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UN Committee: Many African Countries Not Respecting Children's Rights

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - Albino twins beg for money at the entrance to the main mosque in Senegal's second city of Touba, March 29, 2005.

FILE - Albino twins beg for money at the entrance to the main mosque in Senegal's second city of Touba, March 29, 2005.

A U.N. watchdog committee says many African countries are not living up to their obligation under the 1990 Convention of the Rights of the Child. It says harmful cultural traditions, as well as other forms of human rights abuses continue to be widely practiced throughout Africa.

The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors implementation of the Convention, has just completed its latest three-week session in Geneva. The 18 independent experts have examined the records of 14 states, including five African countries: Benin, Kenya, Senegal, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The committee found harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage are still being practiced in the countries examined. And, in the case of Kenya, the experts expressed concern about “beading” of girls, a form of sexual enslavement within families that often leads to rape.

FILE - А traditional surgeon is seen holding razor blades used to carry out female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation.

FILE - А traditional surgeon is seen holding razor blades used to carry out female circumcision, also known as female genital mutilation.

Albino children

The independent experts condemned the killings and trafficking of albino children for body parts in Kenya, some of which is committed by the family members. But the experts note this horrific practice goes on in 16 African countries.

FILE - Mwigulu Matonage Magesa of Tanzania does homework in the Staten Island borough of New York, Sept. 21, 2015. The 12-year-old was outfitted for a prosthetic after his arm was brutally amputated by attackers in the East African country.

FILE - Mwigulu Matonage Magesa of Tanzania does homework in the Staten Island borough of New York, Sept. 21, 2015. The 12-year-old was outfitted for a prosthetic after his arm was brutally amputated by attackers in the East African country.

Committee Chair Benyam Mezmur tells VOA albinism often is linked to political elections because it is thought the body parts of children with this condition bring good luck.

“For instance, during the elections in Kenya, there have been incidences where [in] some of the countries in the region, the number of attacks have actually gone up," said Mezmur. "The instances of local elections and national elections in a neighboring country have had a negative impact on the rise of attacks and the rise of killings in another neighboring country.”

Mezmur says attacks against albinos are not an issue that can be addressed by one country. He says it requires a coordinated response.

Voodoo convents

The committee singled out an initiation ceremony in the West African country of Benin for particular rebuke. Mezmur says children, especially girls, are taken away from their families and sequestered in so-called voodoo convents.

“In these instances, their access to education, their access to contact with their family, their access to health and so forth is almost close to non-existence. Certainly, there are instances of ill-treatment, but also sexual abuse that actually goes on in these convents,” said Mezmur.

The committee is calling on the government of Benin to remove children from voodoo convents and provide psychological, social and financial assistance to help them recover from their traumatizing experiences.

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