In this issue:
Latest news and reports
- Violence against children
- Civil and political rights
- LGBTI rights
LATEST NEWS AND REPORTS
Violence against children
A former child bride in Sudan has been sentenced to death for killing her husband after he tried to rape her. Noura Hussein, 19, says her father signed a contract agreeing to marry her to her cousin when she was 16, but she refused and sought refuge with a relative for three years. Following her father’s assurance that the marriage was cancelled, she returned to her family home in April this year, but found that preparations for the wedding ceremony were under way. On the sixth day of her marriage, after refusing to have sex with her husband, Hussein said he raped her as three of his male relatives restrained her. He attempted to rape her again the following day, and as she struggled to stop him, she stabbed him, killing him. A Sharia court found Hussein guilty of premeditated murder and sentenced her last week to death by hanging. Her lawyers have 15 days to appeal. In Sudan child marriage and marital rape are not considered crimes. Campaign groups, who affirm Hussein acted in self-defence, have urged Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to pardon her, arguing that the judgment is against the Sudanese constitution.
Eight Palestinian children are among around 60 people killed by security forces after soldiers opened fire on protesters along Israel’s border fence. Thousands were injured as Israeli forces fired on crowds, many of whom the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has reported were posing no imminent threat at the time they were shot. On 14 May Israeli forces killed six children, aged between eight months old and 17 years old, with live ammunition and teargas. Since 30 March, 112 Palestinians, including 14 children, were killed at the fence and thousands more have been injured. Protests were sparked by the United States’ announcement of the move of its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and culminated around Nakba day as the new embassy opened. Nakba day is an annual event which both remembers the mass displacement of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948 and protests Israel’s continued rejection of their right to return.
In South Africa, 29 boys who attended a football academy were allegedly beaten and sexually abused by their coach for months. Investigations revealed that the boys were living under the same roof as the alleged abuser at the centre run by the newly formed Inter-community Sports Academy in Protea Glen, Soweto. The football coach, who was arrested last week in connection with the rape of a nine-year-old boy at the academy, died after poisoning himself. One boy, who suffered severe beatings, said he did not speak about the abuse to his family because he was worried it would jeopardise his football career. The case prompted the Commission for Gender Equality to highlight that sexual violence against boys is often not spoken about because it is taboo: "we need to deal with patriarchal mentality that discourages boys from speaking out,” said Commission spokesperson Javu Baloyi. The Commission has called for the academy to be closed immediately, and is urging the Department of Sports and Recreation to fully investigate these sports centres.
A coalition of UN agencies and charities has found that 21,000 students and teachers were injured or killed globally in attacks on schools over the last five years. More than 12,700 attacks, including bombings, arson and violent repression of education-related protests, took place between 2013 and 2017. “Teaching and learning has become increasingly dangerous with the lives of students, teachers, and academics frequently put at risk,” said the head of the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA), Diya Nijhowne. A total of 41 countries suffered at least five attacks in the last five years, a 36 percent increase on the previous half decade. Yemen stood out as one of the worst cases globally, with more than 1,500 schools and universities damaged or completely destroyed by airstrikes and fighting. Nigeria was another of the most dangerous countries, with more than 1,000 attacks on its schools.
New rules in Ireland banning discrimination against children who are not baptised should come into force this year, said Richard Bruton, the Minister for Education. Bruton said that oversubscribed primary schools will not be allowed discriminate on the basis of religion. Around 90 percent of primary schools across the country are currently owned and run by the Catholic church. Bruton published three amendments to the Education (Admission to Schools) Bill 2016, including that the role of religion in school admission should be removed. He explained: “It is unfair that a local child of no religion is passed over in favour of a child of religion, living some distance away for access to their local school”. Though 90 percent of primary schools are Catholic, the latest figures show that more than 20 percent of the population is non-religious. In addition, recent marriage statistics for 2017 show that only around 51 percent of marriages occurred in a Catholic ceremony.
In Kenya, a school child has been expelled after the headteacher found out the pupil is intersex. A health card issued at the hospital where the child was born indicated the child is male, however the family have used a girl’s name, and enroled her in school under this name, following a doctor’s advice. The school’s headteacher expelled the child based on the fact that the child’s parents were unable to provide a birth certificate. The child’s mother did not apply for the certificate following the child’s birth as there was no option of leaving the gender option blank, and the mother feared lying on official documents. The Deputy Director for Education Mwangi Kabora has intervened and advised the parents to take the child to school immediately, adding that the law was clear on a children's right to education.
