United Kingdom (CRC 12-07-2016)
The Committee considered the fifth periodic report of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (CRC/C/GBR/5) at its 2114th and 2115th meetings (see CRC/C/SR.2114 and 2115), held on 23 and 24 May 2016, and adopted the following concluding observations at its 2132nd meeting (see CRC/C/SR.2132), held on 3 June 2016.
C. General principles (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the Convention)
- The Committee is concerned that:
(a) A number of provisions under the Equality Act (2010) exempt children from the protection against age discrimination and, in Northern Ireland, the proposed legislation on age discrimination excludes children under 16 years of age;
(b) Counter-terrorism measures do not enjoy public confidence owing to the lack of transparency and are widely perceived to have a discriminatory or stigmatizing effect on children, in particular Muslim children;
(c) Many children in certain groups, including Roma, gypsy and traveller children, children of other ethnic minorities, children with disabilities, children in care, migrant, asylum-seeking and refugee children and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children, continue to experience discrimination and social stigmatization, including through the media.
- The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Consider the possibility of expanding legislation to provide protection of all children under 18 years of age against discrimination on the grounds of their age;
(b) Strengthen the oversight mechanism, including regular independent reviews, to assess and ensure that the implementation of the counter-terrorism and counter-extremism measures, including the Prevent Strategy (2011), will not have a discriminatory or stigmatizing impact on any group of children;
(c) Strengthen its awareness-raising and other preventive activities against discrimination and stigmatization and, if necessary, take temporary special measures for the benefit of children in vulnerable situations.
E. Violence against children (arts. 19, 24 (3), 28 (2), 34, 37 (a) and 39)
- The Committee welcomes the enactment of the Serious Crime Act (2015) in England and Wales, which enables the courts to issue protection orders to protect potential or actual child victims of female genital mutilation. However the Committee is concerned at:
(a) The significant number of children who are affected by harmful practices, including female genital mutilation, and the forced marriage of girls and boys aged 16 and 17 years in some parts of the State party;
(b) Cases of medically unnecessary surgeries and other procedures on intersex children before they are able to provide their informed consent, which often entail irreversible consequences and can cause severe physical and psychological suffering, and the lack of redress and compensation in such cases.
- With reference to its general comment No. 18 (2014) on harmful practices, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take effective measures to ensure that marriage of children aged 16 and 17 years takes place only in exceptional circumstances and is based on the full, free and informed consent of the concerned children;
(b) Continue and strengthen preventive and protection measures to address the issue of harmful practices, including the collection of data, the training of relevant professionals, awareness-raising programmes, the provision of protection and care to the child victims and the prosecution of those found guilty of perpetrating such acts;
(c) Ensure that no one is subjected to unnecessary medical or surgical treatment during infancy or childhood, guarantee bodily integrity, autonomy and self-determination to children concerned and provide families with intersex children with adequate counselling and support;
(d) Provide redress to the victims of such treatment;
(e) Educate medical and psychological professionals on the range of sexual, and related biological and physical diversity and on the consequences of unnecessary interventions for intersex children.
Freedom of the child from all forms of violence
- The Committee is concerned that:
(a) Bullying, including cyberbullying, remains a serious and widespread problem, particularly against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children, children with disabilities and children belonging to minority groups, including Roma, gypsy and traveller children;
(b) In Northern Ireland, children face violence, including shootings, carried out by non-State actors involved in paramilitary-style attacks, and recruitment by such non-State actors.
- The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Intensify its efforts to tackle bullying and violence in schools, including by teaching human rights, building the capacities of students and staff members to respect diversity at school, improving students’ conflict-resolution skills, monitoring regularly the incidences of bullying at school and involving children in the initiatives and monitoring aimed at eliminating bullying;
(b) In the light of the recommendations resulting from the day of general discussion on digital media and children’s rights, train children, teachers and families on the safe use of information and communication technologies, raise awareness among children on the severe effects that online bullying can have on their peers and increase the involvement of social media outlets in the efforts to combat cyberbullying;
(c) Take immediate and effective measures to protect children from violence by non-State actors involved in paramilitary-style attacks and from recruitment by such actors into violent activities, including through measures relating to transitional and criminal justice.
G. Disability, basic health and welfare (arts. 6, 18 (3), 23, 24, 26, 27 (1)-(3)
Health and health services
58. The Committee is concerned at the inequality in access to health services and health outcome, negatively affecting Roma, gypsy and traveller children, children belonging to other ethnic minorities, migrant children, children living in poverty and in deprived areas, children in care and in custody, children living with HIV/AIDS and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children.
59.With reference to its general comment No. 15 (2013) on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, the Committee recommends that the State party, the governments of the devolved administrations, overseas territories and Crown dependencies develop comprehensive and multisectoral strategies on child health:
(a) With the allocation to the maximum extent of available resources and a robust monitoring mechanism;
(b) With a strong focus on eliminating inequalities in health outcome and in access to health services;
(c) Addressing underlying social determinants of health.
- The Committee notes with appreciation the steady decrease in teenage pregnancies in the State party during the period under review. However, the Committee is concerned that:
(a) The rate of teenage pregnancies is still higher than the average for the European Union, and higher in more deprived areas;
(b) Relationships and sexuality education is not mandatory in all schools, its contents and quality varies depending on the school, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children do not have access to accurate information on their sexuality;
(c) In Northern Ireland, abortion is illegal in all cases, except where continuance of the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, and is sanctioned with life imprisonment.
65. With reference to its general comments No. 4 (2003) on adolescent health and development in the context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and No. 15 (2013), the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Develop and adopt a comprehensive sexual and reproductive health policy for adolescents, with particular attention to reducing inequalities and with participation of adolescents;
(b) Ensure that meaningful sexual and reproductive health education is part of the mandatory school curriculum for all schools, including academies, special schools and youth detention centres, in all areas of the State party. Such education should provide age-appropriate information on: confidential sexual and reproductive health-care services; contraceptives; the prevention of sexual abuse or exploitation, including sexual bullying; the support available in cases of such abuse and exploitation; and sexuality, including that of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children;
(c) Decriminalize abortion in Northern Ireland in all circumstances and review its legislation with a view to ensuring girls’ access to safe abortion and post-abortion care services. The views of the child should always be heard and respected in abortion decisions.