Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Praise the Dominican Republic’s Progress in Promoting Birth Registration, Ask about High Levels of De Facto Child Marriage and Support for Asylum-Seeking Children from Haiti
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the sixth periodic report of the Dominican Republic, with Committee Experts praising the State’s progress in promoting birth registration, and raising questions about high levels of de facto child marriage and support for asylum-seeking children from Haiti.
Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, noted significant progress in promoting birth registration. What measures were in place to ensure universal access to birth registration, including for children of Haitian and Dominican parents and migrants?
Faith Marshall-Harris, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, welcomed that the State party had made child marriage illegal for both genders, but noted that there was still no established age of consent. Consequently, there was a large number of de facto unions comprising girls as young as 14, often with much older men. What happened to children who were found to be living with adults?
Ms. Marshall-Harris said that there were concerning reports that migrant and asylum-seeking children were often sent back to their countries of origin or detained in appalling conditions. Did border officials accept money to let children in? Had migration laws tightened to keep out children fleeing violence in Haiti? Was the State party promoting family reunification? The situation in Haiti had placed a huge burden on the Dominican Republic. How was the State party supporting civil society to protect migrant children from Haiti?
Introducing the report, Alexandra Santelises Joaquin, Executive Director of the National Council for Childhood and Adolescence of the Dominican Republic and head of the delegation, said the Dominican Republic was implementing policies to prevent under-registration of children. The national civil registration system had been digitised and automated. Each citizen now had an identification number, and children of parents who were not registered were entitled to registration. Over 78,000 registrations of children had been carried out since the implementation of these policies.
The delegation said the State was establishing guidelines and strategies to prevent early unions and teenage pregnancy; 18 agencies were implementing prevention strategies in 20 target territories. The State had eight strategic goals, including goals addressing the lack of access to contraception and sexual education. A national communication campaign aiming to raise awareness of these issues was in place. There were comprehensive health care centres for adolescents that provided them with contraception and advisory services.
Despite the size of migratory flows, Ms. Santelises Joaquin said, the Dominican Republic was working to ensure that migrant children had access to all basic services. Protection and care were provided to unaccompanied children; 1,600 such children were cared for by the Institute for Social Welfare.
The delegation added that sanctions were meted out when officials committed acts of corruption. The law on migration clearly stated that the detention of children was prohibited. Investigations were carried out to determine the best interests of unaccompanied migrant children and the State prioritised family-based care. The Haitian Institute for Well-Being and the Family supported children with no ties to the Dominican Republic. A protocol on protecting migrant children was being developed that considered family reunification, special protection for children involved in trafficking, and investigations into child abuse.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Marshall-Harris said the Dominican Republic had talked about some efforts to change the situation on the ground. More efforts were needed, however. One example was legislation on early unions, the implementation of which was seemingly limited. The State party aimed to eradicate all forms of child labour by 2025, and time was running out. Ms. Marshall-Harris expressed hope that the dialogue would assist the State party to achieve as much as possible for children.
Ms. Santelises Joaquin, in her concluding remarks, said the State party had been working to strengthen the protection system for children to ensure that it was truly effective in practice. It was implementing legislation and policies to improve services that children and adolescents used. The State party would pay close attention to the Committee’s concluding observations, which would lead to improved implementation of the Convention.
Ann Marie Skelton, Committee Chair, expressed appreciation for the sincerity of the delegation and its commitment to implementing the Convention. The Committee was encouraged by the constructive dialogue and the State party’s will to begin the hard work needed to improve the situation of children in the Dominican Republic.
The delegation of the Dominican Republic consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Relations; the National Council for Childhood and Adolescence; the Central Electoral Board; the National Institute of Comprehensive Early Childhood Care; the Attorney General; the Ministry of Public Health and Social Assistance; the Ministry of Education; the Ministry of Labour; the National Council on Disability; and the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of the Dominican Republic after the end of its ninety-fourth session on 22 September. 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.
The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 8 September at 10 a.m. to consider the combined third to fifth periodic report of Andorra (CRC/C/AND/3-5).
The Committee has before it the sixth periodic report of the Dominican Republic (CRC/C/DOM/6).
