PANAMA: Children's Rights References in the Universal Periodic Review

Panama - Twenty Second Session - 2015


6 May 2015 - 9.00 a.m. - 12.30 p.m.


National Report

Compilation of UN information

Stakeholder information

Accepted and rejected recommendations



National Report

IV. Achievements, best practices and challenges

A. Administration of justice


31. According to the report on resolved cases of domestic violence against women and sexual crimes against children and adolescents, a high percentage of proceedings were stayed in 2013. The State therefore wishes to strengthen its mechanisms and devise strategies to combat such violence more effectively.

B. Citizen security

44. The Government of Panama signed an agreement with the company that manages Tocú men Airport to enforce Act No. 16 of 2004, which allocates 1 dollar per foreign national leaving the Panamanian territory to monitoring of the National Plan for the Prevention and Elimination of the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents.

45. The Secretariat for the Protection of Victims, Witnesses and Other Participants in Criminal Proceedings (SEPROVIT) was strengthened in order to make specialized provision for children and adolescents. In addition, the Hogar Malambo is to carry out a project to prevent sexual exploitation of children and adolescents and provide support to victims, primarily targeting ninth-graders, parents, guardians and key actors,in the West Panama sector.

46. The foundations of the proposed observatory on sexual exploitation of children and adolescents have been laid down, in a technical cooperation agreement signed in 2014. The observatory will generate up-to-date information that will inform the decision-making process for public policies.

48. In 2013 and 2014, the National Commission for the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation (CONAPREDES) carried out the “I am not a Toy” campaign, on mechanisms for citizens’ complaints and the protection of children and adolescents, which was launched at Tocú men International Airport and through the mass media.

D. Women

65. Recommendation UPR-68.15. Regional headquarters for the national machinery for women have been set up, a new shelter has been opened in Chiriquí, the shelter in the capital has been renovated and a centre providing comprehensive care to women victims of violence and their children has been built in Colón.

67. In education there has been a significant increase in female participation. More women tend to remain in education and graduate than men, especially at the secondary and tertiary levels. The Institute for Women of the University of Panama satisfies the requirements of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the tertiary level by incorporating the gender perspective through its Master’s programme in gender issues.

E. Children and adolescents

72. Recommendation UPR-68.28. Strategies to step up birth registration for children and adolescents in rural and indigenous areas and border areas have been launched. However, under-registration in indigenous areas still remains high at 22 per cent.

73. Quality standards and regulations are being developed for the care of children in Children and Family Guidance Centres (COIF), with a human rights focus.

74. Three hundred and ninety employees and specialists from 28 alternative care centres and homes for children and adolescents have received training on the Protocol for Dealing with Children without Parental Care, and workshops have been held for children and adolescents, to promote and publicize their rights in schools, care institutions and communities, and have been attended by approximately 8,800 children and adolescents.

75. To assist children in conflict with the law, in 2014 the National Secretariat for Children, Adolescents and the Family helped 40 teenagers by prescribing rehabilitation measures consisting of psychosocial counselling and the monitoring of their performance in school; 28 of them received voluntary vocational training in workshops on electrotechnical systems, upholstery and beauty care; 25 took part in a workshop on emotional self-awareness; and 25 received training on the dangers of drug abuse. Eighty-five per cent of them have rejoined the education system; 40 per cent have begun gaining work experience while they study; and 45 per cent participate in the “Make Your Mark” prevention programme.

76. The most recent survey on child labour, which was conducted in 2012, indicates that 50,410 children aged between 15 and 17 are part of the country’s economically active population, accounting for 5.6 per cent of the total, which shows a decrease compared with the 10.8 per cent recorded in 2008.

77. In this group, 74 per cent are boys and the remaining 26 per cent are girls. The problems are greatest in rural areas and in certain districts which, together, are home to 73.2 per cent of working children. While the country has made progress compared to the results of previous surveys, the annual reduction rate stands at barely 1 per cent, underscoring the need to step up efforts to eradicate child labour and create the conditions that will allow this group to lift itself out of its current situation of poverty and vulnerability.

