The Committee on the Rights of the Child this afternoon offered its preliminary observations and recommendations on the initial report of Armenia by saying that the Government should conduct campaigns to change public attitudes regarding children in general, and particularly children with disabilities who suffered from social bias.
The Committee urged the Government to take special protection measures in favour of poor, orphaned, abandoned children and those affected by armed conflicts.
The Committee will issue its final, written concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Armenia towards the end of its current three-week session, which will end on 28 January.
Discussion over the course of the afternoon focused on general topics concerning family environment and alternative care; basic health and welfare; education, leisure and cultural activities; and special protection.
The Armenian delegation was led by Razmik Martirossian, the Minister of Social Welfare, and included representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia and the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
Armenia is one of 191 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and as such it must submit periodic reports to the Committee on its efforts to put the provisions of the treaty into effect.
When the Committee reconvenes at 10 a.m. on Friday, 21 January, it will take up the second periodic report of Peru (document CRC/C/65/Add.8).
In response to pending questions raised by Committee experts this morning, the members of the Armenian delegation said that registration of newly born children was not a problem since 98 per cent of children were born in hospitals which reported to registration officials. However, the few cases of child birth at home were of concern because of the lack of information on them and the non-registration of the births.
Besides joining in decision-making processes in schools, along with teachers or parents, children did not participate in the work of municipalities or other institutions where decisions were taken with regard to the general public, the delegation said.
In their follow-up queries, Committee members raised questions on issues concerning the high rate of abortion among adolescents; the nutritional policy of the Government; the situation of patients, particularly children; conditions of street children; the extent of child labour; the practice of recruitment of child soldiers; and the teaching of human rights in schools, among other things.
An expert said that he had received a report which stated that children, particularly refugees from Azerbaijan, were forced to join the Armenian army and he wanted to know if that report was true.
Following the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the introduction of a new political system in Armenia, food for children had been a problem, the delegation said, adding that international organizations were helping the families which had difficulties in providing food for their children.
The rate of abortion was not as high as it was alleged by some experts, the delegation said. However, there were such abortions both in urban and rural areas. In addition, cases of maternal death resulting from abortion within the last two years were non-existent except for one case which involved an Armenian national in Georgia.
Under the former Soviet system and until recently, health care used to be free for everyone in Armenia, the delegation said. With the change of the political system, free medical treatment had to stop. Patients had to pay their medical costs except for children up to seven years. Many hospitals had also been privatized which curtailed free medical care. Some medical doctors treated their patients who were unable to cover their medical costs free of charge as a form of charity. Nevertheless, public health care was under the responsibility of the State.
Asked about the extent of child labour in the country, the delegation said that the agricultural sector had traditionally attracted child labour, not in an exploitative form, but as assistance to and participation in family agricultural activities. Since many of the State collective farms had been privatized, the Government found it be a difficult task to monitor the involvement of children as labourers.
The Government of Armenia was planning to implement a programme which would solve the problem of street children, whose number was estimated to be about 300, the delegation said. The problem should be tackled as a social issue, it added.
Armenia had no nutritional policy because of its economic difficulties, the delegation said. Instead, mal-nutrition persisted due to the lack of enough food for some Armenian families. The World Food Programme (WFP) was active in supplying food to families with nutritional deficiencies.
Armenian children in Nagorny Karabakh used to take up arms against the aggression of Azerbaijan in defence of their territory, the delegation said. However, there was no report at present asserting that children under 18 years old participated in armed conflicts. In Armenia as a whole, citizens aged 18 years and above were drafted into the army. According to the law, persons reaching the age of 18 years should serve in the army for 2 years.
Preliminary Observations and Recommendations
In its preliminary observations and recommendations, the Committee urged the Government to reflect the best interest of the child in practice, and not only in its legislation. With regard to the definition of the child, it said the age of criminal liability of the child should be raised.
The Committee recommended that parental education was important in changing the traditional attitude towards children. In addition, it said that Armenia should benefit from the experience of international organizations, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), concerning children affairs.
Further, the Committee recommended that Armenia conduct campaigns to change public attitudes regarding children with disabilities who suffered from social bias. Also, the Committee urged the Government to take special protection measures in favour of poor, orphaned, abandoned children and those affected by armed conflicts.
The Committee recommended that the juvenile justice system should be put in line with the relevant articles of the Convention; that special attention be given to the problem of street children; that data collection should be done to better assess the extent of the implementation of the rights of children; and that close cooperation should continue with NGOs to build the civil society of Armenia.