17 September 2015
The Committee on the Rights of the Child today concluded its consideration of the fourth periodic report of Kazakhstan on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Presenting the report, Yessengazy Imangaliyev, Vice Minister of Education And Science, stated that Kazakhstan had made significant improvements in the promotion and protection of children’s rights. Recently, the Government had ratified several conventions including the Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, Convention on Civil Procedure, Convention on International Access to Justice, Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, and Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
With the partnerships at the national and international level, the Government had introduced new programmes and policies in the areas of education, gender equality, protection of persons with disabilities, social protection of children, adolescent health and health services. In the implementation phase of the programmes and policies, a number of press conferences, competitions, round table meetings, campaigns and other events had been organized, whilst individuals and organisations had been provided with trainings on the related matter.
During the interactive dialogue, Committee Experts acknowledged the progress made by Kazakhstan, but noted that more needed to be done to tackle the existing problems related to ensuring the children’s rights. They highlighted that there were growing disparities between cities and the countryside, impacting the children. In the cities, children were subjected to various forms of violence, and they witnessed domestic violence. In the countryside, on the other hand, children were exposed to trafficking and sexual exploitation. Experts also inquired about suicidal behaviour, alcohol and drug use, sale and trafficking of children, child prostitution, discrimination against minority groups such as children with disabilities and refugee children, and the best interest of the child. Among other issues, questions about State party’s policy regarding domestic and inter-country adoption, institutionalization of children, early marriage, and juvenile courts were also raised.
In concluding remarks, Olga Khazova, Committee Expert and Country Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, stressed the constructive nature of the dialogue between the Committee and the delegation. As the Committee had discussed all key issues, she wanted to draw final attention to two issues: the establishment of the Ombudsman for Children and the participation of children in all matters concerning them. Children were vital forces of the society, and their participation would make a positive impact on the State party’s future.
Mr. Imangaliyev assured the Committee that Kazakhstan would take all suggestions seriously and undertake new programmes and policies to improve the lives of children in the country.
The delegation of Kazakhstan included representatives from the Ministry of Education and Science, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan, National Centre for Human Rights, and the Commission on Human Rights.
The next public meeting of the Committee will take place at 10 a.m. on Friday, 18 September, to consider the combined third and fourth periodic report of Poland (CRC/C/POL/3-4).
The fifth periodic report of Kazakhstan (CRC/C/KAZ/4) is available here.
Presentation of the Report
YESSENGAZY IMANGALIYEV, Vice Minister of Education and Science, said that the Government had taken all available measures to implement the main provisions of the Convention based on the recommendations made by the Committee.
Noting that the fourth periodic report had been submitted on time in 2011, Mr. Imangaliyev said that Kazakhstan had made significant improvements in the area of children’s rights. Several innovations had been made by the Government, including the ratification of the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction , Workers with Family Responsibilities Convention, Convention on Civil Procedure, Convention on International Access to Justice, Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Government had established new national programmes and plans, aiming at improving the quality of life of children, particularly those from vulnerable groups, and at reducing regional and gender inequality. Since 2009, the Government had allocated funds totalling USD 1.7 million in the area of social protection of children with disabilities. With regard to adolescent health, the Government had initiated many campaigns, and held lectures, talks, seminars and briefings on the prevention of alcohol abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction, and smoking among minors. In addition, advanced training courses on prevention of HIV/AIDS, drug addiction and crime had been held.
Turning to education, Mr. Imangaliyev said the Government was taking all the necessary measures to provide all young people with free education and further improve current education system. Recent developments had proved that the quality and capacity of education were increasing. In terms of the access to education, the Constitution provided that no one could be subjected to any discrimination.
To protect the best interest of the child, a Mediation Act and the Act on Amendments and Additions to Legislation on Mediation had entered into force, setting out the basis for the use of mediation procedures in disputes arising from civil, labour, family and other legal relations. The two Acts aimed at preventing inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
In order to meet national targets in the area of children’s rights, the Government had been working with partners at the national and international levels, including civil society and international organisations. The political stability of Kazakhstan, recognised by the international community, had been a positive factor in that regard.
Questions by Committee Experts
RENATE WINTER, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, welcomed the progress made by Kazakhstan. However, the State party’s domestic problems continued to persist. There were growing disparities between cities and the countryside, which were impacting the children. In the cities, children were subjected to various forms of violence, and they witnessed domestic violence. In the suburban areas, on the other hand, children were exposed to trafficking and sexual exploitation. However, both child abandonment and mistreatment took place in the cities and the suburban areas.
