Marshall Islands - Twenty-second session - 2015
11 May 2015 - 14.30 p.m. - 18.00 p.m
IV. Action taken regarding recommendations arising from the first UPR round
22. Recommendation 2 (56.2): The RMI organized and conducted national consultations in May and June 2014 with OHCHR, RRRT, PIFS, and members of the RDC. In addition to discussing reporting and implementation obligations of treaties already ratified, namely CEDAW and CRC, the RDC discussed ratification of core human rights treaties, including reporting obligations. The RMI remains committed to working closely with these partners in the future.
Legal protection and human rights education
30. Recommendation 13 (56.13): The government undertook multiple efforts to ensure that human rights are afforded full legal protection. These efforts range from studies conducted to examine the effectiveness of existing laws to introduction of laws and policies to address gaps to amendment of the Criminal Code to capacity building activities for those instrumental in ensuring legal protection of human rights. For example, the CPBR was conducted 2010 and included a legislative review of child protection provisions. The FHSS
was conducted in 2012 and, while it did not include a legislative review, it did examine how women experience violence, including whether existing laws provide adequate protection. In 2014 the Atlas of Social Indicators for Children in the Republic of the Marshall Islands was endorsed by Cabinet. The Atlas provides baseline data on poverty, education, health and other socio-economic indicators.
Women and children
33. Recommendation 15 (56.15): In 2011 the DVPPA was passed by the Nitijela. The DVPPA is a standalone law addressing domestic violence. It defines domestic violence broadly, addressing physical, emotional, social, economic and sexual abuse. The DVPPA makes domestic violence an offense punishable by prison time or a fine. Additionally, the DVPPA includes a No-Drop Policy to ensure investigation and prosecutions of charges are warranted. Other important provisions include restraining orders, the naming of mandatory reporters and the power granted to courts to make custody and maintenance orders when hearing domestic violence cases. In addition to the 2011 enactment of the DVPPA, the government partnered with a local NGO to develop first response protocols and a technical working group to oversee implementation of the law. The DVPPA Costing Analysis conducted by UNDP in cooperation with MOIA in 2012 provides further guidance for the government. The Costing Analysis identified all parts of the law that require active implementation and identified the key actors as well as the amount that should be budgeted for successful implementation of the activities.
34. While there is no standalone national strategy to combat violence against women and girls, the draft Gender Policy includes an outcome on gender-based violence. The Gender Policy will be submitted for Cabinet review in early 2015. MOIA is also partnering with WUTMI on implementation of the RMI National Work plan under the Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Initiative, which commits $320 million over 10 years to improve the political, economic and social opportunities of Pacific Women. Finally, MOIA is the recipient of a three-year grant from the United Nations Trust Fund (UNTF) to end violence against women for implementation of the Costing Analysis for the period of 2015-2017. MOIA will continue to work in cooperation with its partners, including WUTMI, to ensure harmonized implementation of these projects.
35. Building on progress made in ending violence against women and increased awareness of related issues, the RMI government will be cooperating with International Organization on Migration (IOM) on the implementation of a U.S. Office to monitor and combat trafficking in persons grant entitled “Combating Trafficking in Persons in Micronesia through Establishment of Protection Frameworks for Victims of Trafficking.” The RMI government will be supporting IOM’s work on this project through the Trafficking in Persons taskforce, which was approved by Cabinet in 2014. The task force’s membership includes the AG’s Office, Marshall Islands Police Department (MIDP), MOFA, WUTMI and IOM.
37. Recommendation 17 (56.17): The enactment of the DVPPA was the most important step in strengthening the legislative framework for protection of women and children. Another important legislative milestone was the revision of the Criminal Code, which included a standalone provision addressing trafficking in persons. The newly endorsed NSP also specifically addresses issues pertaining to gender, children, youth and vulnerable groups. Additionally, the drafting of a Child Protection Bill is in its initial stages.
40. Recommendation 20 (56.20): The first major step to implement a national program aimed at eliminating violence again st children was the CPBR, launched in 2012. The report provided important baseline data on child protection issues. The CPBR, including a legislative review, provided the foundation for a Child Protection Bill. Highlighting child protection issues, including those affecting school environments, provided the impetus for MOE to adopt a Child Protection Policy in 2014. Additionally, the DVPPA provides further protection for children from abuse by family members. Capacity building undertaken by MIPD on domestic violence will also benefit children as police officers are more prepared to deal with child victims of violence. More work remains to be done with regards to dissemination of the CPBR to stakeholders to ensure that the report’s findings are properly integrated into all areas that address child rights and welfare.
41. Recommendation 21 (56.21): The Child Rights Office is the government focal point for matters involving child welfare. If necessary, they will be called in to assist other ministries on cases involving children. The Child Protection Policy at MOE includes instructions for MOE staff to respond to disclosures of abuse. The draft Child Protection Bill will also address child sensitive mechanisms for lodging complaints.
