Convention on the Rights of the Child
4 February 2011
COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
Fifty sixth session
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES UNDER ARTICLE 44 OF THE CONVENTION
Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child:
1. The Committee considered the initial report of Afghanistan (CRC/C/AFG/1) at its 1586th and 1587th meetings held on 18 January 2011(see CRC/C/SR1586 and 1587), and adopted, at its 1612th meeting, held on 4 February 2011, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the initial report as well as the written replies to its list of issues (CRC/C/AFG/Q/1/Add.1) and commends the frank and self-critical nature of the report. The Committee also welcomes the positive dialogue with a high level and multi-sectoral delegation, which allowed for a better understanding of the situation of children in the State party.
B. Positive aspects
3. The Committee notes with appreciation the adoption of:
a) Law on the Rights and Privileges of People with Disability and Martyrs’ Family in 2010;
b) Law on the Elimination of Violence against Women in 2009;
c) Law of Juvenile Rehabilitation Centers in 2009
d) Education Law in 2008;
e) Law on Counter Abduction and Human Trafficking in July 2008;
f) Labor Law in 2007;
g) Law of Public Health in 2006; and
h) Juvenile Code in 2005.
4. The Committee also welcomes the ratification by the State Party of the following international human rights treaties:
a) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (2002) on 24 September 2003;
b) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2003) on 19 September 2002;
c) Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination Against Women on 5 March 2003;
d) ILO Conventions No. 138 (Minimum age) and 182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour) on 7 April 2010; and
e) Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) and its 1967 protocol on 30 August 2005.
5. The Committee also welcomes the following institutional and policy measures:
- The establishment of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict in 2010;
- The Afghan National Development Strategy of 2008 and in particular its sub-strategies on education, children at risk and children with disabilities;
- The adoption of the National Plan of Action against Trafficking and Kidnapping of Children adopted in 2004;
- The establishment of a Child Protection Action Network (CPAN) in 2003; and
- The establishment of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) in 2002.
C. Factors and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Convention
6. The Committee notes the continuing effects of over three decades of armed conflict in the State party that impede the implementation of the rights enshrined in the Convention and delayed the submission of the State party’s report.
D. Main areas of concern and recommendations
1. General measures of implementation (arts. 4, 42 and 44, paragraph 6 of the Convention)
7. The Committee notes with concern that in spite of recent legislative developments in the field of child rights, the State party does not consider the Convention as a legally binding instrument in the internal order and has therefore not incorporated it systematically into domestic legal system in order to make it applicable. The Committee is also concerned that child rights continue to be negatively affected by the application of different sources of law, namely codified, customary and Sharia laws and that legislation contradictory to the Convention remains in force. The Committee is further concerned about the low implementation of legislation enacted in the field of child rights due mainly to weak enforcement, limited level of awareness of the legal norms promulgated, widespread corruption and the application by courts of provisions of customary or Sharia law which infringe the principles and rights contained in the Convention.
8. The Committee urges the State party to ensure applicability of the Convention in domestic legal order and ensure that all its principles and provisions can be applied in courts and in administrative proceedings and apply to all children living on the territory of the State party. The Committee also urges the State party to ensure that existing domestic framework, including customary or Sharia laws is brought into compliance with the Convention. To this aim, the Committee recommends that the State Party consider enacting a comprehensive Child Act which would supersede all legislation that is not in conformity with the Convention and provide children with appropriate means of redress.
9. While welcoming the recent establishment of a Children’s Secretariat to coordinate the implementation of the Convention, the Committee is however concerned that this Secretariat has been placed within the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, Martyrs and the Disabled (MoLSAMD) which may limit its cross-sectoral impact. The Committee is also concerned about the proliferation of ad hoc commissions and overlapping of such commissions and Government departments on issues affecting children.
10. The Committee urges the State party to allocate principal responsibility for the coordination and evaluation of implementation of the Convention to a single mechanism with full authority and capacity to coordinate children's rights implementation across all ministries and other agencies which are responsible for the State Party's obligations under the Convention and to provide this mechanism with adequate financial and human resources to fulfill its mandate throughout the national territory.
National Plan of Action
11. The Committee commends the formulation of several specific plans of action for children and of an overall Afghan National Development Strategy (2008-2013). The Committee is however concerned that there is no comprehensive policy and strategy for the attainments of child rights which could be linked to the Afghan National Development Strategy and to the national budget.
12. The Committee recommends that the State party develop a comprehensive policy and strategy for children closely linked to the Afghan National Development Strategy appropriately resourced, and covering all specific plans of action relating to different aspects of child rights, either in the form of a National Plan of Action for children or other such framework. The Committee recommends that in formulating such policy and plans, appropriate attention is paid to the outcome document of the 2002 Special Session of the
General Assembly of the United Nations “A world fit for children” and its Mid-Term Review in 2007 and to its General Comment No.5 of 2003 on the General measures of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
13. The Committee welcomes the creation of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the establishment by the Commission of a specific Child Rights Desk. The Committee is however concerned about the nomination procedures of the Commission’s members which may not fully guarantee their independence from political influence, the insufficient financial support provided by the State party to the Commission and the limited expertise of its child rights field monitors.
