Mozambique: Committe On the Rights of the Child Concludes Its Consideration of the Report of Mozambique

Committee on the Rights of the Child

12 September 2019

Committee Experts Urge Mozambique to Improve Birth Registration and Stress the Importance of Preschool Education

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning concluded its consideration of the combined third and fourth periodic report submitted by Mozambique on how it implements the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Committee Experts stressed the need to improve birth registration, as well the importance of preschool education. They expressed concerns about the small number of social workers, which could hamper the implementation of the law on children.

Committee Experts asked what the Government was doing to improve birth registration rates. In that regard, what was the Government doing to improve the situation in more far-flung regions?

Amadeu Paulo Samuel Da Conceição, Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that since the submission of the report, Mozambique had achieved progress in various areas. It had expanded access to birth registrations by 4.7 million. This had brought the registration rate to 71.9 per cent. Birth registration was very much a priority for the Government, the delegation said. The Government was looking at all aspects that may hamper these registrations, such as cultural barriers.

Experts stressed the importance of preschool education and kindergarten. What challenges was the State party facing in improving access to preschool education? The report was vague in that regard. Passing a law was one thing and the implementation was another. Could the delegation explain why there was a delay in the implementation of the law on children? There were few social workers in the country. What was the plan for implementing this law with so few social workers?

Ann Marie Skelton, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, in concluding remarks, thanked the delegation. Regarding birth registrations, the Committee noted that the State party was tracking progress and deploying efforts to fill the gaps, which had had some positive results. The Committee urged the State party to take a similar approach when addressing other issues.

Mr. Da Conceição, in concluding remarks, thanked the Committee for the very intense and fruitful meetings over two days. The Government of Mozambique continued to be committed to safeguarding all the rights of the child enshrined in the Convention. It would continue to improve meeting the goals it had set in the short-, medium- and long-term.

Luis Ernesto Perdernera Reyna, Committee Chairperson, in concluding remarks, thanked the delegation for its openness to engage in a dialogue. The Committee stood ready to assist Mozambique in implementing the Convention. The Committee sent its best greetings to the children of Mozambique, he concluded.

The delegation of Mozambique consisted of representatives of the National Directorate for Children, the Directorate for Legal Issues, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education and Human Development, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry for Gender, Child and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional and Religious Affairs, who participated in the dialogue via video conference from the capital Maputo. Representatives from the Permanent Mission of Mozambique to the United Nations Office at Geneva were present in the room.

The Committee will next meet in public this afternoon at 3 p.m., to consider the initial report of Panama under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/PAN/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the combined third and fourth periodic report of Mozambique under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC/C/MOZ/3-4).

Presentation of the Report

AMADEU PAULO SAMUEL DA CONCEIÇÃO, Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said Mozambique had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994, reaffirming its commitment to implement, in a progressive manner, the rights of children through the adoption of policies, legislation and the rolling out of programmes.

Since the submission of the report, Mozambique had achieved progress in various areas. The Legislative Assembly had revised the Family Law, establishing the age of marriage at 18 years, without any exceptions. It had also adopted a law on early marriages, which set out measures to prevent and combat this practice as well as protect victims.

Mozambique had adopted a list of jobs that were dangerous for children. It had expanded access to birth registration by 4.7 million children. This had brought the registration rate to 71.9 per cent. There had been two sittings of the children's parliament. The coverage of healthcare had been extended, which had led to increased vaccination rates, a reduction of child mortality, and an increase in access to antiretrovirals.

Furthermore, the Government had provided assistance to 8,685 refugee children, who benefited from basic social services. It had also carried out action to prevent and combat child labour and other phenomena that were detrimental to children. The rights of children were promoted and disseminated at the community level and within various institutions. Components on the rights of the child had been incorporated in the school curricula and textbooks at both the primary and secondary levels. This aimed to ensure that children were apprised of their rights. Programmes had been implemented to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The efforts demonstrated the commitment of Mozambique to improving the wellbeing of children as well as to the Convention.

Questions by the Committee Experts

ANN MARIE KELTON, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, asked what happened when there was a conflict between the Convention and the national laws of Mozambique and what had been the effect of the amendments made to Law 8/2000 on the protection of children.