77. In this group, 74 per cent are boys and the remaining 26 per cent are girls. The problems are greatest in rural areas and in certain districts which, together, are home to 73.2 per cent of working children. While the country has made progress compared to the results of previous surveys, the annual reduction rate stands at barely 1 percent, underscoring the need to step up efforts to eradicate child labour and create the conditions that will allow this group to lift itself out of its current situation of poverty and vulnerability.

H. Persons with disabilities

93. A study is being conducted to assess the situation in inclusive schools; to evaluate the nature of the teaching, family and student environments for inclusive education and the contextual factors; and to conduct a needs assessment as a basis for a proposed national action plan on inclusive education.

J. Migrants and refugees

108. Recommendation CRC-65. It has been decided that children and adolescents are to be included in the refugee status determination process, and the manual on conducting interviews, which is to be issued under QAI, will contain a section on how to do so without infringing their rights, especially if they are unaccompanied.

K. Poverty

111. The Opportunities Network welfare programme was conceived as a government strategy to help households living in extreme poverty to meet their basic needs by providing them with direct, temporary and comprehensive relief. Since its inception, the programme has promoted the accumulation of human capital among children and young people with a view to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty, by creating incentives for families to invest in education, nutrition, health and the development of productive capacities.

M. Health

116. Panama has presented the results of the seventh height survey of first-graders in State schools. The survey results have been used to update the information on chronic malnutrition among school children in Panama.

N. Education

119. Panama is aware of the importance of the subject of human rights and has rolled out programmes on human rights education as a cross-cutting theme in different schools.

120. Curriculum guidelines have been developed on comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education, defining the common content of programmes for Panamanian public and private schools. Programmes are also under way aimed at guaranteeing the comprehensive development of young people, such as “Leaders Making their Mark”, whereby young people in pre-secondary and secondary education develop positive leadership skills together with their peers and take part in activities in school, such as project son life and work, the family, sexuality and dating.

121. Other programmes have also been carried out, such as a programme for gifted students, to identify, evaluate and monitor their needs. A remedial education project has also been devised to help children and adolescents and prevent them falling behind at school, dropping out or failing.

122. The universal scholarship programme was strengthened by increasing the monthly income per student from $20 to $30 at the primary level, from $20 to $40 at the pre-secondary level and from $20 to $50 at the secondary level.


Compilation of UN information

I. Background and framework

A. Scope of international obligations

1. In 2011, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) took note of the commitment of Panama, under the universal periodic review (UPR), to ratify the core United Nations human rights treaties and the optional protocols thereto to which it was not yet a party. The United Nations country team (UNCT) states that the State has ratified several international instruments since 2010, although the recommendations from the first cycle of the universal periodic review regarding ratification of certain instruments (International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Ibero-American Convention on the Rights of Youth) are still awaiting implementation. UNCT also states that Panama does not recognize the competence of some committees to consider individual cases, including the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the Committee against Racial Discrimination and the Committee against Torture. UNCT encourages the State to consider ratifying the above-mentioned international instruments.

B. Constitutional and legislative framework

4. UNCT highlights the need for legislation on comprehensive protection of children’s and adolescents’ rights. In 2011, CRC noted that a draft comprehensive law on child rights had been submitted to Congress in 2007, but was still pending approval. It recommended that the law establish principles and rules of interpretation in accordance with the Convention.

C. Institutional and human rights infrastructure and policy measures

8. CRC regretted the lack of a comprehensive national plan of action for all children and recommended that Panama adopt a national policy and plans to promote, protect and fulfil the rights of all children.

III. Implementation of international human rights obligations, taking into account applicable international humanitarian law

A. Equality and non-discrimination

18. CRC was concerned at the role played by the media and advertising industries in reinforcing gender-based prejudice and discrimination against, notably, Afro-Panamanian children.

20. CRC reiterated its concern that children belonging to indigenous groups and Afro-Panamanian children from poorer urban areas suffered discrimination. That situation was compounded when the children were girls and Afro-Panamanian adolescents.

B. Right to life, liberty and security of the person

24. CRC expressed concern at the recurrent cases of fires in juvenile detention centres, including two incidents in the Tocumen detention centre in November 2009 and January 2011 which resulted in the death of several detainees, and at the manner in which the police responded during the fires. CRC recommended that Panama complete thorough investigations of all incidents of fire, deaths and injuries in juvenile detention facilities.