14. The Committee calls upon the State party to ensure that the nomination procedure of the Commissioners fully guarantee their independence in accordance with the Paris Principles. The Committee also urges the State party to ensure that the AIHRC, and especially its Child Rights Desk, receive adequate public funds and training to perform all the functions set out in its mandates. The Committee further urges the State party to ensure that children are aware of the Child’s Unit of the AIHRC and can access it. The Committee draws the attention of the State party’s to its General Comment No. 2 (2002) on the role of independent human rights institutions.
Allocation of Resources
15. The Committee expresses concern that information about budget allocations for implementing the rights of children is extremely limited and that there is no effective mechanism for tracking and monitoring the allocation and impact of resources from national and international sources from a child’s rights perspective.
16. The Committee urges the State party to:
a) Allocate adequate budgetary resources in accordance with article 4 of the Convention for the implementation of the rights of children for their survival, development, protection and participation;
b) Utilize a child right’s approach in the elaboration of the State budget by implementing a tracking system for the allocation and the use of resources for children throughout the budget, thus providing clarity about the investment on children. The Committee also urges that this tracking system is used for impact assessments on how investments in any sector may serve “the best interest of the child”, ensuring that the differential impact of such investment on girls and boys is adequately reflected;
c) When appropriate, follow UN recommendations to start budgeting-by-results to monitor and assess the effectiveness of resource allocation and, if necessary, seek international cooperation to this effect;
d) Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the budget needs related to establishment of social services in the districts affected by armed conflict and establish clear allocations for these areas that address and progressively eliminate the disparities in living conditions of children;
e) Ensure transparent and participatory budgeting through public dialogue and participation, in particular that of children, and ensure proper accountability by local authorities;
f) Define strategic budgetary lines for disadvantaged or particularly vulnerable children and for those situations that may require affirmative social measures (such as birth registration, situation of the girl child) ensuring that those budgetary lines are protected even in situations of crisis; and
g) Take into account the Committee’s recommendations during its Day of General Discussion in 2007 on “Resources for the Rights of the Child - Responsibility of States”.
17. The Committee expresses deep concern that in spite of the establishment of mechanisms to combat it, corruption has attained alarming levels in the State party, directly impacting children’s enjoyment of their rights and greatly reducing the funds available notably for education, health care, including access to safe drinking water and child protection.
18. The Committee urges the State party to take immediate measures to efficiently prevent and combat corruption and prosecute acts of corruption.
19. The Committee expresses concern about the absence of a comprehensive data collection system, which allows disaggregation and further analysis of data on the living conditions of children, particularly girls, children in poverty, or children with disabilities.
20. The Committee urges the State party to establish a comprehensive system of data collection and analysis disaggregated by, inter alia, age, sex, minority group, and family structure and covering all rights under the Convention. The Committee recommends that the State Party take guidance from its General Comment No. 5 of 2003 on the General measures of implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/GC/2003/5).
Dissemination, awareness raising and training
21. The Committee is concerned that the general level of awareness about the Convention remains extremely limited and that training on child rights reach a limited number of professionals working with or for children.
22. The Committee recommends that the State party strengthen its efforts to systematically disseminate and promote the Convention, raising awareness in the public at large and among children in particular. It further recommends that adequate training be systematically provided to all professional groups working for and with children.
Definition of the child (art. 1 of the Convention)
23. The Committee expresses concern that there are inconsistencies between civil law, Sharia and customary laws as to the legal minimum age of marriage.
24. The Committee urges the State party to rectify the disparity in the minimum age of marriage for boys and girls by raising the minimum age of marriage for girls to that of boys at 18 years.
3. General principles
(arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the Convention)
25. The Committee expresses grave concern that girls continue to be subject to multiple gender-based discrimination from the earliest stages of their life and through their childhood. It notes with concern that girl’s discrimination is due to the persistence of adverse norms and traditional attitudes and norms. The Committee recognizes that the State party has initiated steps to expand girls education, improve their safety and protect them against violence, but remains deeply concerned that no systematic efforts have been undertaken, including with religious leaders, opinion makers, and the mass media, to combat and change the discriminatory attitudes and practices. It is particularly concerned that discrimination against girls and women has been legitimized by the Shia Personal Status Law adopted in 2009.
26. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
a) Formulate a comprehensive strategy, including a clear definition of targets and the establishment of a monitoring mechanism, to modify and eliminate negative attitudes and practices and deep-rooted stereotypes that discriminate against girls;
b) Undertake such efforts in coordination with a wide range of stakeholders, including girls, and involve all sectors of society, so as to facilitate social and cultural change and creation of an enabling environment that promotes equality;
c) Monitor such efforts and regularly assess progress made towards the achievement of established goals, and include an assessment of the results achieved in its next report; and
d) Repeal the Shia Personal Status Law as recommended by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/13/62 para. 69 c).
Best interest of the child
27. The Committee is concerned that the principle of the best interests of the child is not adequately applied by legislative bodies and is therefore absent from most of the legislations concerning children as well as from the judicial and administrative decisions and policies and programmes relevant to children.