Passing a law was one thing and the implementation was another. Could the delegation explain why there was a delay in the implementation of the law on children. There were few social workers in the country. What was the plan for implementing this law with so few social workers?

The Committee commended the adoption of the law prohibiting child marriage. How did this law work in practice, notably in cases of cessation of marriage? What happened to a girl who could not go back to her family after having left her marital home?

She asked about the resources allocated to the National Council for Social Action to implement its role as a coordination mechanism since 2015.

On the comprehensive policy and strategy, the Committee noted that there was a National Plan of Action for Children 2013-2019. There was a low level of achievement on nutrition issues' impact on planning. Did the planning take into account the possible future effects of climate change on Mozambique?

On the allocation of resources, she requested information on the difference between the law and the strategy on anti-corruption. Could the delegation provide concrete, positive feedback that pertained to services to children? Had child rights assessment been carried out in relation to the budget?

Turning to data collection, she said not much information had been provided to the Committee on data collection.

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, asked about examples when article 37 had been applied in a manner that upheld the rights of children. On the efforts deployed by the Government to reduce the difference between children from urban areas and those from the rural or poorer areas, he requested information on the outcome achieved.

Had there been an instance where the best interest of the child had been used and applied that were not cases related to family law? He requested information about the outcomes of measures that had been put in place to reduce child deaths that were related to road accidents. The table included in the report seem to conflate child and adult deaths.

On the Children's Parliament and other such matters, it seemed that the instances where the voices of the children were heard were all governed by family law. How about other areas? He requested information about the situation of children with disabilities.

What had been done on measures put in place to tackle social practices that were detrimental to children?

He asked if the State party was considering removing the birth registration fee. Were there any efforts being made to ratify the conventions on statelessness? Had the State party taken measures to calculate the number of stateless persons in the country.

JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, said that during its Universal Periodic Review, Mozambique had said it would prohibit corporal punishment in all settings. It was disappointing to note that the State party did not respond to the Committee's questions on this matter nor had it even mentioned it in its report. Had the State party started awareness-raising campaigns on the harm caused by corporal punishment and the existence of alternative education methods.

MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Rapporteur for Mozambique, asked if the helplines were available 24 hours per day and if children were aware of the existence of these reporting channels. Could the delegation explain what kind of support and services were available to children who were victims of violence.

On sexual exploitation and abuse, she asked the delegation to clarify whether having sexual intercourse with children aged 16 years or more was a crime or not under article 220. She requested information about the complaint process when victims were under 16 years old.

According to the Demographic and Health Survey from 2011, 9.3 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 years had been abused sexually. The State party's report also stated that roughly 25 per cent of all cases registered at the offices and sections caring for family and minors were about sexual violence. Had the Government conducted, or did it plan to conduct, a comprehensive in-depth study on the prevalence of sexual violence and its root causes?

The Committee was seriously concerned about discrimination and violence against children with albinism, including killings, mutilations and kidnapping. What kind of measures had the Government taken, or planned to take, to address this issue? Had perpetrators of those crimes been prosecuted? If not, why? Were there any awareness-raising efforts made by the Government to eliminate superstitious beliefs about children with albinism.

Replies by the Delegation

Delegates remarked that while it was true that Mozambique had few social workers, it was carrying out work to ensure that more were trained. It was a challenge, but when Mozambique acquired its independence in 1975, it had only 25 social workers, whereas now it had over 2,000. Mozambique would continue to take up this challenge through more training programmes. The Government had allowed private institutions and universities to train social workers, including outside of the capital, in the provinces.

Early marriage was one of the greatest challenges faced by Mozambique. An early marriage group, chaired by the National Director of the Children's Council, had been created to ensure coordination amongst stakeholders.

On data collection, the National Statistics Office was the lead entity for data collection at the national level. The National Health Institute also carried out research and conducted surveys. The Government had created a children's welfare survey which was carried out jointly by these two bodies. It encompassed issues such as early marriages, violence, malnutrition, HIV and others that were linked to children's rights, and about which the Government wished to obtain more information. This information would help the Government better understand children's living situation, and the results of these surveys would inform a national plan of action for children.

