International experts review Taiwan’s 1st state report on CRC

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President Tsai Ing-wen, center in the back row, welcomes the foreign experts invited to review Taiwan's first state report under the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child on Nov. 20, 2017. TSAI also gave an address in which she reaffirmed the government's commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of children through the implementation of the CRC. (CNA)

TAIPEI (CNA) – Local nongovernmental organizations (NGO) advocating children’s rights raised various issues on the protection of children with international experts as the weeklong review of Taiwan’s first state report under the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) got under way on Monday.

Jakob Egbert Doek, a guest lecturer from the Children’s Rights and Family Law Department at Leiden University in Holland, led an international group of five reviewing the report the Taiwan government published in November last year, two years after the Legislative Yuan enacted the “Implementation Act of CRC.”

“It’s an extraordinary indication of the commitment to the principles and rights of the convention,” Nigel Cantwell, a member of the group, told CNA when speaking of Taiwan freely subjecting its implementation of the CRC to a UN-type review when its ratification is not recognized by the UN.

Since 2009 Taiwan has ratified six of the UN’s nine core international human rights treaties and enacted separate legislation aimed to bring the nation’s legal framework into line with international norms, according to the Ministry of Justice.

As Taiwan is not a member of the U.N., it is under no obligation to submit periodic reports to the relevant treaty body on how those rights are being implemented.

Nevertheless, Taiwan has invited international experts to review its reports. The first UN-type review was held in 2013 into Taiwan’s first reports on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In the case of the CRC report, the review process involves international experts meeting with NGOs, lawmakers, children and government officials before they present their observations and recommendations on how implementation can be improved on Nov. 24.

At the morning session on Monday, representatives from the Legislative Yuan and NGOs briefed international experts about issues ranging from gender equality in education to child labor, lack of basic rights for stateless children and lack of educational resources for economically disadvantaged students.

Chiu E-ling (邱伊翎), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association for Human Rights (TAHR), brought up the issue of stateless children and child labor.

Under the CRC, a child is defined as a person below the age of 18.

On children born to undocumented foreigners whose whereabouts are unknown, Chiu said in Taiwan they are considered nationals of their mother’s country of origin but are not registered in the “home country,” and so become “de facto stateless.”

On child labor, Chiu said that it is not an uncommon problem in Taiwan and that children and teenagers can often be seen working in construction sites, markets, restaurants etc. while recently a dozen young Vietnamese children were found working on a farm in central Taiwan instead of attending school, Chiu said.

The representative from Taiwan NGOs for CRC, an alliance of 13 NGOs, said that one of the most important issues in implementing children’s rights in Taiwan is that the country does not have an independent institution that can deal with complaints relating to violations of children’s rights.

The NGOs were divided on the issue of gender equality in education.

Victor Hsu (許秀雯), president of Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights, said “it was regrettable” that the state report made no mention of how to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT) children who often experience bullying and are prone to self-harm or suicide.

“Non-discrimination because of sexual orientation should be part of gender equality in education, not just gender equality in heterosexual relationships,” Hsu said.

Representatives from Taiwan Mothers Shield Alliance, Taiwan Association of Gender/Sexuality Rights Protection, R.O.C Association of HIV/AIDS and Child Care, linked the issue of equal rights for same-sex couples to “sexual liberation.”

They expressed concern that advocacy for same-sex relationships in the mass media and teaching materials could cause children to have gender identity issues.

At the opening session, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) gave an address in which she reaffirmed the government’s commitment to promoting and protecting the rights of children through the implementation of the CRC.

The president said priority will be given to children who fall behind in school because of financial constraints faced by their families, to help them keep up with friends. “It’s our responsibility,” said Tsai.

The afternoon session with children was held behind closed door.

By Shih Hsiu-chuan