28. The Committee urges the State party to ensure that the general principle of the best interests of the child is fully integrated in all legislation relevant to children and applied in all political, judicial and administrative procedures and decisions, as well as in programmes, services and reconstruction activities which have an impact on children.
Right to life, survival and development
29. While welcoming the establishment of a Country Task Force on Monitoring, Reporting and Response (CTFMRM) in July 2008, in compliance with Security Council Resolution 1612, the Committee expresses deep concern over the death of hundreds of children as a result of attacks and airstrikes by insurgent groups, international military forces and the Afghan National Army (ANA). The Committee expresses serious concern that armed forces responsible for the killing of children have not been held accountable and that the grievances of families have not redressed. The Committee expresses further concern that the 2007 Law on Public Amnesty and National Stability may be used to grant amnesty to perpetrators of the most serious crimes against children.
30. The Committee urges the State party to ensure that allegations of violations against children perpetrated by any party to the conflict are investigated in a transparent, timely and independent manner and that perpetrators of those violations are brought to justice.
Respect for the views of the child
31. The Committee is concerned that traditional attitudes towards children in society limit and often totally prevent children from expressing their views on the issues that affect them and to have their views duly taken into account within family, schools, other children’s institutions, judicial and administrative system and society at large. The Committee also notes with concern that although included into the 2005 Juvenile Code, the right of children to be heard in any judicial or administrative proceedings affecting them is rarely respected, especially when girls are concerned, children being absent or often requested not to speak during proceedings that concern them.
32. The Committee, recalling that State parties are under the obligation to undertake appropriate measures to fully implement the right of the child to be heard, urges the State party to actively combat negative attitudes, which impede the full realization of the child’s right to be heard, through public education programmes and campaigns, including opinion leaders and the media and to pay special attention to the particularly disadvantaged situation of girls in this regard. The Committee also urges the State party to amend its civil and criminal code to ensure that children are heard in judicial and administrative proceedings affecting them. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its General Comment No.12 of 2009 on the right of the child to be heard (CRC/C/GC/12).
4. Civil rights and freedoms
(arts. 7, 8, 13-17, 19 and 37(a) of the Convention)
33. While noting some progress made in 2009 to increase birth registration, the Committee is however concerned that the majority of children remain unregistered. The Committee also expresses concern about the situation of children born out of wedlock who may be deprived of their right to birth registration.
34. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to the fact that birth registration is an essential means of protecting children's rights, in particular protecting children against early marriage, child labour, premature enlistment in the armed forces or, if accused of a crime, prosecution as an adult and that the lack of a birth certificate may prevent a child from receiving health care, social assistance, and from being enrolled in school. It urges the State party to take all the necessary measures to ensure that all children, including children born out wedlock are properly registered at birth.
Torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment
35. The Committee is deeply concerned that almost half of the children arrested are reported to be subjected to different forms of verbal and physical abuse by the police during arrest in order to extract their confession and that virginity testing is imposed on girls in judicial proceedings. The Committee also expresses grave concern that children are being handcuffed and shackled in juvenile rehabilitation centers, during transportation to court or hospital and at night, allegedly for security reasons or as a form of punishment.
36. The Committee calls upon the State party to urgently set up an independent child-sensitive mechanism to receive complaints against law enforcement officers regarding ill-treatment during arrest, questioning and police custody, and make sure that perpetrators are brought to justice. The Committee also urges the State party to systematically train police force, prison staff and other authorities on human rights of children and ensure physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of child victims of ill-treatment. The Committee further calls upon the State party to immediately cease imposing virginity testing on girls.
37. The Committee notes with concern that in spite of the prohibition of all kinds of physical and psychological punishment of students contained in the Education Law, these practices continue to be common in the State party’s schools. The Committee is particularly concerned that all schools continue to have a discipline/guards committee, comprised of teachers and students, with full permission to use physical punishment on school children.
38. The Committee urges the State party to prohibit unequivocally corporal punishment in the family, schools and institutions for children by law and ensure that those laws are effectively implemented and that legal proceedings are systematically initiated against those responsible of mistreating children. The Committee also calls upon the State party to introduce public education, awareness-raising and social mobilization campaigns on the harmful effects of corporal punishment with a view to changing the general attitude towards this practice and promote positive, non-violent, participatory forms of child-rearing and education as an alternative to corporal punishment. In this regard, the Committee draws the attention of the State party to its General Comment No. 8 (2006) on the right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading forms of punishment.
Follow-up to the United Nations Study on Violence against Children
39. The Committee is extremely concerned by the high level of violence against children in the State party and abhors that children victim of abuse and violence, especially girls, are often treated as perpetrators and sent in juvenile rehabilitation centers while most of the perpetrators of violence against children enjoy impunity. While noting as positive the recent establishment of the Child Protection Action Networks (CPAN) in several provinces and districts, the Committee expresses concern about the absence of a comprehensive public and private systems of protection for child victims of violence as reflected by the lack of any mechanism through which children victims of violence can lodge complaints and receive protection and rehabilitation services.