The Expert appreciated that Kazakhstan worked tirelessly to address its problems. However, much more needed to be done to tackle suicidal behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse. The Expert also noted that the State party’s legislation ensured the promotion and protection of the rights. However, the Government needed to continue to strengthen its international judicial, police and victim-oriented cooperation activities in order to prevent and combat the sale and trafficking of children, and child prostitution.
The Expert noted that there had been a very high rate of suicide among adolescents. She inquired about the preventive measures taken by the State party to address the issue and the implementation of the national suicide prevention strategy.
On the subject of discrimination, one Expert asked about the measures taken to eliminate discrimination against vulnerable groups, including children of asylum seekers, migrant children, refugee and asylum-seeking children.
Another Expert said that the principle of the best interest of the child was taken into account in the Constitution and in several laws. Nevertheless, it was concerning that the principle was not adequately respected and implemented in all domains and for all children. How did the State party ensure that the principle was appropriately implemented in all legal provisions, programmes, and services that had impact on children?
On the issue of adoption, question was asked about the State party’s policy regarding domestic and inter-country adoption, including monitoring and follow-up to adoptions.
An Expert raised a question about the measures taken to raise awareness about the Convention on the Rights of Child, the Optional Protocols, and available mechanisms to protect children’s rights.
What kind of mechanisms were available to children to raise their voices, and in what context were their opinions taken into account?
An Expert asked about the steps taken to ensure the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children.
The issue was also raised of planned measures to prevent the institutionalisation of children, to provide children with family-based alternative care and to reintegrate children separated from their parents back to their families.
How about concrete measures to combat child marriages, which were reported to be on the rise in the State party, particularly in rural areas?
Question was asked about the progress achieved in setting up juvenile courts, placing specially trained police officers, and establishing specialised law offices in all regions of the State party.
What had the Government done to ensure that refugee children had access to sufficient education and health care?
Replies by the Delegation
Every State body kept its own statistics, the delegation explained. There was a Committee on Statistics, with its own standards with a single base. According to the State Statistics Act, a Government policy on statistics had been developed and implemented by the Statistics Committee under the Ministry of National Economy. The Committee’s tasks included formulating statistical methodology, carrying out statistical activities and meeting the needs of society, the State and the international community in terms of official statistical information. Pursuant to the State Legal Statistics and Special Records Act, the agency responsible - the Committee on Legal Statistics and Special Records in the Office of the Procurator-General - worked in the field of legal statistics, and maintained special records to provide information to government agencies about the rule of law and law enforcement in the country, on the basis of common statistical principles and standards.
On the juvenile courts, the delegation explained that a special programme of refresher courses had been developed for juvenile court judges and general court judges who specialized in cases involving minors. The programme had been developed to take into account suggestions made by the judges themselves and the results of an analysis of their needs. There were 19 juvenile courts operating successfully in Kazakhstan. About 40 per cent of judges in the juvenile courts had more than 10 years of experience as judges. The courts generally used prison sentences only in cases of serious crimes. Juvenile courts provided services of freelance inspector-psychologist units, and had special rooms furnished and decorated to allow ease of communication between the child and the psychologist.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs monitored the implementation of the national law for protection of children who were victims of and/or witnesses to crimes, including domestic violence, sexual and economic exploitation, abduction and trafficking.
On domestic violence, the delegation said that an act amending legislation on the prevention of domestic violence had been adopted in 2014, strengthening the penalties for offences in the area of family relations, including those committed against minors.
A delegate noted that Article 135 of the Criminal Code had established criminal liability for trafficking in minors. The recruitment of minors into prostitution was established as an offence in Article 134. The Government had taken steps under its action plan to combat and prevent crimes linked to trafficking in persons.
On the subject of suicide, it was explained that the Ministries of Education, Internal Affairs, Health, Communications and Information, Culture, and Tourism and Sport had drawn up a joint plan of action for 2011 to prevent suicidal behaviour among minors. The main priority of the plan was to organize proper joint monitoring of the issue, and analyse and improve the work of psychological support services in schools. Also, the plan provided advanced trainings for education, health and internal affairs experts on determining anxiety levels in children and adolescents.
