Experts of the Committee on the Rights of the Child Welcome Djibouti’s Efforts to Improve Children’s Food Security, Ask about Children in Detention and Child Marriage
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the combined third to fifth periodic report of Djibouti, with Committee Experts welcoming the State’s efforts to improve children’s food security and raising questions about children in detention and child marriage.
A Committee Expert welcomed efforts made by the State party with development partners to improve food and nutritional security of children.
Another Committee Expert raised the issue of children in detention, asking how many children were held in detention centres, and whether there were centres where children were held along with adults. Was there a system set up for children’s reintegration into society? Another Expert asked if there were any measures in place to reduce the number of children in prison and prevent the detention of children.
Aissatou Alassane Sidikou, Committee Expert and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Djibouti, asked whether the Government envisaged a review of the Family Code, which presently enabled guardians to authorise child marriage. Another Committee Expert asked for estimates of the number of children affected by early and forced marriage.
Introducing the report, Hassan Bahdon, Minister of Justice of Djibouti and head of the delegation, said that, as part of plans to combat poverty, Djibouti had adopted a strategy with two major avenues: money transfers and food guarantees.
On the incarceration of children, Mr. Bahdon said that a Code of Legal Protection for Minors adopted in 2015 established procedures for children in conflict with the law. The delegation added that, on occasion, minors were placed in general detention centres. Minors were separated from adults in these detention centres, and boys were separated from girls. Minors in detention received training on accessible occupations. The Government would work to ensure that there were as few children in prison as possible, and support the reintegration of children in detention.
On child marriage, the delegation said that most marriages were at the age of 18. Exceptionally, a minor could be authorised to marry. The minor had to be emancipated, having rights and obligations as an adult. In very remote areas, minors might marry due to the determination of his or her parents. There was a difference between early and forced marriage, which could happen to an adult. Protections against that were provided for in the Criminal Code.
In closing remarks, Ms. Alassane Sidikou thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue. She expressed hope that the concluding observations would help to strengthen the rights of children in Djibouti.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Bahdon thanked the Committee for its questions and interest in the State, and assured it that the State party would work to implement its final observations.
Mikiko Otani, Committee Chair, in her concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for participating in the dialogue, which had helped the Committee to understand the situation in Djibouti concerning the rights of the child. Ms. Otani expressed hope that the dialogue and the Committee’s concluding observations would help the State party to strengthen the rights of the child.
The delegation of Djibouti consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice; the Ministry of Finance; the Technical Adviser to the President of the Republic; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; and the Permanent Mission of Djibouti to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue the concluding observations on the report of Djibouti at the end of its ninetieth session on 3 June. 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 Monday, 16 May at 3 p.m. to consider the combined fifth to sixth periodic reports of Cyprus (CRC/C/CYP/5-6).
The Committee has before it the combined third to fifth periodic reports of Djibouti (CRC/C/DJI/3-5).
Presentation of Report
HASSAN BAHDON, Minister of Justice of Djibouti and head of the delegation, said that Djibouti’s child protection system had been rethought and strengthened, including the setting up in 2012 of a National Coordination Council. The National Council for Children guided Djibouti’s national child policy. An independent national framework advised and monitored Government action in the field of human rights.
Djibouti’s Civil Code and Code of Civil Procedure devoted several chapters to children’s rights. A Code of Legal Protection for Minors adopted in 2015 established procedures for children in conflict with the law. Djibouti’s Constitution guaranteed everyone the right to life, dignity and physical integrity. The death penalty had been abolished since 2010. There was also constitutional protection for freedom of expression, association and assembly, religion and conscience, and many other important rights.
In favour of children, the Government among other measures had set up programmes providing assistance to children with special needs. Medical facilities had been built throughout the country, and when it came to the right to health, Djibouti provided free healthcare up to the age of five years. Programmes to improve child and infant health included programmes to reduce the infant and child mortality rate. Djibouti also aimed to reduce the number of children affected by neglect and abuse in the community and in institutions.
Progress had been made in raising school enrolment rates and schools had become more inclusive of children with disabilities. Primary school enrolment had increased, particularly in rural primary schools.
As part of plans to combat poverty, Djibouti had adopted a strategy with two major avenues: money transfers and food guarantees. That support was primarily aimed at people over age 65, those with children with particular needs, and other groups. Two major reforms had been undertaken to strengthen judicial governance, including the creation of three new judicial branches. A higher institute to train magistrates would have a positive impact on the quality of justice. The delegation looked forward to the dialogue with the Committee.