Civil and political rights
In Russia, the Moscow region’s children’s rights ombudsperson, Ksenia Mishonova, has supported a bill introducing administrative sanctions against those encouraging children to take part in “unauthorised public events” including meetings, demonstrations, or pickets. The ombudsperson’s website claims that protest organisers “manipulate” teenagers’ minds in order to get them involved in violent protests. The bill has now been submitted to the country’s federal parliament and could introduce fines up to 50,000 rubles (around US$800), compulsory community service for up to 100 hours, or detention for up to 15 days on those who break the rules, though harsher sentences can be imposed on public officials. The new law is not the first attempt by the government to prevent young people from attending rallies, with the country’s minister of internal affairs suggesting parents should be held “accountable” for their children’s participation in anti-Putin protests. The head of the Russian civil liberties commission, Nikolai Svanidze, criticised the measures as ambiguous and potentially unconstitutional.
Members of a conservative party in Alberta, Canada, have endorsed a policy that would require schools to inform parents if their children enrol in “extracurricular activities of a religious or sexual nature”. The policy focuses on Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), student-run clubs that offer a welcoming space where LGBT students and their heterosexual friends work to make schools more inclusive. Critics of the policy have noted that homelessness and violence disproportionately affect LGBT youth in the country. The policy change could also restrict LGBT children’s freedom of assembly, association and expression by discouraging them from seeking out support groups. A total of 57 percent of delegates at Alberta’s United Conservative Party conference voted for the measures, though party leader Jason Kenney later told reporters he interpreted the resolution differently and would not implement a policy which would out children to their parents, adding: “We will not do that. You can take that to the bank".
Portugal's president has vetoed a law that would have made it easier for people to change their gender and name in documents from the age of 16. The bill, approved by parliament last month, would have allowed citizens to make the legal changes from the age of 16 without the need of a medical test. The legislation would also have outlawed unnecessary surgery on intersex children. Under current rules, the minimum age for changing name or gender is 18 years old and anyone wishing to change their gender must present a medical report. The president told MPs to consider the need for a medical test for those under the age of 18, giving the country’s parliament scope to either amend the law in line with the president's suggestions or to vote again on the proposed law. If the draft wins the approval of more than half of MPs, the president would be obliged to sign it into law without any changes. The law would have made Portugal the second country in the world, after Malta, to ban medically unnecessary surgery on the genitals of intersex infants, and the sixth European nation to allow a change of gender without requirements such as surgery or sterilisation.
Greece has approved legislation to speed up the adoption process and allow same-sex couples to become guardians of orphans. On average in Greece there is a six-year wait for prospective parents to complete the adoption process, but the new rules limit the waiting time to eight to 12 months, although many cases will be subject to court approval. The law was approved after a heated debate, with protests against the new rules from the Orthodox church and unrest surfacing in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's left-right coalition. It is unknown how many children live in state care in Greece, though one lawmaker estimated that it may be as many as 3,000. Adoption by single sex couples is also allowed in at least 14 other European Union member States including France, Portugal and Spain, according to ILGA Europe.
Former prime minister of Australia John Howard has called for funding cuts for any school that will not let parents pull their children out of sex education classes. Howard made the comments during a government review of religious freedom in the country, claiming that federal funding should be used to coerce public and private schools into respecting parental preferences. In a written submission the former prime minister called for respect for “parental rights”, a phrase often used by religious parents to justify denying children sex and relationships education. Health experts are increasingly vocal about making sex and sexuality education compulsory in schools. Howard also joined the country’s major churches in urging the government to enshrine a right for religious schools and welfare organisations to hire and fire staff as they see fit, including on religious or moral grounds.
THE LAST WORD
“They would save us from secularism’s sinister invitation to know thyself by imposing a tyrannical dominance over the minds and bodies of their children. One side of their mouth rages against coddled college students, shut up in “safe spaces” to escape from reality; the other side screams that children are property until the age of 18.”
— Journalist Drew Brown's assessment of plans to "forcibly out" LGBT children to their parents in Alberta, Canada.