27. CRC was concerned at discrimination by police and other security forces against Afro-Panamanian children living in marginalized neighbourhoods. It recommended that Panama combat the negative association of Afro-Panamanian and other adolescents with crime.

30. CRC was concerned that the law did not expressly prohibit corporal punishment in the home and in schools. It recommended that Panama explicitly prohibit in its legislation all forms of corporal punishment of children. CAT inquired about measures adopted to combat the increase in the number of cases of sexual abuse of children, especially girls. CRC also encouraged Panama to eliminate all forms of violence, including abuse and neglect of children.

31. CRC took note of the commitment of Panama under the 2010 UPR to enforce and amend its legislation on trafficking in women and girls. UNCT states that, according to Act No. 79/2011 on trafficking in persons, the victims of trafficking have a right to migrant protection but the protection is limited in practice by procedural considerations.

C. Administration of justice, including impunity and the rule of law

35. CRC was concerned that the conditions in the juvenile detention centres and the pretrial and detention centres for children in conflict with the law in Panama were very poor. UNCT recommends that the State introduce alternative non-custodial measures for adolescents in conflict with the law.

36. CRC was concerned at the reduction of the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 years, and recommended that Panama bring the juvenile justice system fully into line with the Convention.

D. Right to marriage and family life

37. While appreciating Panama’s commitment during the 2010 UPR review to improve birth registration, CRC noted that in remote parts of the country, indigenous children, children born to refugee parents and children of migrants were still not registered. It recommended that children born in remote areas were duly registered at birth.

38. CRC remained concerned at the disparity in the minimum age of marriage, set for boys at 16 and for girls at 14. It recommended that Panama raise the minimum legal age for marriage for boys and girls to 18, as noted during the 2010 UPR.

39. CRC was concerned at the high and growing numbers of children placed in alternative-care institutions. It recommended that Panama develop alternatives for family-based modalities.

E. Freedom of movement

40. CRC was concerned at an alarming social perception regarding an increase in juvenile delinquency, and that curfews for children had been put in place in three major cities. In 2010, that had resulted in the detention of 5,148 children. It recommended that curfew measures targeted at children be immediately lifted.

G. Right to work and to just and favourable conditions of work

47. CRC was concerned that authorities continued to apply the Constitutional provision of 14 years as the minimum age for admission to employment, despite the existence of Law 17/2000 establishing 15 years. It was also concerned at legal provisions allowing permits to be granted for children aged between 12 and 14 to work in agriculture and domestic service. It recommended that Panama harmonize its legislative framework with the standards established in ILO Convention No. 138, and eradicate child labour.

I. Right to health

55. CRC was concerned that the highest rates of malnutrition and child mortality were recorded amongst indigenous children. UNCT reports that there are no third-level hospitals or specialist services in the indigenous territories, and that this is reflected in the high maternal and infant mortality rates.

56. CRC was concerned at the high number of teenage pregnancies, particularly amongst indigenous and Afro-Panamanian girls. It recommended that children have access to sex and reproductive health education at school and that Panama address the root causes of teenage pregnancies. UNCT encourages the State to adopt preliminary bill No. 085 on sexual and reproductive health, submitted in August 2014, and to introduce comprehensive age-appropriate sex education at all levels in order to reduce adolescent pregnancy rates and sexual offences.

57. CRC was concerned that there were no programmes for children with HIV/AIDS, that indigenous boys and girls were at greater risk of infection, and that there was a lack of prevention strategies for adolescents. UNCT recommends that the State ensure universal access to HIV testing under the public health system, open further “friendly clinics” nationwide for key groups and guarantee access to health services for members of groups at risk.

J. Right to education

58. CRC welcomed the achievement of universal enrolment in primary education and the 2010 legislation recognizing the right of indigenous people to bilingual and intercultural education. It recommended that Panama address the issue of non-completion and children dropping out of schools, and improve access to preschool and basic compulsory education in rural areas. UNESCO recommended that Panama further eliminate social discrimination in the education system, and promote human rights education.

