The UN independent human rights expert on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography today urged the Armenian government to devote more attention to the issue of violence against children as well as irregularities in adoption processes, which can amount to sale of children.
“The objective of my visit was to assess on the ground the situation of sale and sexual exploitation of children in Armenia and its national child protection system, including law enforcement, in order to make recommendations to prevent that children fall victims to prostitution, online sexual abuse and other forms of sexual exploitation, child marriage and illegal adoption,” Special Rapporteur Maud de Boer-Buquicchio said in an end-of-mission statement she issued in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
“There is a need for the provision of adequate resources and an integrated approach in the domain of child protection,” Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio said.
Despite the low figures of cases of child sexual exploitation reflected by the official data, she drew attention to the gaps in terms of child-friendly identification, detection and reporting mechanisms, and urged the national authorities to establish a comprehensive data collection and information system.
The independent expert welcomed the current legislative reform process, and urged law makers to speed it up in order to bring the family code and the criminal code in line with the international obligations of Armenia, including in relation to adoption.
She also noted that “irregularities committed in adoption processes, which can amount to sale of children for the purpose of illegal adoption, continue to be a major concern in the country.”
“Adoptions must be governed by the best interest of the child, instead of the prospective adoptive parents, and should constitute a measure of last resort,” the expert said.
She also urged authorities to prioritize the adoption of the law against domestic violence as an important tool to prevent and combat abuse and violence against children, as well as gender inequality.
Among her recommendations, Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio encouraged the Government to shift its focus from institutionalization of children in vulnerable situations and children with disabilities, towards care in family environment and community based services.
In respect to the prevalence of child marriage among the Yezidi minority in Armenia, the human rights expert urged authorities to conduct awareness-rising and engage with leaders of the Yezidi minority to eradicate child marriage.
Regarding the fast-increasing use of the Internet, Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio noted that it offers many opportunities to Armenians but also requires the education of children and parents about the risks associated with online usage.
She also called for the incorporation of child participation mechanisms in the development of an effective national child protection system.
As a teenage girl told her during her visit in Gyumri, ‘Adults should listen to us when taking decisions that affect our lives,’ Ms. de Boer-Buquicchio asked the Government to make this call a reality with the ultimate goal of better protecting children in Armenia,” according to a press release issued today.
During her visit from 12 to 18 May, she met with Government officials, members of the police, the office of the prosecutor and the judiciary, members of the legislative, the office of the ombudsperson, lawyers, representatives of telecommunications operators, non-governmental organizations working on child protection issues and children themselves.
UN human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work.