference on psychiatric care would be held next month. The National Sleep Institute had drafted reports that would inform a national roadmap to promote healthy sleep.
There was a lack of access to dignified housing for homeless people. The Government provided 440,000 homeless people with housing in 2022, an increase of over 60 per cent from 2017. Over 3,000 homeless families had been supported by outreach patrols to access housing. Children living in the streets were given priority attention. France had also developed a comprehensive approach to supporting the Roma community, and had provided housing for 4,000 persons living in slums since 2019.
The Government had launched an investment plan that included a one-billion-euro investment in hospitals in the overseas territories. There was also training provided for medical staff in overseas territories and incentives for young professionals to work in overseas territories. Health mediators would in future visit overseas territories to raise awareness about communicable diseases. The Government had carried out a study on the needs of children with disabilities in overseas territories and had developed roadmaps for providing them with care. Extra resources would be made available to strengthen prenatal and maternal care in overseas territories.
Local projects had been set up to promote childcare in the overseas territories. These territories had experienced large population booms that had put pressure on the health care and education sectors. Around 5,300 school-age children were not in school, which was not acceptable. France was funding the construction of new schools in these territories, and was using 3D printing technology to build schools more quickly. School meals were subsidised by the State. In 2016, the Government launched a plan to improve the water supply in overseas territories through investments in water facilities. A maintenance plan had been developed and technical engineers had been recruited to prevent leaks in water systems and improve water quality.
France was committed to supporting unaccompanied minors. Child welfare services supported unaccompanied minors to access State services. The State collected biometric data on unaccompanied persons to assess their age. Such data was held for a limited period only, and data collectors were provided with training on protecting migrants’ privacy. There had been 34 cases where unaccompanied minors had been safely transferred to families in their countries of origin in 2022.
A draft bill had been developed that prohibited the holding of migrants under 16 years of age in administrative detention. The Government was currently reviewing this draft. A dedicated office set up to aid asylum seekers held training for immigration officials on supporting unaccompanied minors to apply for asylum. The number of asylum applications had doubled since 2016. Persons were assumed to be minors throughout the entire assessment process. Financial and legal aid and guardianship was provided to all persons recognised as unaccompanied minors.
Several non-governmental organizations had criticised France regarding the repatriation of Syrian nationals. It was not possible to repatriate children without the authorisation of the mother. France had conducted risky operations to repatriate 144 children in Syria, the most of any European country. It would continue to conduct repatriation missions. Over 300 repatriated minors were hosted in France and provided with care and support. Most of these children were attending school.
Follow-Up Questions by Committee Experts
One Committee Expert asked for information on when decrees relating to assessment of unaccompanied minors would be approved. Had the Government taken steps to ensure the presumption of minority in assessment procedures and increase access to legal representatives. The European Court of Human Rights had condemned France 11 times for the detention of migrant children. Did the State intend to prohibit such detention as soon as possible? The Expert called on the State party to address the issue of water quality in Guadalupe immediately, and to guarantee access to water for children and mothers.
Another Committee Expert said inflation had impacted the purchasing power of vulnerable families. What measures had been implemented to support these families to access food, education, housing and health care? What had been done to operationalise the 2021 law on the fight against global inequality?
A Committee Expert said that the age of unaccompanied minors was not assessed in certain cases. How would the State party ensure that assessments were always carried out? Several children were victims of incest. What legal measures were in place to ensure victims received appropriate redress? Was the State party planning to develop a policy to improve conditions in preschools?
One Committee Expert asked for information on France’s plans to combat female genital mutilation. A Court of Auditors’ report had indicated that 25 departments had insufficient child psychology services. What measures were in place to increase such services?
Another Committee Expert asked about measures to prevent illegal international adoptions, and facilitate access to knowledge of origin and redress for victims. Over 400,000 children lived in extreme poverty in France. How was France ensuring that its anti-poverty measures benefited the people who needed them the most? There were 20 new rehabilitation centres for children being built, as the existing centres were being criticised as not functioning properly.
One Committee Expert said new criminal legislation specified that minors could be sentenced to 20-year life sentences, which was not compatible with the Convention. How many minors had been issued with such sentences?
A Committee Expert asked whether unaccompanied minors had access to translation for minority languages.