40. The Committee encourages the State party to:
a) Prioritize elimination of all forms of violence against children, including by ensuring implementation of the recommendations of the United Nations Study on violence against children, paying particular attention to gender;
b) Provide information concerning the implementation by the State party of the recommendations of the Study in the next periodic report, particularly those highlighted by the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence against children, namely:
The development in each State of a national comprehensive strategy to prevent and address all forms of violence against children;
The introduction of an explicit national legal ban on all forms of violence against children in all settings; and
The consolidation of a national system of data collection, analysis and dissemination, and a research agenda on violence against children.
c) Cooperate with the Special Representative of the Secretary General on violence against children and seek technical assistance, inter alia, from UNICEF, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the World Health Organization (WHO), ILO, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNODC, as well as NGO partners.
5. Family environment and alternative care
(arts. 5, 18 (paras.1-2), 9-11, 19-21, 25, 27 (para.4) and 39 of the Convention)
41. The Committee takes note of the State party’s indication that a Family Code is being adopted which will emphasize women's and men's shared family responsibilities. It is however concerned that in accordance with article 256 of the Civil Code, maintenance of children falls under the exclusive responsibility of the father who has to maintain a son until he is capable of making his own livelihood and a daughter until she is married, which greatly contributes to early marriage. The Committee is also concerned that in case of divorce, guardianship of girls above nine years and of boys above seven years will be given to the father. The Committee is further concerned that children who have lost their father are often considered as orphans and may be separated from their mother, especially if she does not accept to marry a male member of his deceased husband’s family.
42. The Committee urges the State party to take all the necessary measures to ensure that mothers and fathers share responsibility for their children on an equal basis and that no difference is made between responsibilities towards girls and boys. The Committee also urges the State party to ensure that children are not separated from their mothers in the case of father’s death, even when she refuses to marry a male relative of the deceased husband.
Children deprived of a family environment
43. The Committee expresses serious concern about the continuous increase of institutionalization of children in the State party, especially children from poor families. The Committee notes with concern that other alternative care options such as foster care remain underdeveloped which leads to excessive institutionalization of children. The Committee is also concerned that most alternative care facilities remain unregistered and are not adequately regulated and monitored.
44. The Committee urges the State party to:
a) Develop revision of admission criteria and strategies to reduce the number of children living in care facilities, including through policies to strengthen and support families and ensure that placement of children in institutions is only used if in the best interest of the child;
b) Develop community-based alternative care especially in rural areas.
c) Ensure that all alternative care facilities are registered and monitored by an independent body;
d) Periodically review the placement of children in alternative care facilities and fully include children in the review of their placement;
e) Implement mechanisms to expand and stimulate the reintegration of children into their families and to this aim recruit and train social workers and other professionals; and
f) Take into account the Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children contained in the United Nation General Assembly Resolution A/RES/64/142 adopted on 20 November 2009.
45. While noting the information in the State party report that the State party does not practice adoption or Kafalah, the Committee expresses concern that the State party does not have a system that provides special protection and assistance to children deprived of a family environment. The Committee also takes note of the information provided during the interactive dialogue that a system of guardianship exists in the State party to take care of orphan children and that legislation to protect those children is being considered. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned about the absence of a legal framework regulating such guardianship and protecting children deprived of a family environment on a long term basis.
46. The Committee urges the State party to adopt through legislation a system that fully protects the rights of all children deprived of a family environment who may require permanent placement, in conformity with of article 20 of the Convention. The Committee encourages the State party to seek technical assistance, inter alia, from UNICEF, in these matters of placement of children deprived of a family environment.
Abuse and neglect
47. The Committee notes with deep concern that in spite of widespread abuse and neglect against children and women in the home, domestic violence has not been criminalized in the State party and that the Penal Code even allows the father to discipline family members, including children, without incurring penalties. The Committee also expresses serious concern about Edict No. 1497/1054 on 26 October 2010 by which the Supreme Court ruled that women and girls who run away from their residence to a stranger’s residence, rather than to a relative’s house, security or justice departments, regardless of the fact that they experienced violence caused by a family member, will be condemned to committing the crime of adultery or prostitution.
48. The Committee urges the State party to criminalize domestic violence and to adopt a comprehensive national strategy to prevent, combat and punish domestic violence and other forms of child abuse and neglect and in particular:
a) Conduct broad awareness-raising campaigns and training on domestic violence and the provisions of the new law for officials (law enforcement agencies, judges, lawyers and social workers) who are in direct contact with the victims as well as for the public at large;
b) Recruit and train female police officers and provide adequate facilities in order to increase the number of Family Response Units (FRUs) within police stations to register cases of domestic violence.
c) Open, as a matter of urgency, state sponsored temporary shelters exclusively for victims of domestic violence throughout the country;
d) Provide adequate protection to child victims of abuse in their homes, whenever possible, through restraining and removal orders against the alleged perpetrator;
e) When the removal of the child from his/her family is necessary, give preference to foster care or similar family-type settings and only resort to institutionalization when in the best interests of the child; and
f) Ensure the inclusion and participation of the whole society, including children, in the definition and the implementation of preventive strategies against domestic violence and other forms of abuse and neglect.
