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THE RIGHT OF CHILDREN’S IN CAMEROON
THE RIGHT OF CHILDREN’S IN CAMEROON
Children are human beings below the age of 18 years. They are unique and privileged since they are a vulnerable group of human beings. Children have human rights such as the right to education, health and a standard of living. These rights have to be respected and protected. The ideas that animated children’s right movement developed after the Second World War and the atrocities of The Holocaust. Children are often victims of bad treatment, negative social and cultural practices, sexual abuse and all forms of economic hazardous exploitation. This research exposes child labour as a major infringement of child rights that needs to be eliminated. Children engage in this activity out of desperation or are forced. Although they are coming from poor families, some of them have to work. Others are trafficked and forced to work in plantations while others are in commercial sexual exploitation. It therefore becomes necessary to investigate on activities violating children’s rights and possible mechanisms. This work adopts the doctrinal research method which is appropriate in law. It therefore makes use of content analysis. International legal instruments protecting children’s rights at the international level are discussed in relation to the various rights of children.This research is entirely focus on looking at the national protection of children right in Cameroon and to find out if the protection of this right is effective . It is recommended that measures should be taken to intensify the fight against child labour in the area of education. Cameroon has a good legal framework for the protection of children’s rights. However, child labour which is manifested in its various forms only suggests that more is expected from the government in protecting children’s rights.
1.1 Background to the Study
1.2 Definition of Key Concepts
The concepts a child, human rights, human rights protection, children’s rights are used in this study in the context explained below.
A child, as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a human being below the age of 18 years unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child also defines a child to be a human being below the age of 18 years. Therefore, a child is a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of majority.
Children are classed as unable to make serious decisions, unlike adults. They must always be under the care of a responsible adult. There are many issues that affect children such as childhood education, child labour, child poverty leading to hunger, the carrying out of illegal activities, dysfunctional families, and bullying. Children in some countries are often kept out of school or attend only for short periods. In 2011, 57 million children have never attended primary school or have left without completing primary school education.
They can be raised by parents, in a foster care or similar supervised arrangement, guardians or partially raised in a day care centre.
Human rights are moral principles that set out certain standards of human behaviour, and are regularly protected as legal rights in national and international law. They are “commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because he or she is a human being”. Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone). The doctrine of human rights has been highly influential within International Law, global, and regional institutions.
- Human rights protection
To protect human rights is to ensure that people receive some degree of decent humane treatment. Responsibility to protect human rights resides first and foremost with the states themselves with their laws practiced in their countries. In some cases, the perceived need to protect human rights and maintain peace has led to humanitarian intervention. There is evidence that we are moving towards the notion that the governments have not only a duty to respect human rights, but also a duty to safeguard these rights, preserve life and protect people from having their rights violated by others. However, there exist various governmental and nongovernmental organizations taking part in the protection of people’s human rights. In any society, every human being has a duty to respect the human rights of others which calls for protection and sanctions for violations.
- Children’s rights
Children’s rights are the human rights of children with particular attention to the rights of special protection and care afforded to minors. These rights include their right to association with both parents, human identity as well as the basic needs for food, universal state paid education, health care, criminal laws appropriate for the age and development of the child. Other rights include equal protection of the child’s civil rights, freedom from discrimination on the basis of the child’s race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, colour, ethnicity or other characteristics. Interpretations of children’s rights range from allowing children the capacity for autonomous action to the enforcement of children being physically, mentally and emotionally free from abuse, though what constitutes “abuse” is a matter of debate. Other definitions include the rights to care and nurturing.
The notion that children are right bearers rather than passive recipients of their parents and state’s paternalistic favour and largesse, is of relatively recent origin. The existence of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the AU’s African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in 1990 strengthens children’s rights. In the intervening period, a number of post 1990 Constitutions of African states started incorporating children’s rights.
Children have a unique and privileged place in the society since they are a vulnerable group of human beings. The age limit as set by the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child is below the age of 18 years. African children need special care and protection. In this regard, all humans below the age of 18 are so considered children and as such entitled to the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, thought, religion and conscience.
Many of the basic ideas that animated children’s rights movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War, and the atrocities of The Holocaust, that culminated in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The true forerunner of human rights and children’s rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval natural law tradition. It became prominent during the age of enlightenment with philosophers such as John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, and Jean- Jacques Rousseau and featured prominently in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the French Revolution. From this foundation, the modern human rights and children’s rights arguments emerged. This was a reaction to slavery, torture, genocide, and war crimes, was due to inherent human vulnerability, and as being a precondition for the possibility of a just society.