60. The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples noted that academic achievement levels among indigenous peoples were improving. However, the gap in that regard between indigenous peoples and the non-indigenous population remained wide. He added that indigenous peoples faced a number of obstacles in terms of their access to education, including a shortage of schools, particularly secondary schools in the indigenous regions (comarcas).

62. CRC was concerned at proposed changes to existing legislation aimed at separating pregnant girls into special education facilities, against which it strongly advised.

63. UNESCO noted that measures had been taken to enhance inclusive education for students with disabilities. However, Panama had not taken sufficient measures to improve the transportation system and build new structures. UNESCO recommended that Panama increase access to education for students with disabilities by improving means of transport and education infrastructure. CRC recommended that Panama integrate the majority of children with disabilities into a system of inclusive education in regular schools.

64. UNCT notes that refugee children do not always have access to the education system since most of them do not have the papers required by the Ministry of Education. A draft executive decree simplifying the requirements and facilitating access to education for refugee children is awaiting adoption.

N. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers

74. CRC was concerned at the lack of an adequate system of identification of refugee and asylum-seeking children and that, consequently, children were sometimes repatriated without assessment of their situation. It recommended that Panama improve the fairness of the refugee determination system.


Stakeholder information

I. Information provided by stakeholders

A. Background and framework

Constitutional and legislative framework

2. JS2 noted that there was no specific legislation on children and recommended that the Government adopt legal rules on the comprehensive protection of children and ensure the necessary resources for their implementation.

C. Implementation of international human rights obligations, taking into account applicable international humanitarian law

1. Equality and non-discrimination

12. JS1 pointed out that the most vulnerable children in Panama were children from indigenous communities and undocumented minors. It recommended that the Government take measures to ensure that indigenous children could fully exercise their rights and that it introduce support programmes for migrant children.

2. Right to life, liberty and security of the person

20. JS2 recommended that the Government implement the provisions of Act No. 82/201, while JS3 recommended that Panama should ensure that policies for victims of violence and expulsion from the family home took account of transgender adolescents and women.

22. The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children (GIEACPC) stated that corporal punishment of children was lawful, despite accepted recommendations to prohibit it during the first UPR of Panama (68.21 and 70.15). GIEACPC hoped that States would make a recommendation to Panama to adopt legislation prohibiting all forms of corporal punishment of children in all settings, including the home.

23. JS1 said that there were cases of indigenous and refugee children being sexually exploited by adults. It recommended the implementation of prevention campaigns among the indigenous population and in remote rural communities to stop sexual abuse of children and the development of assistance programmes to encourage school attendance and prevent economic exploitation of children in rural communities.

3. Administration of justice, including impunity, and the rule of law

26. JS2 noted that under Panama’s legislation on juvenile crimes, the age of criminal responsibility was still 12 and recommended that it bring its provisions on the criminal responsibility of adolescents into line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

4. Right to privacy, marriage and family life

29. JS1 noted that Panama had not complied with recommendation 68.27 made during its first universal periodic review, as evidenced by the fact that access to birth registration for children born in remote areas remained limited. JS1 recommended that the Government establish birth registration centres in indigenous and remote areas and areas with high concentrations of people of African descent and run campaigns to promote birth registration.

8. Right to health

41. JS2 expressed concern at the high rates of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections among adolescents. In addition, it noted that there were few suitable sexual and reproductive health programmes and that there was very limited sexual education content in school curricula. JS1 recommended that Panama establish policies on sexual and reproductive health that protected the dignity and rights of women and facilitate access to family planning methods that were in keeping with people’s wishes, culture and religion. It also recommended that sexual and reproductive education programmes be developed in the education system.

9. Right to education

44. JS1 noted that the school enrolment rate had risen by 43 per cent at primary level and by 30 per cent at lower secondary level and that a universal scholarship programme had been established to combat school dropout. It pointed out, however, that that programme would have a greater impact if it were accessible to remote rural communities.

46. JS1 said that the quality of education differed depending on social class and region. The stratification of education had resulted in segmentation and a lack of coordination in the provision of education, which had accentuated inequality of opportunities for various population groups, to the detriment of the poorest groups.