6. Basic health and welfare
(arts. 6, 18 (para. 3), 23, 24, 26, 27 (paras.1-3) of the Convention)
Children with disabilities
49. The Committee welcomes the National Strategy for Children with Disabilities (2008) and the Law on the Rights and Privileges of People with Disabilities and Martyrs' Families (2010), which shall provide access to education and health services and promote participation of children with disabilities. The Committee is however concerned about the limited measures taken so far to implement the law and the strategy and in particular to collect reliable data on children and their disabilities and support families raising children with disabilities. The Committee also expresses serious concern at the extent of maltreatment of children with disabilities in families and institutions, including their psychiatric medication, and the deprivation of education of the majority of children with disabilities in spite of the goals set in the National Strategy for Children with Disabilities of 2008.
50. The Committee recommends that the State Party strengthen its efforts to implement the National Strategy for Children with Disabilities (2008) and the Law on the Rights and Privileges of People with Disabilities and Martyrs' Families (2010) and in particular:
a) Collect data which allow to analyze the extent of disabilities of diverse nature and the conditions under which these children grow up;
b) Provide adequate financial, technical and educational support to families which care for children with disabilities in order to prevent their institutionalization;
c) Make sure that children with disabilities are not exposed to violence or neglect and carefully monitor all facilities which work with children with disabilities;
d) Ensure access to education for all children with disabilities and implement inclusive education by a realistic time-bound strategy which is effectively monitored;
e) Ensure that the right of children with disabilities to participate in all measures of concern to them is respected;
f) Take guidance from the Committee’s General Comment No. 9 on the rights of children with disabilities (CRC/C/GC/9, 2006); and
g) Consider ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Health and health services
51. The Committee notes with concern that in spite of efforts made by the State party, maternal and infant mortality remain among the highest in the world and most of the children, who die in early years, die due to preventable diseases. The Committee is also concerned that:
a) Health facilities are inadequate, significantly underfunded and subjected to attacks by insurgent groups and occupation by the State party’s armed forces, as a result of which one third of children living in rural areas do not have access to any public or private health facilities;
b) Two thirds of children are chronically malnourished, and among them thousands suffer from acute malnutrition;
c) Limitations on women and girls’ movement imposed by traditional norms and lack of female medical staff poses a serious obstacle to providing essential health care services to women and girls;
d) A concerning number of children use drugs or are being given drugs by their addicted parents who want them to keep quiet and one third of women who are deprived of access to health services use narcotic drugs to treat themselves and their children, resulting in addiction;
e) Mental health services remain insufficient to cope with widespread war-related psycho-social disorders suffered by children; and
f) The rate of exclusive breastfeeding for six months is very low.
52. The Committee recommends that the State party give priority attention to identifying and addressing causes of poor health situation of children and to:
a) Take effective measures to improve access to and quality of health care and nutrition services throughout the State party, by allocating sufficient financial resources to the health sector and ensuring the availability of qualified medical staff, including in remote and rural areas;
b) Ensure that girls and children from the most marginalized groups are fully included in all health strategies and programmes;
c) Strengthen efforts to develop outreach services, including a network of mobile health care facilities in conflict-affected areas as an interim measure and ensure that health care facilities are restored and no longer used by armed forces;
d) Develop a comprehensive policy to prevent and end drug use among children and their parents, make sure that children are not criminalized and that any measures taken including rehabilitation duly considers the best interests of the child;
e) Formulate strategies to strengthen available psycho-social assistance, especially for children and recruit more mental health workers and other specialized professionals to address war-related disorders;
f) Enhance efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding practices and comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes; and
g) Continue to seek technical cooperation from UNICEF, WHO and UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
53. The committee is concerned that specific health assistance for adolescents as well as reproductive health education are not adequately provided in the State party. The Committee is also concerned that adolescent pregnancy is a consequence of the widespread practice of early marriage and one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.
54. The committee urges the state party to undertake a comprehensive study of the shortcomings of adolescent health services, with full participation of adolescents, and use the outcome of this study for the formulation of adolescent health policies and programmes, with a particular focus on prevention of early pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The Committee also urges the State party to incorporate adolescent reproductive health information and knowledge in school curricula. The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its General Comment No. 4 on adolescent health and development.
55. The Committee commends the State party for the adoption of the 2009 Elimination of Violence against Women Law (EVAW Law) as a major step forward in the elimination of harmful practices. The Committee is however seriously concerned that harmful practices such as child marriage, giving away girls for dispute resolution, forced isolation in the home, exchange marriage and “honour” killings are pervasive and cause suffering, humiliation and marginalization for millions of Afghan women and girls. In this context, the Committee notes with particular concern:
a) The absence of effective measures to prevent and eliminate early and forced marriage;
b) That the EVAW law does not criminalize honour killings and that the penal code (art.398) exempts perpetrators of honour killings from punishment for murder and provides them with prison sentence of less than two years;
c) The implication of traditional dispute mechanisms in the perpetuation of harmful practices and the impunity that perpetrators of those practices often enjoy as a result of the inaction and complicity of local and State authorities, religious leaders and elders.