Children are often victims of bad treatment, negative social and cultural practices, sexual abuse and all forms of economic hazardous exploitations including commercial sexual exploitation. They are brought to urban areas by their guardians with the aim of taking care of them and providing for their wellbeing.
1.3 Statement of the Problem
There is a good enforcement mechanism of children’s rights at the international and national level. This is evident in various international Conventions and Declarations such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 (CRC), and the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of the Child 1990 (The African Children’s Charter). Cameroon to this effect has ratified the CRC and the African Children’s Charter. Cameroon has a good legal framework such as the Labour Code, Penal Code, and Criminal Procedure Code. This notwithstanding, there is the continuous practice of child labour. Children are taken from rural areas to urban areas by foster parents with promises of care and education, whereas, they are turned into labourers and victims of domestic violence. Some are converted into public vendors in streets aged 5 to 14 years.
The ineffectiveness in the protection of children is manifested in the various forms of child labour such as child trafficking and sexual exploitation especially child prostitution. The practice of child trafficking affects the protection of children’s rights in Cameroon. Children are trafficked from the rural areas to urban areas to be used as labourers, hawkers, prostitutes, thieves and street beggars. Cameroonian legislation is silent on harmful practices on female children such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), breast ironing and forced marriages. Female Genital Mutilation involves the partial or the total removal of the female genital organs for cultural reasons. It is commonly carried out in the rural areas of Cameroon like Manyu and Far North. This practice has consequences on female children such as severe pain and bleeding, shock, urine retention, ulceration of the genital regions, injury to the adjacent tissue and death. It contributes to the violation of children’s rights. It is against the Penal Code as it is assault.
With regards to breast ironing, it is commonly done to female children who are developing breast. It involves the pounding and massaging of the developing breast of young girls from about 8 years with hot objects to try to make them disappear. It is initially done by women with the thought of improving a mother’s breast milk. This thought has gradually changed and it is now inflicted on female children as young as the age of 9. In urban areas, this practice is believed to protect a girl from sexual harassment or rape, and to prevent early pregnancy that will tarnish the family name. It is commonly done in the Littoral region of Cameroon. It leads to harmful effects such as abscess in the breast, breast pimples on and around the breast nipples, chest pain, deformities and complete disappearance of the breasts. This practice is done against their will, therefore violates their human rights.
Female children are forced to get married without their will or consent. This is because most of their parents are in financial difficulties which make them take the decision of early marriages. Some are forced due to the fact that it is a traditional practice. They get affected emotionally and psychologically. This mostly occurs in the rural areas, thus, violating children’s rights.
The protection of children’s rights especially the right to health requires the provision of health facilities that can be only be achieved when there is adequate finance. Free vaccines are given to children but it is not sufficient to accord protection to them. Parents have difficulties affording hospital bills for their sick children. As a result many suffer. Also, there are very few regional hospitals which cannot attend to all children or infants who are sick. This has led to a gradual increase in infant mortality rate.
The right of children to education is not fully protected in Cameroon. Cameroon has a good primary and secondary education system which has provided significant improvements in educational opportunities for children such as the opportunity to be learned. However, the Cameroonian education system still faces challenges in providing quality education to all children. Regional, wealth, and gender disparities take a toll on children and put vulnerable groups at risk for not attending school, and being further disadvantaged in life opportunities. Living in rural areas doubles the risk of not attending school and poor children are five times more likely to be out of school than children from rich households. This is because some parents are having financial difficulties in affording school materials for their children and prefer to labour them to hawk or sell for their educational wellbeing. These education challenges pose a threat to the economic future and viability of Cameroon and deprive children of their right to a quality education.
The Cameroon National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms which is the main enforcement mechanism of violations of children’s rights is impeded in its duty in this respective. This is due to two reasons. Firstly, the National Commission for Human rights and Freedoms is not independent from the government. This is evident for the fact that the government appoints its key personnel and funds the commission. With this scenario, it becomes difficult for the commission to write ill about the government. Serious violations of children’s rights are therefore not reported. Secondly, decisions of the commission relating to human rights violation are not binding. As such, it does not deter violation of children’s rights.
1.4 Objectives of the study
1.4.1 General objective
The purpose of this work is to identify the rights of children and to elaborate or investigate the level of protection they benefit
1.4.2 Specific objectives
The specific objectives are:
- To examine the extend of the protection of the rights of the child in Cameroon,
- Critically examine the weaknesses of the Cameroonian law in the protection of children’s right
- To make policy recommendations.
THE RIGHT OF CHILDREN’S IN CAMEROON