A suicidology department had been set up at the Ministry of Health, responsible for identifying causes of suicide and establishing preventive mechanisms aimed at adolescents. Work was currently under way to develop methods for determining how resilient children and adolescents were to stress. With a partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund, the Government was working on developing a training module on suicide prevention that would be implemented in various provinces.
Over the years, various programmes and policies on promoting healthy life styles had been implemented in Kazakhstan, with the support of relevant Ministries and departments, as well as the civil sector and the media. Press conferences, competitions, round tables, campaigns and other events had been organized with a view to promoting healthy life styles, preventing risk factors and socially significant diseases, providing training on health matters and preventing smoking, alcoholism and drug addiction.
Turning to the issue of poverty, the delegation stated that the current legislation provided social assistance to families whose per capita income was below the poverty line, while there were plans in place to provide further social support to low-income families.
On the early marriage, a delegate said that a legislative mechanism had been introduced, placing liability on persons who permitted violence or abuse against girls. Forced marriage or bride kidnapping of a minor girl was considered as a crime and was punishable by law. Article 125 of the Criminal Code dealt with abduction, setting a penalty of imprisonment for between four and seven years.
Follow-Up Questions by Experts
On the issue of health, one Expert congratulated the State party on the progress made in the recent years. With regards to HIV/AIDS, what was the demography of that epidemic and were tests available? Additionally, were there any updates on the child mortality rate?
With regard to the right to education, an Expert acknowledged that the State party held a number of press conferences, competitions, round table meetings, campaigns and other events, and individuals and organisations had been provided with trainings. However, did the country plan to make any changes on the school curriculum in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child? On the same topic, another Expert asked for detailed information on boarding schools.
On the issue of adoption, question was asked whether the Government registered a child without a medical certificate of the mother. Were there any sanctions for parents if they did not register their children?
One Expert said that no information on breastfeeding could be found in the report. Accordingly, she inquired about the indicators on breastfeeding.
Another Expert stated that she was not convinced that the domestic law and the Criminal Code of State party fully covered the issues of illegal adoption, sale of children and pornography. What were the sanctions to address such issues? Could the delegation provide some examples and statistics?
The State party did not encounter the issue of the involvement of children in armed conflict. However, it was important for all States to be prepared. Accordingly, what kind of measures had been taken by the State party to eliminate children’s direct participation in hostilities and armed forces of persons under the age of 18 years?
An Expert inquired about the confidentiality of complaints, and asked what kind of measures had the Government taken.
Another Expert asked if the State party planned the approve the Third Optional Protocol.
Replies by the Delegation
On the issue of violence against children, a delegate said that the Government had worked with the United Nations Children’s Fund and prepared a study on violence against children in schools, orphanages, as well as homes. The Government had also carried out a study assessing the vulnerability of children to all forms of violence, including sexual violence and violence took place in their homes.
An act amending legislation concerning the establishment of a national mechanism to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment had been adopted in 2013. For the custody of persons in special temporary detention facilities, a delegate highlighted that no cases of torture and other inhuman treatment had been identified during the visits to specialised facilities.
Regarding implementation of national legislation and law enforcement, the Government had taken all necessary practical measures to monitor the implementation.
The delegation explained that, under the Marriage and the Family Act, the birth of a child was registered by place of birth and by place of residence of either or both parents. Children were registered with a medical certificate provided by parents. Those without medical certificates could go to a court to register their child within two months of birth.
On the issue of children with disabilities, a delegate underlined that 70 per cent of such children had unimpeded access to primary and secondary school. For further development on the issue, the Government had taken various measures, including reforms in school curricula and the school infrastructure. With regard to social services, the Ministry of Health and Social Development and the United Nations Development Programme had initiated a joint programme on training social workers within the framework of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and developing the system for the provision of special social services.
Responding to the question related to vocational training, the delegation said that such training was one of the most important tools for the social protection of persons with disabilities.
A delegate informed that strong measures had been taken to ensure the security of children in boarding schools. Such schools had parent committees, and there was a Ministry of Education and Science blog available to the students. Additionally, mail and telephone hotlines were provided. Further, the mechanism for possible complaints by pupils and students also included the Ombudsman, the media, voluntary associations and public watchdog commissions.
Turning to the issue of abortion, a delegate said that the successful policies had resulted in decrease of pregnancy rates among adolescents aged 15 to 18 and, consequently, the abortion rate. Youth-friendly clinics and young people’s health centres provided counselling on reproductive health, prevention on unsafe abortions, sexually transmitted infections, personal protection from unwanted pregnancy and psychological and legal assistance.