Turning to the questions about potential conflicts between the Convention and domestic laws, the Constitution stipulated that international rules were incorporated into domestic legislation. This incorporation was done automatically. International conventions ranked lower than the Constitution; the latter prevailed over the former should a conflict arise. But there could not be any conflict between domestic law and the Convention, as by ratifying the Convention, the Government had incorporated it into domestic legislation. This ratification process entailed addressing any compatibility issues.

School councils were comprised of children, teachers, school principals and members of the community at large. Children could present their suggestions during meetings, so that they may be incorporated into decisions. At these meetings, they could voice their opinion. There were still many challenges remaining. That was why, this year and last year, the Government had met with the presidents of the school councils to discuss issues further.

Children with disabilities were a priority for the Government. Awareness-raising campaigns were carried out to ensure that parents understood that just because their children had disabilities it did not mean that they had to stay at home. These campaigns sought to encourage parents to enrol children with disabilities in school.

There were some cultural practices, some initiation rites, that could hamper the rights of children. Work was being done to ensure that the transmission of cultural values was done in a manner that was child-friendly and did not violate the rights of children. For instance, by engaging with cultural leaders, the Government had convinced them not to hold initiation rites on days and at times when children were supposed to be in school.

Children's Parliaments were mechanisms created to encourage the exercise of children's right to opinion as well as their participation, at various levels of Government. In these fora, children talked about their health, the protection of vulnerable children, the dissemination of children's rights, and various other issues. The recommendations that children elaborated were submitted to the Government.

To address chronic malnutrition, a multi-sectoral plan had been put in place, which focused on pregnant women and encouraged exclusive breastfeeding. It also sought to change social behaviours and practices that could lead to chronic malnutrition.

The Government was working to foster birth registrations, notably for children born in less favourable circumstances; it was important that parents knew that they could register the birth free of charge.

The Government always involved civil society. It had been involved in the drafting of the report, for instance. Civil society was able to provide constructive criticism; it had this prerogative.

On girls who had been in early marriages, the Government's policy favoured family reunification. If it was not able to send the girl back to her family, biological or otherwise, she was provisionally sent to a reception centre, until a proper solution was found. In those cases, the Government sought to uphold the right of children to grow up in a family.

An Expert said Mozambique was unable to repay its foreign debt. He acknowledged that the Government was trying to address this. Still, debt service payments amounted to 25 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. What measures had the Government taken to ensure this did not adversely impact the realization of children's human rights.

JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, reiterated his question about corporal punishment.

Another Expert asked what the Government was doing to improve birth registration rates. What was the Government doing to improve the situation in more far-flung regions? The figure the Committee had before it was 30 per cent, in other words the birth registration rate stood at 30 per cent.

ANN MARIE KELTON, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, noted that the discovery of gas in the last decade had led to new extractive industry investments. Had children's rights been taken into account in impact assessments?

JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, said the Committee had received information that initiation rites sometimes led to early pregnancy and early marriages. What measures were in place to ensure that girls and adolescents could file complaints if they felt abuses had been committed.

Second Round of Questions by Committee Experts

BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, asked for information about adoption legislation and regulations.

He requested information about efforts undertaken to establish a national registry on alternative care. Had there been an increase in keeping children in their families or extended families? Institutionalization was a critical issue. He asked what concrete measures had the State party taken to move towards deinstitutionalization and address the mushrooming number of orphanages.

Pre-primary education and kindergarten were important matters. What challenges was the State party facing in improving access to pre-primary education? The report was vague in that regard. He requested information on efforts deployed to address sexual violence in schools.

JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, said some children with disabilities were suffering from violence and saw their access to mainstream schools impeded. What measures had the Government taken to improve this access, adequately train teachers, and provide children with disabilities with social benefits? He asked whether the Government had a rights-based cross-cutting approach to ensure that children with disabilities had access to sports and cultural activities.

What measures had the Government taken to foster access to high quality healthcare services and trained healthcare professionals? What was it doing to reduce the prevalence of diseases such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis?

On adolescent health, there was very little use of contraceptives and very little access to safe abortion. What measures was the Government taking to address this situation? Access to post-abortion care should be provided. Were there measures in place for the early diagnosis of mental health problems?