Questions by Committee Experts
AISSATOU ALASSANE SIDIKOU, Committee Member and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Djibouti, noted that violence against children was an undeniable reality in Djibouti. Did the Government envisage legislating against violence against children in all contexts?
When it came to the age of marriage, did the Government envisage a review of the Family Code which presently enabled guardians to authorise child marriage? Did the Government plan to draft a national action plan on the rights of the child? Could the delegation provide information on the budget addressing the promotion and protection of the rights of the child?
Could civil society organizations be involved in planning programmes involving the rights of the child? Was there a formal systematic framework with the private sector when it came to promoting and protecting the rights of the child?
What measures were taken at the community level to mitigate social norms that hampered the rights of the child? Some categories of children were exposed to discrimination, such as children in street situations, orphaned children, and children with disabilities, among others. They lacked access to education, health, legal protection, and birth registration. What measures had the Government taken to ensure that those categories of children were included in Government programmes?
What were the selection criteria for the “Children’s Parliament”? It only met once every two years; could the delegation address the effectiveness and efficiency of that schedule?
Another Committee Expert noted that there was a significant number of areas of concern. Birth registration was uneven both geographically and when it came to certain groups of society. Many parents were not aware of the importance of registering their children. How many children had not been registered at birth or within the 40-day timeframe given for new-borns to be registered? What had been done to reach refugees and migrant children? Was birth registration always free of charge?
On adoption, the delegation had mentioned new legislation. To what extent was adoption seen as a means of protection? As for the freedom of expression, according to international rankings, Djibouti was low on the list. To what extent were children recognised as having the right to freedom of expression? How were constitutional guarantees protected?
Access to information was the first step before being able to enjoy human rights. How were children informed of their rights in child-friendly language? To what extent were media outlets used to inform children of their rights?
Another Committee Expert asked about violence against children. Noting that some progress had been made, the Expert further noted that there was a law prohibiting violence against children. Would it be possible to amend the law to ensure it prohibited all forms of corporal punishment? Were there complaint mechanisms for children in schools to complain about violent teachers?
Could the delegation provide data on sexual violence against children? Had anything been done to exert influence on traditional leaders in their understanding of children and their vulnerabilities? Was Djibouti combatting the emergence of child prostitution related to the increase in the migrant population? Were there specialised units of the police to address sexualised violence against children?
Female genital mutilation was a serious violation of the physical integrity of the girl child. Were people complaining regularly, and were cases being brought to the attention of the Government by civil society? How many cases concluded with a sentence? The downward trend in female genital mutilation was commendable, but there was still a large number of children who were victims of that harmful practice. As for early and forced marriages, were there estimates for how many children were affected?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation thanked the Committee for the very relevant and courteous questions. In response to questions about violence against children, the delegation explained that there was a Code of Legal Protection for Minors. The Government had never ceased legislating against all forms of violence against children. When it came to marriage by minors, the majority of marriages was at the age of 18. Exceptionally, a minor could be authorised to marry. The minor had to be emancipated, having rights and obligations as an adult. In very remote areas, minors might marry due to the determination of his or her parents. Yet there was a difference between early and forced marriage, which could happen with an adult. Protections against that were provided for in the Criminal Code. People living in rural and remote areas had a right to public services that met their needs.
When it came to cases of allegations of rape being considered in the judicial system, sometimes it was a case of consensual relations, with alleged victims not being truthful due to societal expectations.
No complaints mechanism had been triggered against teachers or administrators due to corporal punishment. Yet one case was known about in Djibouti because a legal case had been opened due to the victim being a minor. Efforts were being made in Djibouti to bring courts closer to the population. Yet due to the mentality of the population, there was still a tendency toward cases of violence or rape being settled outside the formal legal system. Female genital mutilation was illegal and went against religion. In the past 20 years, a mentality change had been seen.
In response to a question on kafala, the delegation explained that full adoption was not in keeping with religion in Djibouti. Giving the name of the person adopting a child to the child was an affront to the child according to values in Djibouti. The issue would be looked at in connection with reform of the Family Code.
The National Children’s Council would monitor and guide the Government’s actions when it came to the protection of children in Djibouti. In its new form, the Council would meet once per year, and was scheduled to meet in October or November in 2022. The Children’s Parliament was made up of children from all kinds of situations, including children in street situations and children with disabilities, among other categories. The Children’s Parliament had been created with respect for children’s freedom of expression, and among other action it had adopted a resolution on access by children with disabilities.
The National Human Rights Commission was a young institution, created in 2008 by decree. Human rights mechanisms believed the institution did not have enough independence. For that reason, reform of that body was being undertaken through law. It had the necessary resources to function effectively, and it had total financial autonomy. Reform to bring the Commission into line with the Paris Principles was ongoing. Turning to the human rights action plans, the delegation explained that human rights were a cross-cutting issue. Each department dealt with human rights that were relevant to them, and each would enshrine human rights into its annual action plan.
Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert welcomed the delegation and thanked its members for the responses provided so far. On the subject of child marriage, there was some confusion regarding the status of emancipated minors. As for the definition of rape, the Committee understood that there were no figures on the prevalence of rape among children. Children that were victims of violence did not get the protection they should. Was Djibouti moving toward amending those definitions to better protect children? The legal framework needed to be reconsidered. The Children’s Parliament was fantastic, but what were the selection criteria for child participants?
A Committee Expert noted that the Criminal Code punished the practice of female genital mutilation. Were there programmes to take care of victims?
Another Committee Expert asked for further information about the Children’s Parliament, which also met with other Parliaments. Could the delegation explain mechanisms for how the Children’s Parliament met with adult Parliaments?
Responses by the Delegation
In response to questions about birth certificates, the delegation explained that parents had the right to register their children. Djibouti sought to improve the situation of individuals, whether they were born in Djibouti or not. Birth registration was enshrined in the Constitution as an inalienable right. Awareness-raising about the importance of birth registration was also being carried out in rural areas and among migrants and refugees. Mobile units went out into regions of the country to enable children to be registered. Children who were registered had rights, including to free schooling. In response to questions about children’s right to freedom of expression, the delegation explained that children were in school until age 16. Civic education informed them of their rights.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked about the situation of children with disabilities. How many were there in Djibouti? What percentage of children with disabilities were in the regular school programme? Could the delegation provide information about the rate of abuse and physical aggression against children with disabilities?
Another Committee Expert welcomed efforts made by the State party with development partners to improve food and nutritional security of children. Could the delegation provide data on the portion of the population which had gained access to basic social services? Could the delegation provide figures on the school attendance rates of girls? Djibouti’s report mentioned that it was difficult to find enough information to assess the budget earmarked for the implementation of obligations in the area of human rights. What measures had been taken to raise the profile of the Convention in local languages, and what was the role of organizations working with children in raising awareness of the Convention?
A Committee Expert asked about the situation of children seeking asylum and refugee children. How many unaccompanied minors were there? Was anything being done about their specific situation? What status was granted to them? Did they have access to all social rights, including school and healthcare? What was the situation of stateless persons? Did they benefit from special protection?
In the area of child labour, Djibouti had ratified several International Labour Organization conventions. A related question was that of children in street situations. What was the outcome of the 2018 study on that issue? As for the sale of children, trafficking and kidnapping, what means had the State given itself to identify, guide and care for the victims of those crimes? Did each jurisdiction have a specialised children’s court?
Reference had been made to traditional justice carried out by local leaders and representatives. How was the division between the traditional and regular legal system, and how were children’s rights protected in the traditional legal system? Were there other ways of settling out of court, and how did mediation work in that context? As for detention in penitentiary centres, how many children were held there, and were there other centres where children were held along with adults? How many children had been detained, and on what grounds? Was there a system set up for children’s reintegration into society? When it came to children in armed conflict, had Djibouti signed the Safe Schools Declaration? Was there a guarantee of protection that children would not be recruited into the army?
Another Committee Expert noted that Djibouti had not presented any report under the first two Optional Protocols, which it had ratified. Did the State party plan to ratify the third Optional Protocol?
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that Djibouti had always welcomed refugees since its independence. Women and children accounted for approximately 68 per cent of refugees. Djibouti respected the principle of non-refoulement. After the 2017 reforms, the processing of asylum requests was shortened to within 30 days. Djibouti had ratified the Refugee Convention, and refugees had most of the rights offered to Djibouti nationals. Djibouti was working with international organizations to establish centres for refugee children and encourage family reunification. Children were voluntarily repatriated if both the parent and the child consented.
In 2014, Djibouti had implemented legislation providing universal health care for Djibouti nationals, and a State-funded programme provided health care assistance for all migrants and refugees. The National Centre for Persons for Disabilities had established a single window for consultation and support for people with disabilities. Data on persons with disabilities was being collected to inform future policy supporting children with disabilities.
The State had created a fund for orphans and children living with HIV/AIDS. This fund had helped to provide support for these children and make them less vulnerable. Voluntary screening for HIV/AIDS had been held, patients were provided with anti-retroviral drugs free of charge, and training was provided for health care workers dealing with the disease. As a result, mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS had decreased. Awareness-raising campaigns about HIV/AIDS had also been carried out.