56. The Committee urges to put in place a national strategy for the implementation of the Elimination of Violence against Women Law , and in particular to:
a) Ensure prosecutions of harmful practices criminalized under the law;
b) Repeal article 398 of the Penal Code and adopt a legislation providing with sanctions commensurate with the gravity of honour crimes;
c) Set up awareness raising and educational programmes and develop gender sensitive teaching materials and textbooks that will sensitize and inform all stakeholders, including community and religious elders about the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices and about the provisions of the EVAW Law;Ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child is fully integrated into the new law on traditional dispute resolution to ensure that harmful practices towards children are not legitimized and institutionalized; and
d) Provide comprehensive information in its next periodic report on the concrete measures to eliminate harmful practices and their outcome.
Standard of living
57. While taking note of the National Strategy for Children at Risk which aim is to build a comprehensive child protection and family support system, the Committee is however concerned that one third of the State party’s families and children lives in absolute poverty and a further
37% just above the poverty line and that less than one quarter of Afghan families have access to safe drinking water and less than one-third is able to use sanitation facilities. In this context, the Committee expresses concern about the lack of services in the State party to support families to raise their children and to ensure their rights to holistic development.
58. The Committee calls upon the State party to take all the necessary measures to provide support and material assistance to economically disadvantaged families, including targeted programmes with regard to most needy groups of families, implemented at community level.
7. Education, leisure and cultural activities (arts. 28, 29 and 31 of the Convention)
Education, including vocational training and guidance
59. The Committee takes note of the adoption of the Education Law in 2008 and of the Education Strategy 2006-2010 and 2010-2014 and commends the State Party for the remarkable expansion of the educational system in the last decade with regard to the number of schools, trained teachers and enrolled children, including the notable increase of girls' enrolment. The Committee is however concerned that almost half of the State party’s children are not enrolled in school and that extreme gender disparity in school enrolment and high school drop out persist at all levels. The Committee is further concerned that budgetary allocations to the education sector remain insufficient to build and restore school infrastructure and to enforce the provision of free and compulsory education which may lead schools to ask parents for so-called “voluntary” donations. The Committee is concerned that children from minorities, notably Hindu and Kuchi children have limited access to education.
60. The Committee expresses its extreme concern over attacks by insurgent groups on school facilities which have killed dozens of school children and their teachers and led to the closure of hundreds of schools throughout the country since 2007, especially in the South of the country. The Committee is particularly concerned that, in the prevailing conditions of conflict, schools have been used as polling stations during elections and occupied by international and national military forces.
61. The Committee recommends that the State party:
a) Allocate increased resources to the education sector in order to expand, build and reconstruct adequate school facilities throughout the State party and create a truly inclusive educational system welcoming children with disabilities and children from all minorities;
b) Strengthen efforts to stop all forms of corruption in the educational system;
c) Increase education funding allocations to the poorest, most conflict affected, and remote districts to ensure equitable access to education for all children, including the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children;
d) Take active measures to promote the right of girls to education through social mobilization campaigns, increase the number of adequately trained female teachers and ensure their security;
e) Promote the quality of education by revised curricula, interactive learning methods and well trained teachers;
f) Eradicate sexual harassment and abuse of children inside and outside schools through information campaigns, enforcement of the law, helplines and shelters;
g) End corporal punishment and other forms of violence in school, including bullying, by teacher training, school-specific action plans and closer inspection of schools;
h) Promote students' participation in all matters of concern to them in school and education;
i) Use all means to protect the schools, teachers and children from attacks and include communities, in particular parents and children, in the development of measures to better protect schools against attacks and violence;
j) Take into account General Comment No. 1 (CRC/GC/2001/1) on the aims of education.
8. Special protection measures
(arts. 22, 38, 39, 40, 37(b) and (d), 30, 32-36 of the Convention)
Internally Displaced/refugee Children
62. The Committee commends the State party for its efforts to provide assistance to returnee and internally displaced children, especially those who were internally displaced between June 2009 and July 2010 in the Helmand and Badghis provinces. However, the Committee expresses concern that there is currently no clear policy to monitor the situation of internally displaced children and their families and respond to their needs and that refugee, returnee and internally displaced children, especially Pashtun and “Jogies” children continue to face harsh living conditions and problems accessing birth registration and identity documents, education.
63. The Committee urges the State party to develop a clear policy to monitor the situation of internally displaced children prioritizing timely protection support to internally displaced and paying due attention to their needs in terms of health and education. The Committee also calls upon the State party to take the necessary measures to ensure that returnee, refugee and internally displaced children are not denied access to education and identity documents and are not discriminated in any other way on the basis of their ethnicity. The Committee encourages the State party to accede to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.
Children affected by armed conflict
64. The Committee, while welcoming the establishment in 2010 of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict and the adoption of an Action Plan to respond to grave violations committed against Afghan children in conflict, is concerned that no specific reference has been made, nor resources or responsibilities allocated for the particular needs of all children affected by armed conflict in the 2010 Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme. The Committee further notes with concern that although the minimum age for recruitment in the police and in the army has been set at 18 years by presidential decree, under-18 recruitment persists in the State party, including in the ranks of the Afghan police. The Committee is also concerned that, when arrested, children used by insurgent groups are held with adults under national security charges for extended periods of time in the facilities of the international armed forces or of the National Directorate of Security, where limited access of child protection national and international bodies is given.