Presentation of Report
ALEXANDRA SANTELISES JOAQUIN, Executive Director, National Council for Childhood and Adolescence of the Dominican Republic and head of the delegation, said the Committee’s concluding observations had made a positive contribution to State policies. The State was constantly drafting policies that promoted the rights of children. The best interests of the child had primacy in legislation. A national strategy for development to 2030 had been adopted. Intersectoral coordination mechanisms had been strengthened to tackle challenges in the protection of children.
The Dominican Republic had steadily increased investment in children. Relevant State legislation prohibited child marriage and established a comprehensive integrated institute for child services. Legislation had also been introduced that protected children with autism. A national action plan on gender equality was in place, as were strategic plans addressing early pregnancy, poverty, HIV/AIDS transmission, child labour, street children and smuggling of migrants. The Government was also strengthening the national protection system for children, aiming to improve the quality and accessibility of services for children. In 2021, investment in children represented 5.8 per cent of gross domestic product. This was a 46 per cent higher investment than in 2015. Investments were made in social protection, education and health.
The Dominican Republic was also implementing policies to prevent under-registration of children. The national civil registration system had been digitised and automated. Each citizen now had an identification number, and children of parents who were not registered were entitled to registration. Over 78,000 registrations of children had been carried out since the implementation of these policies. The deadline for registering new births had been extended to 180 days. There were over 400 family and childhood care centres benefitting over 200,000 children.
Nearly 350,000 children under the age of six had been enrolled in education facilities in 2022 and 2023. Coverage of primary education was currently at 94 per cent. The State was working to achieve 100 per cent participation through birth registrations.
Over 35,000 persons had been provided with information on preventing violence against children through an awareness raising campaign. Corporal punishment and the exclusion of pregnant adolescents from schools were prohibited. Around 162,000 persons had benefitted from comprehensive sex education programmes in schools. An awareness raising campaign had been held on sex education and preventing early pregnancy. There were 32 State health units working to discourage teenage pregnancy.
The State had also been working to develop the technical capacities of institutions housing children. Residential care was only provided for children with disabilities as a last resort. The Dominican Republic was working to prevent institutionalisation and promote alternative care. In the past year, 138 children and adolescents had been placed with foster families. The State party had also worked to make the administrative process for adoption more efficient. There were 10 halfway houses with populations of around 600 children. Programmes of residential care were managed by non-governmental organizations.
Despite the size of migratory flows, the Dominican Republic was working to ensure that migrant children had access to all basic services. Protection and care were provided to unaccompanied children; 1,600 such children were cared for by the Institute for Social Welfare.
Challenges remained regarding the economic development of the society. The Dominican Republic was willing to cooperate with the Committee to ensure further progress for children. It was working to ensure that no children in the State were left behind.
Questions by Committee Experts
FAITH MARSHALL-HARRIS, FAITH MARSHALL-HARRIS, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, expressed appreciation for legislative attempts made by the State party, including regarding the best interests of the child. What steps for enforcement and follow-up on this legislation were in place? How far spread around the country were the offices of the National Council for Childhood and Adolescence and other State institutions promoting the rights of children? Were there offices in rural areas?
The Dominican Republic welcomed that the State party had made child marriage illegal for both genders, but there was still no established age of consent. Consequently, there was a large number of de facto unions comprising girls as young as 14, often with much older men. The State also had one of the world’s highest rates of teenage pregnancy.
The Civil Code and the Labour Code needed to be reformed. There was also no legislation that completely banned corporal punishment. There had been significant progress on the policy front, but there was no policy on childhood and adolescence covering all the provisions of the Convention.
Ms. Marshall-Harris expressed concern regarding coordination between Government agencies. There needed to be regulation of the roles of the various players in the field of child rights. How was the budget for children defined? Social service investments seemed to not be in-keeping with the State’s wealth. Were there plans to increase investment? The State also seemed to lack data on important issues such as street children.
The national human rights institute, the Ombudsman, was still not in compliance with the Paris Principles. Were there plans to address this? What training was planned for public officials regarding children’s rights and the Convention? What budget had been allocated to disseminating the Convention? What efforts had been made to promote children’s rights within the business sector?