A study of children in street situations had been carried out, and it had found that many of these children were involved in crime, drug use and prostitution. The State had worked to identify and prosecute persons who subjected children to ill-treatment, and public and private institutions provided support to children in street situations. Police were provided with training to respond appropriately to children who used drugs.
The Government of Djibouti had employed several measures to improve national statistics. The autonomous National Institute of Statistics had been created, and support for academic training in statistics had been provided for its staff. The Institution would soon begin the third national census.
The National Master Plan for Education 2010-19 had been reviewed in 2020, and this review found that the numbers for students completing secondary school had almost doubled nationwide. The ratio of girls to boys had increased in primary and secondary schools, with particularly high increases in rural areas. Free transport had been provided to schools, and free canteens, textbooks, and extension classes were provided in rural areas. These measures helped to improve attendance rates and enrolment rates, particularly for girls. Awareness-raising campaigns on children’s rights for teachers and religious leaders had also been carried out.
The National Agency for Disabilities had carried out a census on persons with disabilities since 2019, and this had provided new data on persons with disabilities. The national rate of prevalence of disabilities was around 5 per cent for children. Children with disabilities had been grouped in special education centres, but the Government’s aim was to provide integrated education for these children. School buildings had been modified to improve accessibility for children with disabilities. Adapted learning tools had been developed to assist teachers in providing education for children with disabilities. The State had also produced information for parents of children with disabilities, supported such children’s transport to school, and modified school canteens to make them more accessible.
Female genital mutilation continued due to social acceptance and perceived religious observations. It was a well-rooted social practice, which made it difficult to eradicate. The Government had worked to convince communities that female genital mutilation was not related to any religion and was a prohibited practice. Sanctions had been handed down to perpetrators. Elderly persons were common perpetrators, and were often given suspended sentences. The rate of prevalence had dropped, and the Government expected that it would continue to drop.
Social organizations and hospitals worked to provide support for child victims of violence. Social workers undertook regular training to provide appropriate care for children who had suffered abuse.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert asked whether training was provided for staff in rural areas? What was being done to provide children living in rural areas with paediatric care. Was the Government supporting adolescents’ access to contraception? How had the Government been raising awareness about the dangers of drug abuse? How were orphans cared for? How did the Government inform adolescents about the sexual and reproductive health services available to them?
The Expert said that the Government seemed to not have concrete measures in place to eradicate female genital mutilation, and called on the State party to take action to eradicate the practice.
What was being done to support children with disabilities to participate in extra-curricular activities? Was the Government working to provide safe water to schools in rural areas?
Another Committee Expert asked the delegation to provide an account of public actions undertaken to eradicate female genital mutilation. What action had been undertaken by young people to raise awareness about climate change?
AISSATOU ALASSANE SIDIKOU, Committee Member and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Djibouti , asked what was being done to facilitate nomad children’s access to education and health. Had the Government considered establishing schools for nomad children? What budget had been allocated to protecting the rights of the child? Were civil society organizations and stakeholders from the private sector consulted regarding legislation related to children? What was done to encourage child participation at the regional level?
Another Committee Expert asked how the State party dealt with drug addiction. What impact had its measures to fight drug addiction had? Why did Caritas conduct visits to prisons?
A Committee Expert asked for information on deaths occurring due to unsafe abortions. Had the Government drafted a sexual health policy for adolescents? Was sexual health education provided in schools? Was there a body that monitored the health of the population and provided care in emergencies?
Were appropriate support measures provided for the institution monitoring national education? Was there an action plan regarding the promotion of the rights of children with disabilities?
One Committee Expert asked how Djibouti was sharing its experience regarding female genital mutilation with other States in the region, and what lessons had it learned from neighbouring States.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the Government was trying to change the mentality of the population regarding female genital mutilation, and had done so for the past 100 years. A dedicated post had been created within the Government to support persons with disabilities.
Refugees also had access to education. There was a town that provided housing free of charge to refugees. Efforts were being made to assist refugees that did not have identity documents or had not declared themselves as refugees.
The Civil Code and the Civil Procedural Code had been implemented to harmonise legislation. There were judges who specialised in hearing the cases of minors and specialised juvenile courts had been established. Traditional justice complemented the modern law system, and did not prevail over the formal justice system even in the most remote areas.
On occasion, minors were placed in general detention centres. Minors were separated from adults in detention centres, and boys were separated from girls. Around 380 minors were held in pretrial detention. Minors in detention received training on accessible occupations. Minors charged with offences were provided with free legal aid. A draft regulation for staff working in penitentiary establishments had been developed, as had a manual for these staff. Inmates were regularly surveyed to assess whether they were subject to violence or abuse.