Another Committee Expert said the Council of Europe and the European Union had been recommending multi-agency structures to deal with sexual abuse of children. Victims’ testimonies were key to identifying sexual abuse. Did various sectors have access to victims’ testimonies? Were testimonies video recorded, and could such recordings be used in court proceedings?
One Committee Expert asked for more information on the public policy to support victims of sexual abuse. Proper strategies needed to be implemented to impart justice for children who were victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Were statistics available on the implementation of the law banning corporal punishment? What punishments were issued to parents that engaged in corporal punishment? How was the State training child psychiatrists to prevent corporal punishment? What measures were in place to prevent French citizens from undergoing surrogacy in foreign States? How did the State punish citizens that engaged in this practice and promote adoption?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that exclusion from age assessment for asylum applicants occurred only for people who were clearly minors to prevent unnecessary processing. Revised juvenile justice legislation considered the best interests of the child and prioritised education over punishment of minors. This legislation reduced sentences handed down to minors up to the age of 18 by half. Courts could decide to try children over age 16 as adults, but this was only done in exceptional circumstances.
The law introduced a legal definition of “discernment”. Minors were not held responsible if found to have a lack of discernment, and all minors were presumed to not have sufficient discernment until proven otherwise. The Government had limited pre-trial detention of minors to repeat offenders. Detentions could not exceed a maximum of one month and could not be renewed. The Ministry of Justice was monitoring its closed education centres, which were an alternative to detention; 20 new centres were being constructed that had better quality buildings and facilities.
France supported the purchasing power of families with a “tariff shield” that was indexed on inflation. It had also increased social support for single-parent families and children, which greatly reduced the poverty rate. The Government was cooperating with local authorities to reach out to vulnerable people and support access to childcare. The Government had commissioned a study into early childhood care, established national committees for setting up early childhood centres, and was funding training for staff at such centres.
A national plan to eradicate female genital mutilation had been in place since 2019. A study into the practice was currently underway, and information on female genital mutilation was provided to vulnerable students in schools before holidays.
Access to schooling was a fundamental right. The Government had implemented measures to simplify enrolment application procedures and promote access for migrants. Children could not be refused access to schools. Support was provided to children who were expelled from schools to encourage their return.
A State-sponsored report on child psychiatry had found that specialised care was not sufficiently distributed across the country in a balanced way. The report included recommendations for improving distribution of such care and the Government was working on implementing these.
France had in 2022 launched an inspection service to monitor international adoptions. The State was working to prevent unlawful practices and to remedy victims. A historic survey had documented past unlawful practices, and an investigative unit was looking into requests for information from adoptees. Legislative reform was underway to strengthen the French Adoption Authority’s power to intervene abroad. The Authority conducted follow-up with adopted children within one year of the adoption. France did not allow international adoptions from States that were not parties to the Hague Convention and had suspended adoptions from Russia and Ukraine due to the conflict. Adoption was promoted over surrogacy. The State ensured that adoptions were in the best interests of children.
Combatting sexual violence was a priority for the Government. A dedicated office to address violence had been created and paediatric support units provided support for children in courts. Children’s testimonies were recorded to prevent them from appearing before courts repeatedly.
There were six areas in Guadalupe where water supplies had been contaminated, and the State was providing compensation to affected persons.
ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Chair and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for France, said the dialogue had demonstrated that France had implemented the Convention to an advanced level in many respects. The Committee welcomed the creation of the Secretary of State for Children; it also welcomed the adoption of the Pact for Childhood and many of the policies and programmes presented by the delegation. There were areas where work was needed, including regarding sexual abuse of children, children deprived of family environments, children with disabilities, the standard of living of children, and the rights of asylum seeking and migrant children. The benefits of the Convention needed to reach all children, including the most marginalised in both mainland France and the overseas territories.
CHARLOTTE CAUBEL, Secretary of State for Children under France’s Prime Minister and head of the delegation, thanked the Committee for the opportunity to demonstrate France’s efforts to implement the Convention. France remained deeply committed to the Convention. Respect for the rights of the child was fundamental for the future of society. There were areas where more effort was needed, and France was committed to addressing these. Several international challenges affected the rights of children in France, including climate change. In June 2023 at the Summit for a New Global Financial Pact, France would reaffirm its commitment to protecting vulnerable children and the climate. More than ever, France needed to involve young people in the development of public policies. The State was committed to working with children to fulfil their rights.
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