Congo

Congo: Rights activists call for improved protection of children

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BRAZZAVILLE , 26 February (IRIN) - Human rights activists in the Republic of Congo (ROC) have called for better application of existing laws to protect the rights of children.

The call was made on 19 February, at the end of a four-day seminar for the training of human rights educators, organised by the Convention nationale des droits de l'homme (Conadho), and financed by the US embassy in Brazzaville.

Among the many themes discussed by the 71 seminar participants, particular attention was given to that of children deemed to be in high-risk situations, most notably child soldiers and street children.

Seminar participants made many recommendations on improving the condition of children in the Congo, including a call on the government, with the assistance of NGOs, to provide care for AIDS orphans; the formal prohibition of the sale of alcohol and tobacco to children under 18 years of age; the creation of education and training centres for street children; the establishment of psycho-social treatment centres for demobilised child soldiers; the closing of widespread video clubs that allow children to watch pornographic films; and the adoption of a law obligating belligerent parties to create protection zones for children to allow them to continue to attend school and receive adequate health care.

Seminar leaders lamented that although numerous laws already existed for the protection of children in the ROC, which has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, most of these measures were rarely, if ever, applied.

"Although the Convention on the Rights of the Child mandates that children should be raised in a family setting, in a climate of happiness, love, and understanding, this is not really the case in the Congo," Thomas Djolani, the Conadho president, told IRIN. "It is for this reason that we have launched this initiative, which we hope to bring to all regions of the country."

For further information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, go to: http://www.unicef.org/crc/

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