MIKIKO OTANI, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, said the Committee was concerned about the humanitarian situation of children affected by cyclones Idai and Kenneth. How were children informed of the climate change and natural disaster issues and risks? Were children prepared to move to safe areas in case of disaster-related emergency situations?

Considering the huge challenge posed by extreme poverty in the State party, there was no easy solution. It would be a good idea to identify priority areas. Did the Government have any views on the kind of strategies that would be effective and implementable?

Was there a system to identify and refer unaccompanied children and children separated from their families to the relevant protection and support services? Considering the armed conflict situations in other African countries, did the Government have any information on cases of asylum-seeking and refugee children who were involved in, or affected by, armed conflicts before coming to Mozambique.

How were relevant sectors working together to identify and protect victims of child labour? Could the delegation provide information on children in street situations and their access to education, as well as efforts made to reunite them with their families?

ANN MARIE KELTON, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, turning to the age of criminal responsibility, asked what happened to children below the age of 16 when they did things that were considered as crimes. She requested statistics on the number of persons under the age of 18 that were in prison. Although statistical problems with the data provided in the report made it difficult to be sure, it seemed that the number of children in prison was increasing.

As for children victims of crimes, were there efforts to ensure that they could give their statement about what happened in a child-friendly manner? Were there measures for victim support and victim compensation?

Could the delegation provide information about the concerns related to illegal logging that had been voiced by children in the Children' Parliament? Were they concerned about the environment?

Second Round of Replies by the Delegation

The delegation explained that, in order to ensure that there were no undue payments made in cases of adoption, the Government disseminated the relevant rules and procedures and encouraged people to report on situations that contravened domestic laws, including the anti-corruption act.

The Government was implementing social programmes. Vulnerable families received social support in the form of cash transfers or the provision of goods. This aimed to allow them to cater to their children's needs. Poverty was no reason to put a child in an institution. The Government believed it was better advised to support families living in poverty.

Inspections were carried out in companies to ensure their compliance with labour regulations, including the prohibition of child labour. A multi-sectoral plan on child labour had been adopted to prevent and combat child labour as well as provide support to victims. A commission comprised of stakeholders was working to improve data collection on this issue and to elaborate strategies.

Turning to education, the delegation remarked that an act had been adopted in December 2018 on national education, which established preschool education as a component of national education, that was a "subsystem". Implementing regulations stemming from that act had been adopted. To tackle violence in schools, the Government had put in place measures to make sure that children wore their school uniforms. There were internal rules for each subsystem, which provided a framework within which each school then developed its own regulations.

A helpline had been put in place, and a code of conduct for teachers had been drawn up to tackle violence against children in school settings. They were various cases that attested to the fact that teachers were held accountable, such as the charges pressed against a philosophy teacher in Mapala.

Preschool was offered throughout the country, in particular in rural areas. There were child care professionals in community schools. Efforts had been made and resources had been allocated to bolster preschool education.

The Government had raised awareness amongst religious leaders so that parents would be encouraged to send children with disabilities to schools. Teacher training curricula included an introduction to subjects related to disability. The notion of inclusive education was also covered in these curricula.

Sexual and reproductive health education was included in primary and secondary school curricula, in biology classes.

The Government was building schools that were resilient to natural disasters. A handbook, which included a section on natural disasters, had been developed for teachers.

As many children went home for their meals, school feeding programmes had been put in place.

There were no children that had been abandoned due to the cyclones. All affected children had either been reunited with their parents or, for those who had lost their parents, reintegrated in the extended family. No children were being hosted in emergency shelters.

The Constitution prohibited torture and maltreatment, and the criminal code provided there would be penalties for using physical violence, notably against children. There were cases of people who had been held responsible by the legal system - parents, neighbours, relatives -- for using corporal punishment to, as it were, "discipline" children. There was not, however, a specific law as such banning corporal punishment.

Children under the age of 16 who were in conflict with the law were heard by a special judge. Any instance where this was not the case was duly reported and addressed.

Following the decriminalization of abortion, technical and regulatory rules were being developed, so that it may be properly and comprehensively implemented. Efforts were made to train health staff so that they could provide proper abortion care.

Birth registrations were very much a priority for the Government, the delegation said. The Government was looking at all aspects that may hamper these registrations, such as cultural barriers. In some regions, for instance, there were parents who refused to give the name of the children in the maternity hospital, because they wanted the infant to be introduced to their family before revealing the name.