42. Recommendation 22 (56.22): The draft Worker’s Compensation Bill has a provision for child laborers.
Non-discrimination and equality
43. Recommendation 23 (56.23): Since the last UPR cycle the government has undertaken a legislative compliance review of child protection issues as part of the CPBR and a legislative compliance review of CRPD, the latter of which the Nitijela approved the Government’s accession . The recommendations of these reviews are under consideration. Further efforts to ensure non-discriminatory laws include proposed Constitutional amendments, including adding disability as a prohibited ground for discrimination, to be considered at the planned Constitutional Convention.
47. Recommendation 27 (56.27): The MIPSSA was passed in 2013 and commenced in November 2014. The MIPSSA created an autonomous Public School System and a governing National Board of Education and also brings the hiring and management of teachers solely under the purview of MOE, not the Public Service Commission (PSC). The MIPSSA provides that a child over the age of five before the beginning of a school year is eligible to enroll in and attend any school in the RMI and that enrollment and attendance for these children is the responsibility of the parents or guardians. A child who has successfully completed elementary level education shall be eligible to enroll in secondary level education in any school.
48. Enrollment data from 2011 shows nearly equal enrollment of males and females at both public and private elementary and secondary schools. In all elementary schools, 48.3% of students were female. In all secondary schools, 51.1% of students were female. Attendance is considerably more difficult to monitor. Attendance rates disaggregated by sex are not available, although overall attendance rates are 77% for Majuro, 70% for Ebeye and 71% for Outer Islands.
Right to an adequate standard of living
53. Recommendation 31 (56.31): A number of advancements were made in the last five years that enable the government to continue to ensure the enjoyment of the right to education and the right to health. In the area of education, major advancements include the enactment of the MIPSSA replacing the Education Act. Important features of the MIPSSA include a newly established public school system and governing board as well as clear standards for curriculum, attendance, teacher certification, student and teacher conduct, nutrition, transportation, and student health and safety. Additionally, beginning in 2013, collection of all registration fees was suspended and all public school students were able to attend school free of charge. Another initiative that has done much to improve outer island students’ ability to access education is the solar panel installation project that enables school children to study after dark.
54. In the area of health, a number of independent initiatives have addressed existing obstacles in accessing healthcare. In 2014, Majuro Hospital opened a new Maternal and Child Health clinic. This increased ability to provide quality care to mothers and children is further supported by the early childhood hearing screening program. An important development to ensure access to quality specialty care has been MOH’s partnership with medical missions from abroad who have been able to deliver care in fields like obstetrics and gynecology, orthopedics, and ophthalmology to patients on Majuro and Ebeye. MOH has continued to address the challenges of delivering health services to the outer islands through the Health Mobile Team, which maintains a rigorous schedule of outer island visits, delivering immunizations as well as basic medical and preventative care. This Health Mobile Team’s activities are enforced by the WKWJ mobile team, which includes partners from the Reproductive Health Division. Finally, MOH has also undertaken capacity building programs for nurses.
56. Recommendation 33 (56.33): Major initiatives to improve the access of children to education include the removal of school fees and the inclusive education program. Public schools that previously charged registration fees were mandated to stop this process beginning in 2013. This affected mainly schools located on Majuro and Ebeye as removed a significant financial barrier for students attending school. Additionally, MOE continues to provide appropriate education to students with disabilities, based on the findings of their Individualized Education Plans.
III. Implementation of international human rights obligations, taking into account applicable international humanitarian law
B. Right to life, liberty and security of the person
18. UNCT indicated that in the Marshall Islands, more than 20 per cent of parents used physical punishment that hurt a child on a daily basis, and at least 12 per cent of children were verbally humiliated by their parents on a daily basis. While corporal punishment was prohibited in schools and recognized as an unlawful disciplinary measure, there were concerns that it was still being used in homes and alternative care settings. UNCT noted that the Marshall Islands did not have a cohesive child protection programme; the legal framework for child protection was weak and programmes and services lacked strategic direction; and child protection concerns were largely undetected and seemed to go unattended for the most part. UNCT encouraged the Marshall Islands to strengthen the normative framework and integrate child protection laws and a comprehensive child protection policy into existing mechanisms, such as the Central Adoption Agency.
C. Administration of justice and the rule of law
19. UNCT encouraged the Marshall Islands to consider legal reform to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 15 years.
D. Right to privacy, marriage and family life
20. UNCT encouraged the Marshall Islands to consider making 18 years the legal age of marriage for girls, irrespective of parental or custodial consent, to make it consistent with the legal age of marriage for boys.
G. Right to health
25. UNCT noted that poor immunization coverage and child malnutrition were additional challenges. Rural children were three times less likely than urban children to be fully immunized. UNCT recommended the implementation of cost-effective public health interventions to increase immunization coverage, including in rural communities and outer islands.
27. According to UNCT, the Marshall Islands had a high teenage pregnancy rate and an alarming rate of sexually transmitted infections. Early marriage tended to be accepted. Teenage pregnancies accounted for about 15 to 20 per cent of all recorded births. Socioeconomic factors such as high school drop-out rates and unemployment might play a role, but cultural acceptance of early pregnancy might be a stronger determinant. UNCT added that, in order to boost efforts to prevent teenage pregnancy, the Ministry of Health, Youth in Youth Health and UNFPA had identified the need for a rights-based, action-oriented strategic plan for the prevention of teenage pregnancy. UNCT encouraged efforts to finalize and implement the proposed strategic plan. It recommended raising awareness about teenage pregnancy, including by addressing the cultural acceptance of the phenomenon.