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, asked about measures in place, including awareness raising campaigns that targeted girls with disabilities and migrants. The general law on equality and discrimination was being developed. What efforts had been made to align it with the Convention? The judiciary had prepared a draft judicial policy on children and adolescents. What were the contents of this policy? What measures were in place to ensure that the best interests of the child were effectively operationalised by State agents? The Committee noted progress on road safety legislation. What efforts had been made to protect children using transport? What measures were in place to address poverty, structural inequality and the high level of child mortality?
The Expert noted significant progress in promoting birth registration. What measures were in place to ensure universal access to birth registration, including for children of Haitian and Dominican parents and migrants? The adoption of the law on naturalisation occurred eight years ago. What impact had it had? What plans were in place to promote the naturalisation of foreigners? How did the State protect undocumented children from violence?
LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, said the Committee appreciated the delegation’s desire to participate in a constructive and honest dialogue. The Dominican Republic had a mid-to-high income economy, but it had problems usually seen in low-income countries. The rights of women and girls were of particular concern. There was a draft law before Parliament that addressed violence. What was the status of this law, and how did it address violence against children? Did the proposed law on corporal punishment consider physical discipline to not be “violence”? Why did the State find it so difficult to prohibit physical violence in all settings? Parliament needed to make children a priority and prohibit such violence.
Interviews of child victims of violence indicated that there was a trend towards re-victimisation. What measures were in place to prevent such re-victimisation? How had the justice system’s ability to investigate cases of sexual abuse and trafficking improved? There were reports of violence against children in street situations by police officers. Had the State worked to address this attitude within the police force? How was the State dealing with digital violence? Children had been exposed in the digital sphere to a range of activities that violated their rights.
The State party was reportedly pursuing a deinstitutionalisation plan. How had implementation progressed? Children who were victims of abuse were reportedly removed from their homes and placed in alternative care. How was the State party working to prevent this practice and to roll-out programmes to promote deinstitutionalisation? What oversight was carried out of institutions which housed children? Were institutions that violated the rights of children held accountable?
Responses by the Delegation
ALEXANDRA SANTELISES JOAQUIN, Executive Director, National Council for Childhood and Adolescence of the Dominican Republic and head of the delegation, said the National Council for Childhood and Adolescence provided guidance on implementing State policies for children throughout the administrative system. Each Government body had relevant legal frameworks and strategic plans.
The delegation said that since 2011, the Government had conducted an exercise using the United Nations Children's Fund’s methodology for evaluating achievements for children from these policies. However, there was a need for even greater efforts to collect data on children and adolescents. There had been an increase in the budget for the National Council for Childhood and Adolescence by 87 per cent compared to 2019. The National Council had been working to broaden its territorial coverage. It now had 38 offices and was present in each region of the State. It had been promoting awareness raising campaigns on the Convention. The Council had responded to around 12,000 cases of abuse of children and children in street situations in the past few years. It had been undertaking important initiatives to prevent child marriage and adolescent pregnancy, and promote education for pregnant adolescents and care for girls married to adults. The State had zero tolerance for child marriage. The National Council was providing preventive care and assistance to children in street situations. This was not a social cleansing project; the State was providing socio-familial support in the community.
A new law on civil registration had been issued that allowed for applications for registration to occur in the home and at any of over 60 mobile offices. Parents no longer needed to present identity papers to register their children. Since the law was approved in January 2023, 435,000 people had been registered, including over 80,000 children. All State institutions worked together on combatting under-registration. Children could now be registered by institutions.
Any child born to a Dominican national was a Dominican. Some Haitian mothers did not have registration documents, so the State was working to make it easier for those mothers to register themselves and their children. There were around 6,000 former aliens who had been naturalised under the new naturalisation law. Naturalised persons were provided with identity documents that allowed them to access State services.
The anti-discrimination bill was currently before congress. The Government had set up a working group to ensure that the bill was in line with international legislation ratified by the Dominican Republic. A capacity building session would be held in September for all members of the working group. A conference on anti-discrimination and hate speech would be held with congress members. The Constitution allowed for equality and freedom from discrimination for all persons on Dominican soil.