65. The Committee urges the State party to :
a) Ensure that appropriate child-specific provisions and resources are included in all peace and reconciliation negotiations and treaties;
b) Implement the Action Plan to respond to the six grave violations of child rights committed against Afghan children in conflict;
c) Allow national and international child protection bodies regular access to all detention facilities at all levels, including those of the National Directorate of Security and ensure due process for all juveniles detained for their alleged association with armed groups; and
d) Fully implement the recommendations contained in the latest mission report of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict
Economic exploitation, including child labour
66. While welcoming the ratification of ILO Conventions 138 and 182 and the minimum age employment set at 18 years by the Labour Law, the Committee expresses concerns that half of the children are economically active in the State party, most of them being subjected to the worst forms of child labour. The Committee also notes that insufficient efforts have been made to prevent forced labour in the informal and private sectors where most of the children are engaged. The Committee notes with particular concern that a large proportion of child workers start working between the ages of 5 to 11 years and work all day and that more than a third of child workers do not attend school and are illiterate due to the necessity to work, the high cost of school-related expenses and their parents’ decision not to enrol them in school.
67. The Committee urges the State party to:
a) Conduct a national child labour survey to collect reliable and valid data to understand the dynamics of child labour and to support recommendations that will address the root causes and the dangers of child labour throughout the country;
b) Develop a stronger legal framework and enforcement mechanism to eradicate child labour, including in the informal and private sectors; and
c) Include children and representatives of children’s organizations in all efforts to eliminate child labour;
d) Provide educational opportunities for children who work for their family’s survival; and
e) Raise awareness on the negative consequences of child labour through a wide public information campaign;
Children in street situations
68. The Committee is concerned that there are significant numbers of children working in the streets in the State party, and that these children are at great risk of physical, emotional and sexual exploitation and abuse. The Committee expresses particular concern that children in street situations are often used as sex workers and introduced to intravenous drug use by criminal groups. The Committee is also concerned that children in street situations under the age of criminal responsibility have been arrested and detained by the Afghan National Police.
69. The Committee urges the State party, in close collaboration with civil society, to support local authorities to design and implement social inclusion strategies for children in street situations and their families.
Sexual exploitation and abuse
70. The Committee expresses grave concern that limited action has been taken by the State party to combat widespread sexual abuse and exploitation of children and that perpetrators of such abuse enjoy impunity. The Committee also expresses deep concern that while there is a systematic failure of the authorities to prosecute perpetrators of sexual abuse, child victims are very often considered and treated as offenders and charged with offences such as debauchery, homosexuality, running away from home, or “zina”. The Committee is also particularly concerned that:
a) Shame and stigma are attached to the child victim rather than the perpetrator;
b) The crime of rape has not been clearly defined and separated from the offense of “zina” in domestic legislation and that other types of sexual abuse, including abuse in homosexual relations as well as sexual exploitation have not been included into the penal code;
c) There is no mechanism in place through which children victims of sexual abuse can lodge complaints and receive protection and recovery services while their privacy is protected; and
d) Girls victims of sexual abuse and exploitation are at risk of “honour killing”, the practice of “Baad”, or forced marriage with their rapist and rejected by their families;
71. The Committee calls upon the State party to:
a) Urgently develop awareness-raising programmes, including campaigns, with the involvement of children, to curb socio-cultural norms that lead to child sexual abuse, condone abusers and stigmatization of child victims;
b) Revise legislation in order to adequately protect all girls and boys from all forms of sexual abuse and violence and ensure that the crime of rape is clearly defined;
c) Ensure that child victims of any form of sexual abuse or exploitation are considered and treated as victims and no longer charged and detained;
d) Strengthen Family Response Units and establish as a matter of urgency effective and child-friendly procedures and mechanisms to receive, monitor and investigate complaints;
e) Ensure that perpetrators of child sexual abuse and exploitation are brought to justice and when found guilty punished with sanctions proportionate to their crimes; and
f) Develop a national strategy to respond to the housing, health, legal and psycho-social needs of child victims of sexual exploitation and violence.
Sale, trafficking and abduction
72. The Committee expresses concern that children are trafficked by criminal groups mainly within the country and into neighbor countries for forced prostitution, forced begging and forced labor in brick kilns, carpet-making factories, in the drug smuggling industry and domestic service. The Committee is also deeply concerned that some families knowingly sell their children for forced prostitution, including for bacha baazi. The Committee notes with concern that little has been made to implement the provisions of the 2008 Law on Counter Abduction and Human Trafficking and the 2004 National Plan of Action on Combating Child Trafficking and that human trafficking convictions remain rare while victims of trafficking are punished for acts they may have committed as a direct result of being trafficked and jailed pending resolution of their legal cases, despite their recognized victim status.