Steps had been taken under the Government’s action plan to combat and prevent crimes linked to trafficking in persons, improving legislation related to trafficking. Article 135 and Article 144 of the Criminal Code had established criminal liability for trafficking in minors, and the recruitment of minors into the production of articles with erotic content. Furthermore, the new Criminal Code had introduced harsher penalties for trafficking.
The delegation said that the Constitution of the Republic of Kazakhstan established the equality of all before the law and the courts. Based on the Constitution, no one could be subjected to discrimination of any kind on the basis of origin, social, professional or property status, gender, race, ethnicity, language, religious beliefs, opinions, place of residence or any other circumstance. Accordingly, the Government took responsibility for preventing discrimination of any kind, both in law and in practice, be it perpetrated by Government bodies or individuals.
On the question of preventing suicide of minors, it was explained that the Government had adopted a plan of action in cooperation with working groups, focal points in the health system and international organisations, aiming to prevent such acts.
Article 41 of the Children’s Rights Act prohibited the participation of children in hostilities or armed conflicts, and the establishment of children’s military units, a delegate said.
Regarding HIV/AIDS in Kazakhstan, a delegate noted that recent programmes initiated to prevent the spread and raise awareness among public. The epidemiological situation with regards to the HIV infection in Kazakhstan had stabilised. With regard to testing, a network of centres had been set up to provide anonymous voluntary testing for HIV as well as psychosocial counselling. A sentinel surveillance system had been set up to monitor HIV infection, which would make it possible to determine its prevalence among the various population groups.
Turning to the question on school curricula, a delegate said that students were provided with classes aiming to teach the Constitution, which was in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Strategic Development Plan for the period to 2020 included the reduction of maternal and infant mortality by a factor of 1.5 by 2015. Those targets had been achieved. In 2014, maternal mortality had been one third of the 2009 figure and infant mortality had been reduced by a factor of 1.8.
Turning to the question on religion, the delegation said that the country has established legal, ideological and social conditions necessary for the peaceful coexistence of members of different religions and ethnic groups. As a secular State, Kazakhstan was developing its unique experience of interfaith harmony. Accordingly, contemporary Kazakhstan provided a model of the peaceful coexistence of representatives of various religious and ethnic groups. That experience had been one of the reasons for the nomination of Kazakhstan for the Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in 2010.
The Government was trying to observe the confidentiality of complaints made by individuals, including children, without publishing their names in the mass media. Publishing an official state document without permission would be a “document leak”, and it was prohibited by the law. For children in primary and elementary schools, there were complaint boxes in their schools.
On military-patriotic clubs, a delegate noted that such clubs were places to prevent extremism and promote sports. Councils of veterans and Afghan soldiers, and also non-governmental organizations, were engaged in the military-patriotic education of young people. For instance, “Ulan”, a military-sports game, took place in Kazakhstan, with the principal aim of bettering children’s patriotic education and physical development.
Regarding ways to ensure the internet safety, it was explained that a number of classes had been introduced in many schools in order to teach students about the safe usage of the internet, including social networks.
The Criminal Code clearly stated that pre-trial detention period could not exceed six months. It was impossible to make an extension to that period.
OLGA KHAZOVA, Committee Member and Country Co-Rapporteur for Kazakhstan, noted that the dialogue had been extremely constructive both for the Committee and the delegation. She appreciated that Kazakhstan was able to manage to pinpoint all the problems and to identify key issues. The Experts, accordingly, had discussed all important matters and made suggestions and recommendations to the delegation. First, the establishment of the Ombudsman for Children was an urgent matter. The creation, however, had to be in line with the Rome Principles. Second, despite the progress, there was a “weak link” in the society for the children’s participation in all matters related to them. To ensure their participation, it was very significant to encourage children to be more active from the very early age. Children were vital forces of the society, and their participation would definitely make a positive impact on the future of Kazakhstan.
YESSENGAZY IMANGALIYEV, Vice Minister of Education And Science, thanked all Experts for the fruitful debate over the past two days. He assured the Committee that Kazakhstan would take all suggestions seriously and undertake new programmes and policies to improve the lives of children in the country.
BENYAM DAWIT MEZMUR, Chairperson of the Committee, said that he looked forward to hosting Kazakhstan again in order to see the implementations. It was very promising that the delegation would give more attention to the Third Optional Protocol.
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