The Ministry of Education received four per cent of the gross domestic product to support the education of children and young adults. Recently, a curricular review had been conducted to improve the quality of education. State education ensured the best interests of the child and had a human rights focus. Teachers who carried out corporal punishment were immediately suspended. The educational system addressed cyber harassment though its safe internet system and trained students on preventing cyber harassment. Training was provided for teachers, school psychologists and students to prevent and address discrimination within schools. Enrolment in school was compulsory. The Ministry of Education had a school meals programme that provided lunches to 70 per cent of the population of children in schools.
The State had made reducing the infant mortality rate a priority for the last 10 years. Various measures to address the issue had led to a decrease in the mortality rate in recent years. Neo-natal health units had been established in regional areas to provide support, and a transfer system was also in place for people who could not access those units. Immunisation programmes had been strengthened and the Government was also promoting breast feeding. The State was working to set up a monitoring and evaluation unit for maternal and child health and indicators to assess the effectiveness of State policies.
The delegation said the Dominican Republic was working to implement the International Labour Organization’s Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour. The Ministry of Labour was implementing an annual plan for strengthening local labour institutions’ efforts to tackle child labour. Campaigns that targeted children had been conducted to inform them about their rights concerning child labour. Campaigns were also carried out that targeted border provinces and rural areas. Mayors and local civil servants had also been trained on preventing and eradicating child labour. Days to highlight sexual and labour exploitation of children had been held.
Studies had suggested that corporal punishment was a normalised practice within homes in the Dominican Republic. The Government was working to counter this scourge. Measures combatting torture and cruel and degrading treatment had been included in legislation. Corporal punishment was punished with a prison sentence of up to 30 years. More effort was needed to implement this legislation.
There was a direct connection between the Prosecutor’s Office and the Ombudsman to ensure that it could carry out investigations of all complaints of abuse concerning children and adolescents. Domestic violence had been tackled in a comprehensive manner by the labour and health ministries, and fortnightly meetings were held with the police directorate to coordinate efforts to tackle domestic violence.
There were 584 children that had left institutions in 2020 and 405 had left institutions this year to date. More than 900 adoption applications were currently being processed by the State.
Child participation was essential throughout the country. Awareness raising campaigns were held for children and adolescents to inform them of their rights and encourage them to participate in decision-making processes. A strategy promoting the social and community participation of children was currently being developed.
Questions by Committee Experts
LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, asked about the procedure for establishing the best interests of Haitian children who travelled to the State? Progress was needed to implement legislation on corporal punishment. There needed to be training and awareness raising campaigns on the issue. The State party needed to adopt its roadmap on corporal punishment.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, asked whether the anti-discrimination bill would become law in 2023. What affirmative actions had been taken to address vulnerable groups? What measures were in place to address the significant gaps in the coverage of early childhood care and implement the related law? How many children had been naturalised? To what extent had the new birth registration system been implemented?
A Committee Expert said there was a high incidence of early unions in the State. What happened to children who were found to be living with adults?
One Committee Expert asked what happened after the 180-day limit for registering births passed. Were there costs associated with registering births? How many children in the country had birth certificates?
A Committee Expert asked about the number of cases of corporal punishment that were tried and punished. The State had not criminalised femicide. How many homicides targeted women and girls? Did the State party have a strategy concerning prevention and protection from homicide and the provision of redress for victims?
One Committee Expert said that the State party had been committed to social inclusion since 2020. What had been the impact of efforts to combat economic disparities affecting the rights of the child?
LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, said policy in the sphere of disability was still medicalised. Were there plans to implement a human rights-based model of disability? What was being done to ensure the inclusion of children with disabilities?
RATOU JEAN ZARA, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, asked about efforts to address the high maternal and neo-natal death rates. What measures were in place to reduce the number of children born underweight? How would the State party strengthen training programmes for health staff and hospital services for children with stunted growth? How was the State party increasing vaccination coverage to prevent deaths occurring due to preventable diseases? What measures had the State party taken to promote mental health in schools and discourage suicide? Was the State party developing services for teenagers who had fallen pregnant due to rape? What factors were contributing to the high levels of unwanted pregnancies and rape, and how were these being addressed?