47. IHRC-OU indicated that there was a disparity in the quality of education for indigenous and non-indigenous children. Schools in the indigenous communities operated with one teacher for all levels and ages; a day schedule lasted only one or two hours; intercultural bilingual education had not been universally introduced in indigenous territories; and literacy remained a substantial problem for indigenous populations, in particular women. Some indigenous populations had literacy rates falling to as low as 57 per cent for women. IHRC-OU recommended Panama to consider developing programmes that would help to raise the literacy rate among indigenous peoples, specifically women; consult with indigenous peoples to implement bilingual and cultural education in indigenous areas and to improve existing programmes and curriculum; work to standardise the amount of time that students received in the classroom; and standardise national curriculum so that all children are exposed to indigenous perspectives during their course work.

48. JS1 said that the Government should allocate funds to ensure equal access to education for Afro-Panamanian and indigenous communities and tailor educational support for remote communities, establishing conditions suited to their geographical situation.

49. JS2 noted that the provisions of Act No. 2/1984, which ordered the incorporation of human rights studies into the national curriculum, had never been implemented and recommended that the Government develop human rights programmes in the education system.


Accepted and rejected recommendations

The recommendations formulated during the interactive dialogue listed below have been examined by Panama and enjoy the support of Panama:

90.11 Enhance efforts to ensure the protection of children’s rights, as outlined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols (Italy);

90.12. Adopt legislation on comprehensive protection of children’s and adolescents’ rights (Montenegro);

90.13 Continue efforts to enact a law on the comprehensive protection of the rights of the child (Peru);

90.14 Consider amending its legal provisions to further ensure protection of children’s rights, especially by raising the minimum working age in agricultural and domestic service (Thailand);

90.20 Establish a mechanism to create an effective system for the protection of children (Angola);

90.22Continue efforts aimed at promoting the rights of children, in particular children belonging to indigenous groups and children with disabilities and HIV/AIDS (Ukraine);

90.34 Ensure the equal treatment and non-discrimination of all children, irrespective of their ethnicity, including equal opportunity to access education at the same level (Namibia);

90.47 Ensure equal access to the enjoyment of rights such as education, health, political participation, access to justice and integration into the labour market for indigenous and Afro-descendant populations (Uruguay);

90.58 Step up its efforts to ease overcrowding in the prison system and especially look for alternative non-custodial measures for adolescents (Netherlands);

90.72 Take all adequate measures to promptly eliminate all forms of violence against women and children, including abuse and neglect of children (Portugal);

90.73 Take further measures to combat gender-based violence, trafficking in women and girls and sexual exploitation (Ukraine);

90.74 Eliminate all forms of violence against children by adopting proper legislation and ensure its implementation (Slovenia);

90.75 Explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment of children in all settings, including in the home, and repeal the power to “correct” in the Family Code and the Civil Code (Sweden);

90.77 Take appropriate measures to end illegal child labour, not least concerning indigenous children (Sweden);

90.92 Intensify its efforts to ensure birth registration for everyone, especially children and adolescents in rural areas (Thailand);

90.103 Extend education services to rural zones and guarantee access for all persons to a quality education without distinction, including persons belonging to indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, in order to reduce inequality in the country (Honduras);

90.104 Take the necessary measures to ensure access to education for all, in particular for populations in remote zones (Algeria);

90.105 Continue increasing inputs in education to effectively protect the right to education for the people of Panama, including indigenous people (China);

90.106 Continue promoting the right to education, in particular access to education for boys and girls from Afro-Panamanian, indigenous, rural and migrant communities (Colombia);

90.107 Consider incorporating human rights programmes in the Panamanian system of education (Peru);

90.111 Take all measures to ensure that indigenous children can fully exercise their rights and establish support programmes for migrant children (Honduras).

The recommendations below did not enjoy the support of country Panama and would thus be noted:

91.11 Adopt a legislative framework for the protection of children, in particular by raising the minimum age of marriage and the age of criminal responsibility (France);

91.12 Implement a national policy on children’s rights including the amendment of legislation on juvenile justice and immediately address the reduction of preventive detention for persons under 18 and the harmonization of the age of criminal liability in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Mexico).


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