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The rate of child abuse was seven out of every 100,000 children in 2014.
The rate of child abuse was seven out of every 100,000 children in 2014.

Child Protection Laws Defective, Need Reform

An amendment bill to the Child Protection Law (ratified in 2002) was set to parliament by the judiciary in 2009, but remained unread in the chamber for over three years. The amendment reportedly removes most of the shortcomings on the existing law and its

Child Protection Laws Defective, Need Reform

The existing laws to protect the rights of the child are ineffective and need to be reviewed and revised, says Dr. Roozbeh Kordooni, social deputy at the Ministry of Labor, Cooperatives and Social Welfare.
“Regrettably, the situation of children’s rights has not improved, child abuse and child labor have surged, and we are in need of revision of laws to protect vulnerable children,” Kordooni said at a meeting organized by Khabaronline News Agency on the occasion of World Children’s Day (observed globally on October 7).
“Since a large part of the issues concerning children falls within the ambit of the Labor Ministry, we proposed that social harm concerning children be included in our agenda,” he said.
The meeting was also attended by Monika Nadi, attorney at law and member of the Tehran-based NGO, Children’s Rights Support Association.
“Social harm is undeniable, and is not specific to our country alone,” Nadi said. “Several factors, namely poverty, economic woes, cultural deficit, and legal restrictions contribute to the emergence and growth of social harm, but children are most affected since they are defenseless and vulnerable.”
The most important achievement of the ministry is that the issues concerning children that are often ignored and denied were officially acknowledged. “This will help in taking effective action to address them,” she said.
At the last meeting of the High National Social Council (affiliated to the Interior Ministry) held recently, Labor Minister Ali Rabiei was directed by President Hassan Rouhani to place the budding issue of child addiction on his ministry’s agenda.
“Getting to the roots of why and where social harm exists is the key step in resolving them,” Kordooni stressed. That is why a social atlas was compiled by the ministry.
The social atlas, including information on children and their problems, as well as the high-risk regions in the country classified by city and town, is to be revealed next month. A total of 10 indices were surveyed to prepare the atlas including population, household size, literacy and education level, rural poverty line, domestic abuse, divorce, history of abortion, family disputes, and female-headed households.
Kordooni also touched upon legal restrictions in reaching out to children. “A referral system was set up by the ministry to register addicted children under a specific insurance coverage, and send them to rehabilitation centers, but the system will not work without their guardian’s permission, and we do not have the legal authority to take away children.”
 Nadi underlined the necessity of revising the existing laws. “The existing laws are inadequate and not even practiced properly,” she rued. “Good laws must act as both deterrent and punitive, but the ones in place lack the necessary cohesion as well as punitive effect.”
Noting that protecting children is a complex process within which a number of factors play significant roles, including the laws, she said the country has a long way to go to ensure that children have what is desirable.

  Defective Law
The Child Protection Law passed by the Majlis (parliament) in 2002, has made child abuse a civil crime and not requiring a plaintiff, meaning that parents can be prosecuted for committing the offense.
“The ratification was a major step, but unfortunately was riddled with holes and has not helped reduce child abuse,” Nadi stressed.
The most important shortcoming of the law is inappropriate punishment for each offense. “The penalties are too mild, and therefore fail to discourage offenders from repeating the misdeed.”
Another major drawback is that each child abuse case must have a full report, but there is no defined mechanism on how to do it. Also, punitive measures that parents might choose to discipline their children for small transgressions are not considered as abuse, but there is no clear-cut demarcation to distinguish between parental punishment and abuse.
“The current law also does not consider the child’s statement and even statements by the Legal Medical Organization or psychological experts are not enough evidence in a court case,” she added.
 There is also no special court or judge for lawsuits involving children, and active agents such as the social emergency services (hotline 123), cannot intervene directly and without obtaining permission from legal authorities, which is time-consuming and ineffective.
An amendment bill to the Child Protection Law (ratified in 2002) was sent to parliament by the judiciary in 2009, but remained unread in the chamber for over three years. It was scheduled to be considered by the ninth parliament which ended in May. The amendment reportedly removes most of the shortcomings on the existing law.
“We are awaiting its review in the tenth Majlis (which convened on May 28),” Nadi added.

  Role of NGOs
According to official figures reported by the Legal Medical Organization, the rate of child abuse was seven out of every 100,000 children in 2014, a slight increase compared with 2012, Kordooni noted, adding that the latest figures will soon be published.
The increase might be associated with greater public awareness on the issue. “The most powerful and active NGOs in the country are the ones active in the field of children. They have made children a central discourse,” he added.
An NGO and a social campaign was launched in mid-July this year by a number of social activists, TV and cinema actors, as well as artists to help protect children with negligent or abusive parents. Nadi is their legal counsel.
Titled “Lonelier With Negligent Guardians”, the campaign was initiated to raise awareness on the situation of child abuse in the country, and its ensuing social harm. It aims to propagate ways to identify child abuse cases, report them, and support the victims in order to eradicate it across the country.

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