Rights of the Child
In the area of protection of the rights of the child and childhood, work is being carried out in the Republic of Kazakhstan in order to secure the social and legal guarantees of children’s quality of life, in harmony with international standards.
An important step in the implementation of international standards for the quality of life of children was the ratification of the UN Convention “On the Rights of the Child” by Kazakhstan in 1994.
The general principles of the Convention On the Rights of the Child were implemented in many laws of Kazakhstan, including: “On the Rights of the Child in the Republic of Kazakhstan,” “On Marriage and Family,” “On Children’s Villages of Family Style and Youth Homes,” “On Health Protection of the Citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan,” “On Social, Medical, Pedagogical, and Correctional Support for Children with Disabilities,” “On Juvenile Crime Prevention and Prevention of Child Neglect and Homelessness,” and others.
Since the time of ratification of the Convention On the Rights of the Child, Kazakhstan has already twice reported to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child regarding the fulfillment of its provisions. The joint second and third report prepared by the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan was discussed at the 45th session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in May 2007.
It should be noted that the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has positively acknowledged the measures implemented by Kazakhstan in the field of protection of the rights of children. In the course of discussion on the report, one of the positive achievements was recognized to be the development and improvement of new legislation as well as the cooperation of governmental authorities with international organizations and various UN agencies on childhood issues.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child also positively evaluated the experience of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the field of alternative care for children left without the support of parents: the establishment of “hope homes,” youth homes, and family style children’s villages. An initiative on the development of new forms of family type upbringing such as guardianship, tutorship, patronage, and adoptive families was approved.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has approved the adoption of various plans and strategies in the field of education, health care, and support for youth. However, although their evaluation of the activity of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the field of protection of children’s rights was positive, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has noticed existing problems in this regard and has given recommendations for the further improvement of the situation regarding the rights of children in Kazakhstan.
One of the Committee’s recommendations was to establish an independent authorized agency for the implementation of the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, including effective coordination of activities between central and local executive agencies in cooperation with NGOs. In harmony with the given recommendations, the Committee for Protection of Children’s Rights under the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Kazakhstan was established in January 2006 by the Enactment of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and in August 2007, departments for the protection of children’s rights in all regions of the Republic were founded. These measures allowed the creation in the Republic of a new governmental rights protection system in the interests of the child, the main component of which is moral and spiritual human development.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has also recommended developing the related National Action Plan. In this regard, in 2007, the program “Children of Kazakhstan” for the years 2007-2011 was ratified by the Enactment of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan of December 21, 2007 No. 1245. The program includes a set of measures for the improvement of the quality of life of children, prevention of social orphanhood, and the provision of conditions similar to family conditions for orphans and children left without the support of parents. During the course of implementation of the program, it is planned to open five special correctional educational organizations, three rehabilitation centers for minors left without the support of parents, six family style children’s villages, and also an increase in the number of specialists in guardian and tutorial agencies.
With the purpose of implementation of these recommendations, the Ministry of Education and Science together with the interested ministries, departments, and local executive authorities has prepared the Plan of Measures for Implementation of the Concluding Remarks of the UN Committee for the Rights of the Child, which was considered and ratified at a meeting of the Interdepartmental Commission on International Humanitarian Law and International Agreements on Human Rights. At present, the implementation of this Plan in the Republic is in progress.
With the aim of implementation of Article 20 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as fulfillment of Paragraphs 8 and 45 of the recommendations of the 33rd session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the draft law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On the Accedence and Ratification by the Republic of Kazakhstan of the Convention on Protection of the Rights of Children and Cooperation with Regard to Foreign Adoption (adopted by the Hague on May 29, 1993)” was developed. Currently, the given document is being considered by the Majilis of Parliament of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The ratification of this document will ensure the protection of rights of children after their adoption.
In accordance with the Plan of legislative development for 2009, the draft Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Amendments and Additions to the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan “On Children’s Villages of Family Style and Youth Homes” is being developed. Taking into account the experience of foreign countries, the draft law suggests the alteration of the requirements for educators; in particular, it proposes to omit the age requirement (30 years of age) and to add the provision to employ married couples as educators in the children’s villages. In addition, the expansion of the number of graduates of educational organizations for orphans and children left without the support of parents is suggested, who could then undergo social adaptation in youth homes.
Measures are being taken to develop effective mechanisms for resolving issues regarding social orphanhood, and early detection of dysfunctional families. Various events are being held with the participation of international and domestic experts, representatives of agencies of internal affairs, NGOs, parents’ associations, psychologists, social pedagogues, and directors of schools – training sessions, conferences, seminars, consultations, and many others.
