Below is a short summary of the key issues from the CRC's 64th session Concluding Observations for Kuwait. Click on the link above for the full text, and here for the alternative reports submitted by NGOs and the CRC's Concluding Observations for other States it reviewed.
The Committee had a lot to say on the children’s rights situation in Kuwait, perhaps due to the 10 year delay in the State reporting. Below is a brief snapshot of the key issues.
Right to liberty: The Committee is seriously concerned about cases of girls arbitrarily placed in mental health institutions by their families for indeterminate periods of time, and urges the State to regulate mental health care without delay and that proper and systematic medical screenings are conducted before girls are placed in these institutions.
In addition, the Committee is concerned that children, especially girls, deemed “at risk” or subject to so called “perversity” can be deprived of their liberty at the request of the police, Ministry of Education or the child’s guardian and placed in homes with child offenders. The Committee urges Kuwait to take concrete measures to ensure all children detained on these grounds are released without delay.
Transparency: The Committee is concerned that there is no independent mechanism in Kuwait to monitor the implementation of the CRC, and urges the State to establish one. In addition, the Committee is concerned that neither civil society nor children were involved in the preparation of the State’s report, and the Committee urges the State to systematically involve civil society in children’s rights promotion in the country.
Click here for CRIN’s transparency campaign.
Early marriage: The Committee is seriously concerned that in spite of previous UN recommendations, the State has still not raised the minimum age of marriage from 15 years for girl and 17 years for boys, and is deeply concerned that a marriage is considered legitimate when children have reached the age of puberty and are of sound mind and that girls continue to be forcibly married by the families in some parts of the country. The Committee urges the State to bring its marriage laws in full compliance with the definition of the child (ie 18 years) without further delay.
In addition, the Committee is seriously concerned that someone can abduct a girl and escape punishment if he legally marries her after her guardian approves. The Committee urges the State to ensure all cases of abduction of children are prosecuted and perpetrators are brought to justice.
For more on early marriage, see a report by the International NGO Council on Violence against Children on harmful practices based on tradition, cultural, religion and superstition.
Non-discrimination: The Committee is deeply concerned about the persistent discrimination against Bidoon children, the great proportion of which have been deprived of their basic rights including birth registration, which restricts their right to a nationality and rights to health, education and a basic standard of living. The Committee urges Kuwait to shift from its humanitarian approach to employ a children’s rights response to the situation of Bidoon children and take immediate action to ensure all their rights.
Many children born to non-Kuwaiti fathers are rendered stateless, and other children born out of wedlock, after parents divorce or the mother is widowed are officially registered as children of “unknown parentage”, leading to stigmatisation. The Committee urges the State to ensure all children born in the country have a right to a nationality, and that identity documents no longer define someone as of “unknown parentage.”
The Committee is seriously concerned about the wide range of discrimination against women which has an obvious negative impact on their children, including if a Muslim man and non-Muslim woman divorce the man automatically receives custody of the children, women who remarry after a divorce lose custody of their children, and single mothers and teenage parents may be required to abandon their children. The Committee urges Kuwait to ensure mothers and fathers share equal responsibility for their children and that custody decisions, in which gender, marital status or religion have no bearing, are made in the best interests of the child.
Right to be heard: The Committee is concerned that children are not perceived as rights holders in Kuwait, and reiterates previous recommendations that the State encourage participation of children in the family, at school and in society, and further recommends the State ensure that policymaker bodies take children’s views into account.
Freedom of association and peaceful assembly: The Committee is concerned about legislation which prescribes that founders of societies or clubs must be over 18 years as this impedes on children’s rights to freedom of association and expression and their right to be heard. In urging the State to amend the laws to allow children to form societies or clubs, the Committee reminds it that children should be supported and encouraged to form their own organisations to create space for meaningful participation.
Corporal punishment: The Committee is concerned that anyone authorised by law can discipline a child by beating them (which could contradict new laws prohibiting corporal punishment in schools), and that corporal punishment remains lawful in the home. Even in cases where beatings result in extreme physical or psychological harm to the child and where children show clear physical and psychological signs, ill treatment of children is seldom denounced by school personnel, legal proceedings are rarely engaged against perpetrators of violence and in many cases police refrain from interfering when a victim of domestic violence requests their help due to the widespread assumption that parents have the right to beat their children. The Committee urges the State to prohibit corporal punishment unequivocally in all settings, and introduce public education on the harmful effects of corporal punishment.
Click here for CRIN’s dedicated violence microsite.
Honour killings: The Committee is deeply concerned about extremely low sanctions (maximum of three years imprisonment a 225 dinar fine (US$800) against a man who sees his wife, daughter, mother or sister in an “act of adultery” and immediately kills her. The Committee urges Kuwait to repeal, without delay, attenuated sanctions for these so called honour crimes and ensure penalties that fit their extreme gravity.
Juvenile justice: The Committee is concerned that the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Kuwait is seven years, and urges the State to raise it. Kuwait is also reducing the age at which children can be deprived of their liberty from 15 to 14 years, which the Committee is urging them to refrain from doing. In addition, the Committee is concerned that law enforcement officers do not have to inform children of the charges against them at arrest, and there is no obligation to provide a translator for non-Arabic speaking children. The Committee urges the State to ensure all children in the justice system are provided with effective legal and other assistance at an early stage and throughout any proceedings.
Click here for a report on creating a non-violent juvenile justice system, and here for our child-friendly justice toolkit.