Other obstacles had to do with a lack of information regarding the need to register within 120 days. A range of actions had been rolled out to raise awareness. There was for instance a programme that had been developed with Save the Children called "You're Born, You're Registered".

The Government had set up registration desks in maternity wards, health centres and other nearby facilities. There were also itinerant birth registration brigades that went around, saving parents a trip.

These efforts had borne fruit: between 2016 and 2018, over 4 million children had been registered. This amounted to more registrations than had been carried out in the previous seven or eight years.

The best interest of the child was guaranteed in actions carried out in relation to natural disasters. After the cyclones, in addition to the national mitigation plan, a new steering plan to reduce the risk of catastrophe over the period of 2017-2030 had been developed.

There were alternatives to custodial sentences for children aged 16 to 18 years. The Government had drafted a plan, in conjunction with the United Nations' Children Fund, for a pilot project under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice. It provided that various professionals, such as legal advisors and sociologists, supported children who had been held in detention while they reintegrated in their families.

In that regard, the Government had carried out awareness raising more generally, because when children were in supportive communities, they were better off. It was important that communities themselves identified and reported problems. Special units had been created in Maputo where children could be provided with advice and had access to leisure activities, which might help avoid problems in the future.

Turning to human trafficking, the delegation remarked that the Penal Code, in article 198, talked about the recruitment and transport of individuals for forced labour. It sought to address the pretexts used by perpetrators to ensnare individuals and exploit them.

A lot had been done to implement the legislation on trafficking, including the provision of training to the police, and numerous professional figures from various governmental bodies. Mozambique was country of origin and transit. Over the past two years, to a certain extent, it had become a country of destination. As trafficking was a transnational crime, partnerships had been established through memorandums of legal cooperation and mutual assistance agreements.

The Government also partnered with civil society organizations to tackle this issue. It was reaching the final stages of developing a national plan on human trafficking, which would serve as an instrument to enhance measures and implement a cross-cutting approach, ensuring a coordinated action.

Questions by Committee Experts

An Expert expressed concerns about the birth registration. What was the Government doing to ensure that people actually picked up the birth certificate of their children? There were about 68 per cent of children under 5 who suffered from malnutrition. Were the relevant governmental bodies properly staffed and did they have sufficient resources to address this problem?

JOSÉ ANGEL RODRÍGUEZ REYES, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, asked for information on the coverage of vaccination.

ANN MARIE KELTON, Committee Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, turning to the age of criminal responsibility, asked what measures the Government had in place to address violence faced by girls on their way to school.

Responses by the Delegation

The delegation said the school curricula dealt with sexual and reproductive health, but the Government also had cross-cutting programmes on this matter.

On the safety of schoolgirls, the Government encouraged pupils who could do so to walk to school with an adult. For safety concerns, there were the usual mechanisms, namely the police and other members of the community.

Vaccinations were undertaken by special units along with consultations related to various diseases. An itinerant unit went to communities. Local representatives sat on committees and prepared for the arrival of this unit. The Government had a medicine supply chain to ensure they reached communities.

Birth certificates were picked up from the place where the child was born. Birth certificates were ready a maximum of three days after the child was born. The Government wanted to digitalize the birth registrar, so that birth certificates could be picked up anywhere in the future.

Concluding Remarks

ANN MARIE SKELTON, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Mozambique, thanked the delegation. Regarding birth registrations, the Committee noted that the State party was tracking progress and deploying efforts to fill gaps, which had had some positive results. The Committee urged the State party to take a similar approach when addressing other issues.

AMADEU PAULO SAMUEL DA CONCEIÇÃO, Permanent Representative of Mozambique to the United Nations Office at Geneva, thanked the Committee for the very intense and fruitful work over two days. The Government of Mozambique continued to be committed to safeguarding all the rights of the child enshrined in the Convention. It would continue to improve to meet the goals it had set in the short-, medium- and long-term.

LUIS ERNESTO PERDERNERA REYNA, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for its openness to engage in a dialogue. The Committee stood ready to assist Mozambique in implementing the Convention. The Committee sent its best greetings to the children of Mozambique, he concluded.

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