Protecting children from harmful practices in plural legal systems
with a special emphasis in Africa
From foreword SRSG and PCEO Plan International
"Across regions, millions of children continue to suffer from various forms of harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, early and forced marriage, breast ironing, son preference, female infanticide, virginity testing, honour crimes, bonded labour, forced feeding and nutritional taboos, accusation of witchcraft, as well as a great number of other less known practices.
Harmful practices may be traditional or emerging, but generally have some cultural, social or religious underpinning. Common for most harmful practices is that they have devastating consequences on the child’s life, development, health, education and protection.
The UN Study on Violence against Children urged states to prohibit by law all forms of violence against children, including harmful practices. This recommendation is a key priority for the mandate of the Special representative of the Secretary General on Violence against Children as well as for Plan International. To advance progress in the implementation of this recommendation, they co-organized an expert consultation, in June 2012. This thematic report was informed by those important discussions.
The expert consultation placed a particular emphasis on addressing harmful practices in plural legal systems. It built upon significant developments and experiences across regions, with a particular emphasis on Africa and the work promoted by the African Union and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The discussions examined the interplay between children’s right to legal protection from all harmful practices, and religious and customary laws. Informed by significant developments that have helped to address deeply rooted social conventions and support the abandonment of harmful practices against children, the consultation put forward important recommendations to advance national implementation efforts.
We are confident that the conclusions and recommendations highlighted in this report, calling for the harmonization of national legislation, customary and religious laws with international human rights standards, and the introduction of a legal prohibition of harmful practices, supported by a steady process of implementation to prevent and address those practices, will help to accelerate progress in children’s protection from harmful practices across regions.
We look forward to further strengthening our collaboration to prevent and eliminate all violence and harmful practices against children everywhere and at all times."