Various studies and monitoring activities are being held jointly with governmental and non-governmental organizations in order to study the situation of the children in the Republic. Thus, in harmony with the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF, two sociological studies have been conducted jointly with non-governmental public associations: “The Situation of Orphan Children and Children Left without the Support of Parents in the System of Children’s Boarding Institutions” and “Evaluation of Needs and Requirements of Vulnerable Children and Families for Social Services.” The given studies were conducted in an effort to study the situation of orphans, children left without the support of parents, and children from vulnerable classes of the population.
Special attention is paid to the prevention of the worst forms of child labor, which can also affect the quality of life of children. Although legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan has established restrictions on child labor and stipulated criminal and administrative liability for compulsion of children to the worst forms of child labor, there have been instances when children were forced to do work which could damage their physical development and hinder their receiving a good quality education. For example, there were instances of the illegal involvement of children in tobacco harvesting in the Almaty region and cotton harvesting in the Southern Kazakhstan region. Unfortunately, at present, the mechanism for gathering statistical reports regarding the use of child labor in branches of national agriculture has not yet been developed.
The issue of use of child labor at home and on farms requires additional study, and standards of labor legislation regulating the procedure and conclusion of labor contracts with minors and some aspects of their labor activity including concurrent studies and work need to be revised. In the context of these and other issues in the sphere of underage employment, the interested ministries and departments and the Confederation of Employers of the Republic have signed the Cooperative Plan of Work in the Framework of the Regional Project of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on Eradication of the Worst Forms of Child Labor. In harmony with this document, in an effort to increase the public awareness of the worst forms of child labor, a collection of international and Kazakhstan’s legislation in the field of protection of children’s rights, namely in the field of combat against the worst forms of child labor was published, and research of the child labor situation in the regions of the Republic has been conducted.
However, despite the measures taken, there are still certain problems and unresolved issues with regard to the protection of children’s rights and interests.
The issue of social orphanhood remains urgent. Over 12,000 families are dysfunctional; in only the year of 2008, 854 parents were deprived of their parental rights. At present, out of 16,008 children growing up in institutions of education, health protection, and social security, 84.2% are social orphans.
Housing for the graduates of institutions for orphans is a complicated issue. Only about 10% of children raised in children’s homes and boarding schools have a lodging in their name. In the last three years, only 80 apartments were allocated for children of this category.
There are serious difficulties with regard to the receipt of competitive vocational education of graduates of institutions for orphans. Today, only 82.4% of these graduates work by their professions.
Every year, 10,000 neglected and homeless children are found. Even with close relatives available, 25% of these children are sent to governmental institutions for orphans and children left without the support of parents, where they are completely provided for by the government.
Currently, the issue of legislative determination of the establishment and payment of benefits for a child (children) to guardians and tutors remains urgent. This provision will ensure the development of legislation that would stipulate the amount and procedure for payment of this benefit.
The purpose of adoption of such legislation is the necessity to resolve issues of material support of nearly 30,000 children who are currently under guardianship and tutorship in families, and to further reduce the number of children growing in boarding institutions. Over 3 billion tenge a year (10 monthly calculation indicators for the support of one child per month) are required for these purposes.
Violence against children, various forms of children exploitation, neglect, and homelessness are among the unresolved problems. In only the current year, nearly 6,000 neglected and homeless children were found.
Not everywhere are found the necessary conditions for receiving a secondary public education. The number of populated localities without schools is increasing. In comparison with the year 2007, their number increased by 65 and amounts to 1,434 in the year 2008. There are 32,500 children of school age living in these localities; 13,300 of these children are transported to school, 3,600 live in boarding schools, and 15,000 children live in apartments or travel to school independently. Transportation of children to schools in the Southern Kazakhstan, Almaty and Atyrau regions is poorly organized.
At the same time, local authorities are slow to resolve issues with regard to the renovation and replenishment of their school bus fleet. While there is a demand for 466 new busses in the Republic, only 96 busses were purchased in the year 2008.
Still, the most urgent social problem is violence against children and various forms of children exploitation. According to the ILO, 16 children of every 100 are involved in child labor (including children of 5 years of age) and 12 out of every 100 in the worst forms of child labor (slavery, servitude, prostitution). In the Republic there is almost no reliable information about the nature and extent of child labor, neglect and homelessness.
The issue of use of child labor at home and at farms requires additional study. Many families (parents) do not know the rights of children as stipulated by the labor legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
There is a need to train professional personnel to work with families and children; the content of the training programs for professional development of children’s rights specialists, social pedagogues, psychologists, and educators working for educational organizations for orphans and children left without the support of parents requires improvement.