Awareness-raising campaigns on female genital mutilation had been held to inform the public of its dangers. Special days promoting action against violence were held. Training was also provided for health professionals on the dangers of female genital mutilation. There was a framework for international and local cooperation on preventing female genital mutilation. State officials held workshops in remote areas on preventing female genital mutilation.
Sexual and reproductive health education would be held for students at age 13 or 14 from next year. There was a legal framework protecting children from trafficking, sale and forced begging. This legislation prohibited the exploitation of children for financial services.
More than half the children in rural areas were in school. Schools had been built across the State. Nomadic people had recently become more sedentary, and many had migrated to urban areas. In the southern half of Djibouti, schools welcomed children living in all surrounding areas. In the northern half, however, demarcation lines determined where children could attend school. Schools were always built in locations where there was clean water available. Both girls and boys were encouraged to attend school. A university had been established in Djibouti, as well as vocational education facilities. The Government was focusing on improving the quality of education, and promoting technical and vocational training.
Many people valued traditional medicine over modern medicines. However, the Government was working to build more hospitals and train more medical staff. It was also trying to identify sources of safe water. Supplies of water from Ethiopia had helped to meet demand for water.
Border police regularly arrested drug traffickers, who often targeted the State. The Government provided young people with education regarding drug abuse, encouraging young people to contribute to awareness-raising campaigns on social media.
The Government supported reinserting young people who committed offences in society. Education was provided for young people in detention who were of school age. The Government allowed incarcerated persons to work within prisons to support their families. Greater investment was needed to support reintegrating prisoners in society, although resources for this investment were not always available.
Three structures had been built that were devoted to training young people in detention. Police carried out regular visits of adult detention centres to identify and provide support for incarcerated minors. The Government was working to harmonise legal texts to protect the rights of children in the justice system.
The National Commission on Remedies for Refugees frequently identified refugee children without identification and challenged rejections of these children’s asylum applications.
The Government had developed an online platform providing training for health care professionals. These training sessions were also broadcast on television and radio to improve access to training in rural areas.
The National Children’s Council was multisectoral. It did not have its own budget, but coordinated Government actions on policies for the protection of children. It met twice a year, and irregularly as necessary.
The National Human Rights Commission carried out unannounced visits of detention centres, and submitted reports on their condition to the Government.
A national strategy on the eradication of female genital mutilation had been drafted, and the Ministry for Women had established committees working at regional and local levels to eradicate female genital mutilation. A regional conference on female genital mutilation was held in 2019. Joint programmes were also held with the United Nations Children’s Fund aiming to eliminate the practice. A Government survey had found that the prevalence rate of female genital mutilation in children had dropped to 21 per cent.
A sectoral action plan on disability had been developed covering 2022 to 2024. It involved non-governmental organizations and civil society. A recent survey had analysed children with disabilities’ access to services and the discrimination that they faced.
Reproductive health was included in recently produced educational materials for schools, and a body from the Ministry of Health focused on the issue. This body had established support centres for reproductive health issues.
The Government collaborated closely with non-governmental organizations on several issues, including female genital mutilation. This collaboration had contributed to reducing the prevalence of female genital mutilation.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert said that there was a lack of information on whether there was a comprehensive strategy on supporting children in street situations.
Prison was not a place where children learned to live in society. Were there any measures in place to reduce the number of children in prison and prevent the detention of children?
Another Committee Expert said that the Committee emphasised the importance of providing non-custodial measures, and discouraged the incarceration of children.
AISSATOU ALASSANE SIDIKOU, Committee Member and Coordinator of the Country Taskforce for Djibouti, thanked the delegation for the constructive dialogue. She expressed hope that the concluding observations would help to strengthen the rights of children in Djibouti.
HASSAN BAHDON, Minister of Justice of Djibouti and head of the delegation, said that it had been a delight to participate in the dialogue. Prison was never a solution, but measures needed to be taken in response to children who committed offences. The Government would work to ensure that there were as few children in prison as possible, and support the reintegration of children in society.
Djibouti was acting to combat poverty, though it did not boast about those efforts. This was typical in Djibouti culture. Poverty was a major reason why the State was not able to achieve many of its goals. Djibouti was moving from the status of “least developed country” to “emerging country,” and this would lead to further positive changes in the State.
Mr. Bahdon thanked the Committee for its questions and interest in Djibouti, and assured it that the State would work to implement its final observations.
MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Chair, thanked the delegation for participating in the dialogue, which had helped the Committee to understand the situation in Djibouti concerning the rights of the child. Ms. Otani expressed hope that the dialogue and the Committee’s concluding observations would help the State party to strengthen the rights of the child.
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