73. The Committee urges the State party to adopt concrete measures for the full implementation of the anti-trafficking law and plan of action and in particular ensure that perpetrators are effectively prosecuted and punished if found guilty. The Committee calls upon the State party to ensure the children victims of trafficking are no longer punished and jailed for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked but receive protection and rehabilitation services; and that public awareness campaigns to warn at-risk populations of the dangers of trafficking are conducted. The Committee further encourages the State party to consider ratifying the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
Administration of juvenile justice
74. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the Juvenile Code in 2005 and the establishment of the specialized juvenile justice system based on the 2005 Juvenile Code. The Committee is however deeply concerned at the situation of juvenile justice in the State Party and in particular that:
a) Juvenile Courts have only been were established in six districts only up to now and children in conflict with the law are tried by family judges many of whom are not specifically trained for juvenile justice;
b) Status offences regarded as "abnormal behaviours" can lead children to be sentenced as criminals, in particular girls who are victims of violence and abuse and who are made responsible for the criminal acts committed against them;
c) Detention is not the last resort, a large number of children are in detention, almost half of them in pre-trial detention, about half of the girls in Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres because of so-called moral offences, such as running away from home, and some of them even during pregnancy and birth of their child;
d) A number of children under the age of criminal responsibility, which is 12, are found in Juvenile Rehabilitation Centres;
e) Alternatives to detention are rarely used despite options provided by the Juvenile Code of 2005;
f) A number of children in detention are not separated from adults, are not adequately provided with food, care, protection, education and vocational training and often are subjected to abuse and torture;
g) Children are not provided with legal aid, including before court, and that often statements are forcibly extracted from them; and
h) Many parents are not informed of the detention of their children and children not allowed to meet with their parents.
75. The Committee recommends that the State party bring the system of juvenile justice fully in line with the Convention, in particular articles 37, 39 and 40, and with other relevant standards including the Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the Beijing Rules), the Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (the Riyadh Guidelines), the Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (the Havana Rules), the Vienna Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System; and the Committee’s General Comment No. 10 (2007) on the rights of the child in juvenile justice. In particular, the Committee urges the State party to :
a) Respect strictly the minimum age of criminal responsibility;
b) Strengthen effort to establish specialized courts throughout the country;
c) Remove so-called moral offences as a crime and release children detained on this basis;
d) Ensure that no child be subjected to abuse and torture, when in contact or in conflict with the law, especially during the stage of arrest and investigation;
e) Respect the right of the child to be informed of the charges and to have access to his/her family, as well the rights of the parents to get information;
f) Limit by law the use and length of pre-trial detention of children;
g) Provide children, both victims and accused, with adequate legal and other assistance at an early stage of the procedure and throughout the legal proceedings;
h) Ensure that detention is applied as a measure of last resort and for the shortest possible period of time and be reviewed on a regular basis with a view of withdrawing it;
i) Continue efforts to ensure that children deprived of liberty or in rehabilitation centres or in detention facilities are never kept with adults, that they have a safe, child-sensitive environment, and that they can maintain regular contact with their families and are provided with food, education and vocational
j) Promote alternative measures to detention such as diversion, probation, counselling, community service or suspended sentences, wherever possible;
k) Request further technical assistance in the area of juvenile justice and police training from the Interagency Panel on Juvenile Justice, which includes UNODC, UNICEF, OHCHR, and NGOs; and
l) Take account of the Committee's General Comment no. 10 (2007) on the rights of the child in juvenile justice.
Protection of witnesses and victims of crimes
76. The Committee also recommends that the State party ensure, through adequate legal provisions and regulations, that all children victims and/or witnesses of crimes, e.g. children victims of abuse, domestic violence, sexual and economic exploitation, abduction, and trafficking and witnesses of such crimes, are provided with the protection required by the Convention and that the State party take fully into account the United Nations Guidelines on Justice in Matters Involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime (annexed to Economic and Social Council resolution 2005/20 ).
9. Ratification of International and Regional Human Rights Instruments
77. The Committee recommends the State party to promptly submit its initial reports under the Optional Protocol the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children and armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It also encourages the State party to accede to all core human rights instruments, including the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants workers and the Members of their families, the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities and its optional protocol and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and to consider acceding to the 1996 Hague Convention No. 34 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Cooperation in Respect to Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children.
10. Follow-up and dissemination
78. The Committee recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures to ensure that the present recommendations are fully implemented, inter alia by transmitting them to the members of the Government, the Parliament, the Provincial Councils and to other local Governments, when applicable, for appropriate consideration and further action.
79. The Committee further recommends that the second periodic report and written replies submitted by the State party and the related recommendations (concluding observations) it adopted be made widely available in the languages of the country, including (but not exclusively) through the Internet to the public at large, civil society organizations, youth groups, professional groups and children, in order to generate debate and awareness of the Convention, its implementation and monitoring.
11. Next report
80. The Committee invites the State party to submit its combined second to fifth periodic report by 26 April 2016 and to include in it information on the implementation of the present concluding observations. The Committee draws attention to its Harmonized Treaty Specific Reporting Guidelines adopted on 1 October 2010 (CRC/C/58/Rev.2) and reminds the State party that future reports should be in compliance with the guidelines and not exceed 60 pages. The Committee urges the State party to submit their report in accordance with the reporting guidelines. Should a report exceeding the page limitations be submitted, the State party will be asked to review and eventually resubmit their report in accordance with the above mentioned guidelines. The Committee reminds the State party that if it is not in a position to review and resubmit the report, then translation of the report for purposes of examination of the treaty body cannot be guaranteed.