The Committee was concerned about the impact of pollution on children’s health. What measures were in place to create regulations to prevent air, water and soil pollution? How would the State party strengthen programmes to reduce mother to child HIV transmission. What programmes supported people affected by HIV and ensured their right to non-discrimination? What measures were in place to ensure that children could access quality local services?
There had reportedly been improvements in access to education in recent years. There was a disparity between access to early education and intermediate education, however. What measures were in place to increase access to early education and ensure all children in pre-school and primary education enjoyed quality pedagogy? What training was provided to early education teachers? What strategies were in place to meet the specific needs of teenage mothers and pregnant teenagers to ensure that they could continue to access education? How was the State party ensuring that all children received quality sex and reproductive health education? What impact had the early years development programme had? Were teachers provided with training in human rights education? What measures were in place to increase access to leisure and recreational activities for marginalised children?
FAITH MARSHALL-HARRIS, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, said that there were concerning reports that migrant and asylum-seeking children were often sent back to their countries of origin or detained in appalling conditions. Did border officials accept money to let children in? Had migration laws tightened to keep out children fleeing violence in Haiti? Was the State party promoting family reunification? The situation in Haiti had placed a huge burden on the Dominican Republic. How was the State party supporting civil society to protect migrant children from Haiti?
The State party had ratified International Labour Organization conventions, but seemed to have not done follow-up work. Young children, usually from Haiti, were reportedly still employed in domestic work and agriculture. Was this issue being investigated on the ground? Children were also reportedly being used in child sex tourism. Legal frameworks were welcome, but efforts were needed to implement them.
Was the State party collecting data on children in street situations? There were reports that these children had no access to social services. How was the State party addressing the root causes of homelessness? Ms. Marshall-Harris called on the Dominican Republic to reform its pretrial detention system. Pretrial detention sometimes lasted up to 120 days. There were also reports of children being held with adults in prisons. What measures were in place to address these issues?
What investigations had been carried out into reported cases of pollution damaging food production? If the State turned a blind eye to de facto unions, legislation prohibiting early marriage was pointless. The State party needed to implement measures to address this cultural practice.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said a national plan was in place to support populations in situations of vulnerability, particularly people in poverty, children and victims of gender-based violence. More than 1.3 million families had been kept above the poverty line through targeted programmes.
Requirements for identification papers did not have discriminatory facets. The Government had assessed the implementation of legislation on registration, and on the basis of the findings of this study, would carry out legislative reforms.
A law on childcare was released in 2013, and the National Institute for Early Years Support had been established in 2015. It provided services to more than 96,000 children, or more than 26 per cent of eligible children in the State. The 2013 law had been effective in increasing access to early years care and education. Resources allocated to implementing early childhood care had increased dramatically in recent years. The Government hoped to double the population covered by these services by 2030.
After the birth registration deadline had passed, children could still be registered. The Government kept records of children registered before and after the deadline, but there was no difference in the requirements for late registrations. Since 2006, 3.9 million children had been registered. There were no costs for registering births up to the deadline. DNA processing costs were borne by the State. Campaigns were being held on social networks to raise awareness of the registration process. There was political will to promote birth registration.
The State was establishing guidelines and strategies to prevent early unions and teenage pregnancy; 18 agencies were implementing prevention strategies in 20 target territories. The State had eight strategic goals, including goals addressing the lack of access to contraception and sexual education. A national communication campaign aiming to raise awareness of these issues was in place. Twenty support units for pregnant teenagers had been established.
The Dominican Republic was working to reform legislation to tackle violence against children and adolescents. The Criminal Code criminalised torture against children. This crime had a prison sentence of up to 30 years. Corporal punishment was considered a form of torture. There was a will to include the provisions of the draft law on positive parenting in the Criminal Code. The National Council for Childhood and Adolescence investigated reports of corporal punishment. Constant training programmes were being held to promote a paradigm shift across the public sphere.
