On 20th November 1989, 30 years ago the Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed. Today as we celebrate World Children’s Day, ARDD is happy to announce the launch of New Child Protection Project “Comprehensive Children’s Access to Justice” which is funded by OCHA.
Jordan was among the first countries in the Middle East to ratify Convention on the Rights of the Child. It also has a commendable record of ratifying other international and regional human rights instruments related to children’s rights. Although there is a lot of progress have been achieved there are still many gaps and shortage s that needs to be addressed especially in the area of Children’s access to justice. Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all countries to take appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent(s), legal guardian(s) or any other person who has the care of the child. Regardless of the nature or severity of the act, all children have unequivocal right to protection from violence (UNICEF, 2018).
Each day passes by, more Children’s rights are being threatened. The nation’s hope lies within its children, investing in their upbringing, education and protection is one of the most important pillars of a true Arab Nahda (Renaissance). For many years ARDD, in partnership with various stakeholders, has been implementing various programs that work to promote an enabling environment that supports access to justice in Jordan. Despite the multiple and tangible successes of these programs, access to justice in Jordan for poor and vulnerable individuals, particularly children and juveniles, remains a daunting challenge as a recent study conducted jointly by the Noor Al Hussein Foundation and the police forces has shown that nearly 80% of children in Jordan between the ages of 15 and 17 who are in trouble with the law come from families living in poverty.
Further, the study showed that only 45% of children with a record regularly attend school. From a gendered perspective, it was shown that 90% of offenders are male while 10% are female. The breakdown of the family structure is cited as a major reason for the involvement of children in crime.
A correlation was found between the prevalence of crime committed by children and the education levels of their parents. Un-diagnosed and unaddressed mental health issues have been directly related to child crime, stressing the need for psycho-social support. Overall, despite constitutional guarantees, there is a mass under-representation of children in the justice system. Although juvenile justice reforms have taken place, minors are often arbitrarily detained without access to legal counsel.
For Syrian refugee children, caring for children arrested for issues such as informal labor, departure from camps, or minor offences is a major challenge, as those children are often moved to the camp without their parents. Children and youth are suffering from the cumulative psycho-social distress which has an impact on their situations and coping mechanisms (UNHCR, 2017).
Refugee children who become entangled in legal and criminal proceedings are often separated from family members, and reunification of these children with their families requires multiple levels of advocacy and can take months. In the case of informal labor, Jordanian children identified during labor inspections are referred to the Child Labor Unit of the Ministry of Social Development while Syrian refugee children who are identified during labor inspections are separated from their families and taken to the Azraq refugee camp.
At least 236 children in 2015 and 141 in 2016 were forcibly separated from their parents, the vast majority of whom are boys (UNICEF, 2017). Unaccompanied refugee children do not consistently receive appropriate care services through the community which has resulted in institutionalization of children. We also recognize that refugee children from other nationality groups (Iraqi, Sudanese, Somali, Yemeni, etc.) also tend to find themselves with similar challenges or facing particular risks that relate to their legal status in Jordan.
ARDD’s work in Children’s Comprehensive Access to Justice project is through the following three pillars:
- Protecting children in outdoor environment: harassment bullying, drugs, crime, through enhancing the concept of street laws, also protecting them from the environmental hazards, such as poor infrastructure, and polluted areas- right to play and safe spaces
- Protecting children domestically, creating positive family atmosphere and guiding the parents for protection, parenting skills
- Protecting children by enhancing laws and policies related to their universal rights at national and international levels, engage in dialogue, research, knowledge production, lobbying and advocacy.
The Project’s activities which started on 1st August 2019, and lasts till end of July 2020, include the following:
- Providing legal consultation and mediation for at-risk children, children in conflict with the law, their parents and/or caregivers, including those with disabilities
- Awareness-raising on laws and the accessibility of preventative legal assistance that apply to children through street law methodology;
- Psychosocial Support: psychosocial one-on-one support and peer support for parents, caregivers, at-risk children and children in conflict with the law, including those with disabilities, during case management
- Raise awareness of protection services and legal support available for at-risk children and children in conflict, including those with disabilities, with the law through media
- Evidence-based reporting on avenues for access to legal services and protection for at-risk children and children in conflict with the law, including those with disabilities. This activity will target government, INGOs, NGOs, CBOs, communities, and community leaders
- Collaborative Detention monitoring with other organizations to push for diversion orders and alternative measures as opposed to a custodial sentence for children in detention centers.
- Working with law enforcement officials to advocate and educate on equal and fair treatment for all, particularly for those with disabilities.
ARRD will stay committed through its programs and efforts to work and advocate for a safe environment for kids to grow up in where they are protected and to the creation of child friendly justice system