The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has urged partner states to pay more attention to child rights issues and further called for a regional approach to combating child related criminal acts.
“This would include harmonising national laws and streamlining the segmented laws that have been rendered ineffective,” MP Dr. Odette Nyiramilimo of Rwanda said.
This was shortly before an EALA committee recently passed a report on the legal framework and implementation of policies on the rights of the child in EAC partner states.
The committee compiled the report after oversight activities it conducted in the Partner States in February, intent on assessing the legal framework and implementation of policies related to rights of the child.
Dr. Nyiramilimo said that in Kenya, specific issues of child abuse include FGM [female genital mutilation] which has proven psychological and physical repercussions that inflict untold suffering to children that affect them throughout their lives.
“Consequences include fistula, child birth difficulties in later life as well as untold pain and humiliation suffered in early childhood when the FGM takes place,” Dr. Nyiramilimo said.
A large number of children orphaned as a result of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as well as those orphaned by HIV/AIDS; low level of timely birth registration; and school dropout and lack of adequate facilities for children with special needs, are some of the findings about Rwanda.
Rwandan children are also exposed to violence, exploitation, sexual abuse both at home, at school and the community the EALA committee reported.
Solution for the Rwandan scenario, EALA says, include amending the children’s Act to fill gaps in adoption and emerging forms of abuse; and raising awareness to enhance sensitivity and enlist support and community responses.
In Uganda, it was found that – among others – gaps exist in the Children’s Act too. Weak provisions exist on adoption which makes it easy for children to be taken out of the country under guardianship orders; and current provisions do not take into account emerging forms of child abuse including child sacrifice and sex tourism.
In Burundi and Tanzania, poverty is a major challenge in safeguarding child rights.
Among the many problems faced by Burundian children, it is noted, the juvenile justice system is lacking, as children are for instance detained in the same cells as adult convicts which subjects children to sexual abuse.
“Children with albinism face enormous risks in Tanzania and the challenge becomes even greater during periods of political campaigns. Whilst the government of Tanzania has made commendable efforts to combat the problem, the practice remains alarmingly prevalent,” reads part of the committee’s report.
The Committee recommends the fast tracking of cases of violence against children by specialized and specific institutions that handle such matters and implores the EAC to establish a regional fund and sustainable financing for child related issues of protection, prevention and management.
During debate, former Rwandan Prosecutor General, MP Martin Ngoga, particularly said it was important for the Partner States individually and collectively, to look into the legal machinery to deal firmly with the challenges facing children.
MP Joseph Kiangoi (Kenya) termed the abuse of drugs as deterring the rights of children and said there was need to stiffen the penalties.
Kiangoi called for stronger laws to protect and streamline adoption and said the continued influx of foreigners going for adoption of children from the region was worrying.
“Where are they [foreigners] taking our children?” Kiangoi asked.
The Committee recommended that EALA urges the Council of Ministers to stop interstate adoptions in all Partner States until adequate control and follow-up mechanisms are instituted to ensure the adoptions are genuine and not ill intentioned toward crime and child abuse or exploitation.
Saying the children are “the future of the Community,” MP Christophe Bazivamo (Rwanda) insisted on prioritizing of children rights as a national obligation.
There is need for adequate budgeting to be allocated to children issues, he said.
Meanwhile, Speaker Dan Kidega promised suitable follow up to ensure that recommendations are implemented.