The State party recognised the difficult circumstances faced by Haitian citizens and was working to support those citizens. The situation required the support of the entire global community. The Dominican Republic had constantly been engaged in monitoring of human security actions on the border. Despite progress in recent years, isolated violations by officials sometimes occurred. The individual act of one public official was not tantamount to a State policy. Sanctions were meted out when officials committed acts of corruption. The State party welcomed information related to trafficking and smuggling. Complaints needed to be lodged through the appropriate channels for the appropriate authorities to be able to carry out an investigation and rescue affected children.
The National Council had set up a roundtable involving national and international organizations to consider measures for supporting migrant children. The law on migration clearly stated that the detention of children was prohibited. Investigations were carried out to determine the best interests of unaccompanied migrant children. The Haitian Institute for Well-Being and the Family supported children with no ties to the Dominican Republic. The National Council had trained technical staff on the best interests of the child and interviewing children. A protocol on protecting migrant children was being developed that considered family reunification, special protection for children involved in trafficking, and investigations into child abuse. In 2023 to date, the National Council had dealt with 1,247 cases of migrant children, and found that only 27 needed special protection.
A plan to reduce maternal and neo-natal mortality was in place. It included health regulations aiming to increase the quality of pre-natal and post-natal health care services, capacity building to improve the roll out of support programmes, improvement of infrastructure and human resources at health care centres, activities promoting breastfeeding, and a community support programme for pregnant women. Support was provided within health care programmes for children who were victims of violence.
Primary level students had below-average results for the region. Efforts were being made to improve educational quality and literacy levels. Guidelines for teaching reading and maths had been developed. The State had progressed with improving infrastructure in schools. Ongoing training was provided for teachers. Legislation prohibited the expulsion of pregnant students. Pedagogical and psychosocial support was provided to pregnant students and their peers. Schools were required to inform the State of pregnant students and students involved in early marriages to ensure that they were supported. There were programmes in place promoting sexual education and working to prevent early unions.
The Public Prosecutor had established coordination boards working to prevent trafficking of children, family violence and sexual offences. All reports of child trafficking were investigated. Border officials had been provided with training on identifying victims of trafficking.
The Dominican Republic’s minimum age of employment was 16 years of age. Children could not be employed in services that were not appropriate for their age or hindered their education. The State sought to increase the list of dangerous jobs for children and to ensure decent and dignified work for vulnerable groups. International Labour Organization Convention 139 was applied related to migrant domestic workers. Children were prohibited from engaging in both paid and unpaid domestic work. The Ministry of Labour had not detected any cases of child labour in domestic spheres. Awareness raising campaigns were being held to prevent child labour in its worst forms. There were two cases of child labour in agriculture that were currently being investigated by the Public Prosecutor. The Dominican Republic had made significant improvements in terms of rates of child labour.
Questions by Committee Experts
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, said the Dominican Republic had ratified the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. How was this instrument helping the State to address child trafficking and child pornography? When would the State party submit its reports under the first two Optional Protocols? Was there a possibility of approving a draft law aiming to simplify the process for late birth registrations?
RATOU JEAN ZARA, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, asked whether there was a mechanism governing sex education in schools. Was the State tackling bad practices, including regarding contraception, to tackle the high rate of teenage pregnancy?
LUIS ERNESTO PEDERNERA REYNA, Committee Expert and Member of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, welcomed the State party’s close collaboration with the United Nations Children's Fund. What was the National Council’s role in tackling trafficking in children? The statement of the Directorate of Migration that “deportations would increase” was shocking. Did these deportations include deportations of children? On what grounds would they be carried out?
One Committee Expert asked whether there were hidden costs related to birth registration. Why did the low level of registration persist? Epidemiological monitoring needed to be strengthened to prevent early deaths from preventable diseases. What was being done in this regard? For the national vaccination programme conducted in schools, had all planned vaccinations been provided? How did children who were not in school obtain vaccinations? What measures were in place to inform the population of the dangers of HIV/AIDS? How did the State party support children whose family members had died due to HIV/AIDS? What was the suicide rate in the State? What was being done to support young people who were affected by drug and alcohol abuse and prevent such abuse? What steps were being taken in regard to obstetric fistula?
