UN Committee to review rights of the child in Tunisia – MRG’s submission with PAD network
Tunisia’s efforts to fulfill, respect and protect children’s rights will be reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child at its 86th session, currently scheduled for January 2021. This review was postponed to the 87th session in May/June 2021 due to the health situation related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Committee will assess Tunisia’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child that the country ratified in 1992.
Ahead of this review, Minority Rights Group International (MRG) submitted, in November 2020, a shadow report in partnership with the Anti-Discrimination Points network, composed of seven Tunisian civil society organisations: Damj, Association pour la Promotion du Droit à la Différence, Association Tunisienne pour la Prevention Positive, By Lhwem, Danseurs Citoyens Sud, Tunisie Terre D’Asile and Mnemty.
The report focuses on the rights of children belonging to vulnerable groups in Tunisia, including children belonging to ethnic or religious minorities, indigenous children, migrant and asylum-seeking children, children living with HIV and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer+ (LGBTQ+) children.
The shadow report details most specifically the patterns of discrimination and violence experienced by black children in schools, the language discrimination that Amazigh children face when starting elementary school, the infringement of the private life of LGBTQ+ minors by family members and police officers, the shortages of supplies and relevant medications to treat HIV-AIDS in children born HIV positive, the disparities in access to education for migrant children and more.
These violations of the rights of the child in Tunisia need to be addressed and redressed in order to fulfil Tunisia’s commitments to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
MRG, in partnership with the Anti-Discrimination Points, suggest that the Committee call on the government of Tunisia to (list non-exhaustive):
- Raise awareness on racial discrimination and how it impacts children’s access to all human rights; Train judges, police officers and all public employees working with children on law no.50/2018 in case of minors victims of racial discrimination.
- Create the National Commission for the Fight Against Racial Discrimination as soon as possible, which should liaise with bodies under the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Women, Family, Children and Seniors to implement policies to fight racial discrimination in schools.
- Harmonise the law on Human Trafficking, the Code of Labour and the various international commitments such as the Convention of the International Labour Organization n°182 related to the abolition of the worst form of child labour, and n° 138 related to the minimum age for admission to employment to prevent child labour and economic exploitation, particularly of foreign children.
- Enable children of the LGBTQ+ community to enjoy their rights to health and education without discrimination and ensure violations of their rights are duly punished and remedied.
- Remove barriers to access to education, health and services for foreign children, including ensuring access to essential services is not made conditional to a residency card in law and practice.
- Facilitate and strengthen access to clear information in languages understandable to migrants at the registration desk in hospitals and at the municipal level.
- Inform all municipalities of the abolition of circular no.85 of 1965 to ensure that Amazigh parents can register their children with traditional indigenous names.
- Halt the process of cultural assimilation and language endangerment caused by state policies and recognise the country’s diversity in school curricula and in the public discourse.
- Provide support for the teaching and revitalizing the Tamazight language to allow Amazigh children to maintain their linguistic and cultural identity.
- Provide information about the different religions existing in Tunisia in public school curricula to avoid marginalisation and stigmatisation of children of religious minorities.
- Raise awareness about the diversity of sexual orientations and gender identities and the need to respect that diversity to prevent abuses of LGBTQ+ children from parents, families and security officers.
- Actively fight all forms of violence and ill-treatment against children (as per law no. 2010-40 prohibiting corporal punishment, including within the family) and take specific measures to prevent and punish family and societal violence against LGBTQ+ minors.
- Increase the supply of free, good-quality medications and provide services, including psychological ones, for children living with HIV and for children of HIV-positive parents.
- Allow all children to access basic free public health care, including migrant children, regardless of their immigration status.
- Take urgent measures to guarantee the respect of the right to education for all children without exception, including migrant children regardless of their parents’ legal status.
- Proactively fight systemic racism not just in its blatant manifestations but also through encouraging black children to seek the same opportunities in terms of education as all Tunisian children.
- Train educational staff and promote human rights education in schools to avoid incidents of stigmatization and violence against children belonging to any marginalized groups, including black children, migrant children, LGBTQ+ children and children living with HIV.
- Examine, revise and harmonise the national legal system of child protection in compliance with the Constitution and the Convention, including to better secure the rights of migrant children.
- Train staff in protection centres and other facilities welcoming migrant children on anti-discrimination and on how to deal with foreign children victims of displacement, and provide necessary services, including addressing psychological trauma, interpretation services, etc.
- Ratify the International Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
- Adopt a law on asylum that pays particular attention to children in situations of vulnerability.