H. Right to education
33. UNESCO referred to the recommendations the Marshall Islands had accepted during the first UPR on the right to education and stated that the Marshall Islands had adopted a new law on education in 2013 that ensured the right to education. A policy on gender equality had also been drafted, but the Marshall Islands had not taken specific measures to further promote inclusive and human rights education. UNESCO encouraged the Marshall Islands to continue to submit State reports for the periodic consultations of its education related standard-setting instruments; to adopt specific measures to further promote inclusive education, especially for students with disabilities; and to take additional measures to promote human rights education.
C. Implementation of international human rights obligations, taking into account applicable international humanitarian law
2. Right to life, liberty and security of the person
8. JS2 noted that with the assistance of Women United Together Marshall Islands (WUTMI), the Ministry of Internal Affairs established a Technical Working Group to ensure and follow the implementation of the Act. According to JS2, there was a slow implementation rate of the Act with the preparation of the Law Enforcement First Responders Protocol to be finalized and endorsed by the Ministry of Health. Moreover, there were still no designated counselling services or safe houses for women and children escaping domestic violence. JS2 added that the Act provided for a Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Fund to be established, but there was no money in this Fund as at August 2014. The Act also required that the Secretary of Internal Affairs be responsible for collecting and maintaining data of reported domestic violence cases; monitoring, evaluating and providing surveillance to domestic violence cases; and reporting and providing necessary activities relating to domestic violence cases. According to JS2, none of this had been achieved until September 2014.
10. Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (GIEACPC) stated that in RMI, corporal punishment of children was lawful, despite repeated recommendations to prohibit it by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. GIEACPC noted that no specific recommendation to prohibit corporal punishment was made during the first UPR of RMI in 2010, but the country accepted recommendations to take legislative and other measures to address violence against children.
15. GIEACPC hoped that RMI will receive during its second review in 2015 a specific recommendation requesting that legislation be adopted to prohibit all forms of corporal punishment of children in all settings, including the home, and explicitly repeal the right to use force for “prevention or punishment of the minor’s misconduct” and for the maintenance of “reasonable discipline” in the Criminal Code.
II. Conclusions and recommendations
75. The following recommendations will be examined by the Marshall Islands which will provide responses in due time, but no later than the thirtieth session of the Human Rights Council, in September 2015:
75.8 Ratify the Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as previously recommended (Spain);
75.40 Adopt and implement the Child Protection Bill, preventing children from becoming victims of child abuse and publicly raising awareness for their rights (Germany);
75.64 Submit the overdue reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child at the earliest possible stage (Portugal);
75.68 Take the measures necessary to review its domestic legislation in order to guarantee the free and compulsory birth registration of all children born in the country (Argentina);
75.70 Build on the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act and the National Gender Policy to implement more concrete programmes and policies to combat violence against women and children, and to promote the full and equitable participation by women in society (Singapore);
75.74 Continue combating violence against women and children by prohibiting the right to use force and severe corporal punishment of children at home, and effectively enforcing the existing laws in this area, especially the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act (Thailand);
75.78 Finalize and implement the first response protocol for urgent intervention, so that the problem of violence against women and girls is dealt with effectively and that ministries concerned are provided with the budget necessary to apply the Domestic Violence Prevention and Protection Act (Belgium);
75.81 Raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 18 years and abolish child marriage by raising the age of marriage to 18 (Sierra Leone);
75.82 Pursue efforts undertaken to prevent and more effectively punish acts of domestic violence committed against women and children, through strengthening the legislative arsenal and the resources allocated to the judiciary, police force and justice (France);
75.85 Prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings, including the home, and repeal the authorization of the use of force to correct children’s misconduct in the Criminal Code (Sweden);
75.86 Reform its legislation with a view to establish the prohibition of all forms of corporal punishment of children, an indispensable component for the prevention and elimination of violence against children, as well as for the respect for children’s rights, dignity and physical integrity (Brazil);
75.87 Adopt legislation to prohibit all forms of corporal punishment of children in all settings, and explicitly repeal the right to use force for “prevention or punishment of the minor’s misconduct” and for the maintenance of “reasonable discipline” in the Criminal Code (Namibia);
75.97 Thoroughly implement the 2014–2016 strategy to prevent adolescent pregnancy, in cooperation with UNFPA (Portugal);
75.100 Take action at all levels to address the interlinked root causes of preventable mortality and morbidity of children under 5 and consider applying the technical guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to the implementation of policies and programmes to reduce and eliminate preventable mortality and morbidity of children under 5 years of age (A/HRC/27/31)(Ireland);
75.103 Implement specific measures to promote inclusive education of children with disabilities (Israel);
75.104 Continue strengthening protection of the rights of persons with disabilities, particularly through approving a national disability strategy, which particularly focuses on boys, girls and women with disabilities (Spain).