Another Committee Expert said the State party had ratified the Optional Protocol on children in armed conflict but had yet to prepare a report under it. The minimum age for voluntary recruitment was 16. Were there statistics on children in the armed forces disaggregated by age? What safeguards were in place to verify the ages of children recruited in the armed forces? Did domestic law prohibit the use of children in armed conflict? Had measures been taken to identify child victims of armed conflict from other countries and provide them with support?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said it was aware of the impact of environmental issues on children and had taken actions to promote environmental sustainability. It had put in place plans and structures allowing for comprehensive care of children in the case of climate events. Periodic studies of water and soil were being carried out in areas in which people were most vulnerable.
The National Council provided assistance to children in street situations through a technical operational unit comprising police officers, social workers and other professionals. The unit responded to notifications of violations of such children’s rights. Adults who forced these children to beg were punished. The technical unit separated children from adults who were violating their rights and put them in protection. It then worked to establish family reunification. Institutionalisation was a last resort. Over 350 children had benefitted from the actions of this unit. There were 35 reports of adults violating the rights of street children. The State was working to collect updated figures on children in street situations.
The Dominican Republic had had no armed conflict since 1965. Children aged 16 and 17 could enter the military only as students, to be subsequently incorporated as officers once they reached adulthood. A bachelor’s degree was required to enter the military, thus there were few children enrolled. Any person who had entered the Dominican Republic due to persecution or armed conflict was entitled to refugee status, subject to assessment. The State had not identified any migrant children who had been involved in armed conflict. Deportation was only used when a person had committed an offence under the migration law. Persons who entered the country from Haiti with no identification papers were subject to a review process, after which they could be subjected to a repatriation process. There could be no family separation through this process. National migration legislation was in step with international legislation.
The new law on birth registration stipulated how late registrations should be processed. The new law was now being implemented. Registrations were dealt with by a centralised body. Identification cards and school registrations were free of charge. There were no costs for minors. An electronic registration system was now being rolled out to speed up and reduce errors in the registration process. Today, there was 13 per cent under-registration, in comparison to around 30 per cent under-registration 10 years ago.
The National Council referred complaints of child trafficking to the Prosecutor’s Office and coordinated the inter-institutional commission for trafficking and smuggling. It also provided training for stakeholders working to prevent and address trafficking.
The State had a programme promoting full access to health care for adolescents. There were comprehensive health care centres for adolescents that provided them with contraception and advisory services.
FAITH MARSHALL-HARRIS, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Taskforce for the Dominican Republic, thanked the delegation for its hard work in answering the Committee’s questions. There had been much emphasis on legislation rather than its implementation in the first half of the dialogue. The Committee was interested in efforts on the ground to achieve paradigm shifts in the State. One example was legislation on early unions, the implementation of which was seemingly limited. In the latter half of the dialogue, the State party had talked about some efforts to change the situation on the ground. More efforts were needed, however. The State party aimed to eradicate all forms of child labour by 2025, and time was running out. Ms. Marshall-Harris expressed hope that the dialogue would assist the State party to achieve as much as possible for children.
ALEXANDRA SANTELISES JOAQUIN, Executive Director, National Council for Childhood and Adolescence of the Dominican Republic and head of the delegation, expressed thanks for the dialogue. The State party had been assessing the situation of children and working to strengthen the protection system for children to ensure that it was truly effective in practice. It was implementing legislation and policies to improve services that children and adolescents used. The State party would pay close attention to the Committee’s concluding observations, which would lead to improved implementation of the Convention. Progress had been made, but there was room for improvement. The State had not been able to fully implement the protection framework for children thus far, but there was political will to do so. This will had been demonstrated in the increased budget for the National Council for Childhood and Adolescence. All policies and initiatives for children needed the support of international fora such as the Committee. The State’s actions would help to change the lives of children and adolescents, particularly those in vulnerable situations.
ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Chair, expressed appreciation for the sincerity of the delegation and its commitment to implementing the Convention. The Committee was encouraged by the constructive dialogue and the State party’s will to begin the hard work needed to improve the situation of children in the Dominican Republic.
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