The Rights of Children: A Roundtable Discussion

Citizenship is governed by the State in accordance with the 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Law. The existing law we said earlier refers to this law. Citizenship can have only rights given by the 1982 Citizenship Law.

Dr Thida San

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  • By Shin Min
    (Continued from yesterday)

The roundtable on the drafting of the laws regarding protecting the rights of children with Professor Dr. Aung Tun Thet, Director General of Social Welfare Department Dr San San Aye, Deputy Director General of the Attorney General’s Office Dr Thida San, Yangon Region constituency 10, Amyohta Hluttaw Representative Naw Hla Hla Soe and Consultants U Myo Myint Tun and U Ko Ko, was filmed and released by MRTV.

U Ko Ko: Can you discuss about the significant excerpts from the law?
Dr San San Aye: Hence, the new law reflects advice such as the new section regarding adoption. Right now, there are small networks connecting children who have been abandoned with new families. We are working with the 1993 law to add more provisions so that children are better vetted and protected. For example, the new section details a registration process for adoptions. Children will be assigned to case managers who will follow up with the child in case of abuse. It was really helpful that our committee was also tasked with receiving reports on sexual abuse and trafficking of children with the committee sometimes being in the field with the court and police. These helped us see the loopholes and the ways in which criminals are trying to take advantage of the system. Also, orphanages are difficult to operate and maintain -not to mention it doesn’t provide the emotional enrichment a family provides. The government is trying to build a network so that we can connect children into a foster care and/or adoption system.

U Ko Ko: Sayagyi Dr Aung Tun Thet is requested to discuss children’s right.
Dr Aung Tun Thet: A point included in the CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child) is the most important among the essence of the law discussed by all. The point was to benefit the child. This must not be forgotten. When it is said that a child mean from the age of zero to 18, do we start with birth registration? What is being recognized by this? It is not recognized in terms of citizenship or religion, but just recognition as a child. That was why when a child was born in a hospital or a clinic, a birth certificate was made. But there are children who were delivered by a midwife at home. It is the right of the child to have a birth certificate at birth. This is not a determination of citizenship or nationality of a child. It is simply a recognition given to a child. The worries and concerns are understood. Issuing a birth certificate is not giving citizenship. When talking about children rights, it does not include something that others gave to the children. We are talking about a child rights upon being born. A right the child has once he/she become a human being. We have the duty to protect this right.
As discussed by Attorney-General Office, the law needs to be approved and once approved it’ll become an appropriate law for the country. We need to place emphasis on the right of the child whenever we discuss and think. The right of the child needs to be noted and put into consideration.

U Ko Ko: As a Hluttaw representative and committee secretary Naw Hla Hla Soe must have heard about the difficulties faced and problems encountered. Please talk about how this helped and supported in discussing the bill.
Naw Hla Hla Soe: Our main duty is to enact a law. Another duty as a committee was to help resolve issues and complaints raised by the people. Most of the issues and complaints were an abuse of child, sexual misconducts and lack of child’s rights. There are also matters that concern the police and court. The committee had to conduct field/site visits. From this, we get information, facts and figures to protect and promote the development of children.
Here I would like to talk about my experience in my constituency. A child was legally adopted from the Department of Social Welfare in my constituency. A man adopted the child. After marrying a woman, this man passed away and the woman didn’t want to give any inheritance to the adopted child. It was as though the child, who was now 17, will be pushed out of a home and become homeless or a street kid. The case came to my knowledge and when I enquire about it, I found that Department of Social Welfare has all documentary evidences. Case Manager has all of this. Because the child was legally adopted as prescribed by the State, the child has inheritance rights and was given half of the inheritance.
Child care methods were changing internationally as well as in our country. In the past orphanages were opened to care for such child, but there were some difficulties so a policy of Alternative Care was established internationally as well as in our country. Instead of relying on orphanages only, the State took up the responsibility of putting an orphaned child in a home where parental cares can be provided and the child could grow up with a family. This was very good and it was discussed in the Hluttaw.

U Ko Ko: What are some statistics from CSO regarding crimes against children?
U Myo Myint Tun: There have been research and official reports on this matter. In 2013, 43% of the total rape cases has a child victim. The percentages were 44% in 2014, 46% in 2015, 61% in 2016 and 63% in 2017. This does not include cases that were not reported and the ones that were settled before it even got to the police station. There are also other cases like trafficking, child-soldiers, and sexual abuse.

U Ko Ko : Dr Aung Tun Thet suggested that all children must have birth certificates. But, that issue worries some people.
Dr Aung Tun Thet: Once a child is born, attention should be given to that child. We don’t need to think about his clan, religion and gene. This is a basic concept of the Convention on the Rights of the Child-CRC. Our country is a signatory to the CRC. All the people should accept this.

U Ko Ko : The Section 22 of the Child’s Rights Bill states that all children with registered births are entitled to citizenship opportunities in line with the existing laws. Could you please elaborate it?
Dr Thida San: Citizenship is governed by the State in accordance with the 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Law. The existing law we said earlier refers to this law. Citizenship can have only rights given by the 1982 Citizenship Law. This law states that a child born of two ethnic parents or two Myanmar nationals has rights for citizenship. Citizenship is decided by this law. The Child’s Rights Bill is not related to the citizenship issue. People discussed the bill today is the bill submitted to the parliament in 2017. But, the fact that this bill will influence other law does not include in the final version of the bill which has been submitted to the President for signing. Citizenship rights for children is decided by the 1982 Citizenship Law.

U Ko Ko: How do we combat unwanted cases in orphanages?
Dr San San Aye: There is a new section in the draft law that deals with that which is overseeing the care centers that look after the children. Currently, we do not have the resources to check which institutions are there and whether or not they are following the law. The new draft law aims to cover this loophole with the cooperation of CSOs and other NGOs.

U Ko Ko: Can you discuss other details, Dr Aung Tun Thet?
Dr Aung Tun Thet: Children are the most important and vulnerable part of society. We used to focus on institutional care but now, we are aiming to branch out to alternative care. The parliament needs to review the new law. The process is not easy but if everybody is dedicated and willing to protect these children, it is not impossible.

(Translated by Myat Thu)

(To be continued)

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