The Universal Children's Day was first proclaimed by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in 1954. Five years later, on 20 November 1959, the UN adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child which was the revised version of the Geneva Declaration of the Protection of Children as prepared at the World Conference for Children's Welfare in Geneva in 1925. That first declaration had been signed by 54 countries.
The declaration did not let discussion on the rights of the child ebb away. Debates on the narrow framework of the declaration, on an insufficient extension between the countries and on incompliance with its principles prevailed till 20 November 1989. The declaration was revised once again and adopted as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Turkey signed the convention on 14 September 1990 and enforced it with its publication in the Official Gazette on 11 December 1994. 20 November was declared "Universal Children's Day" by the UN when the convention was adopted in 1989. It has since been celebrated as the "International Day of Children's Rights".
The Medical Association of Turkey (TTB) marked the 20th anniversary of the day by issuing a preliminary report on "Child Abuse and Neglect". The report was prepared by Samsun delegate Cem Şahan.
In this preliminary report, Şahan evaluated the data from the European Union (EU) 2010 Progress Report concerning the rights of the child. This is the first report on the situation of children that compares all 30 member states of the OECD. It revealed that Turkey ranks in the bottom row regarding the financial situation of children in Turkey, health, environment and education.
Turkey is in 29th position and only succeeded by Mexico due to the field of risky behaviour. In the past ten years, the tendency towards the establishment of a democratic social structure where the priority and the best interest of the rights of all children are protected and where they have a say and can actively participate in decisions for all the matters that concern them in in continous decline.
Also the EU progress report for 2011 drew a gloomy picture of violations of children's rights in Turkey. The report listed a number of alarming findings:
* In secondary education (grades 9-12), the enrolment rates increased for boys from 67.5% to 72.3% and for girls from 62.2 % to 66.1 %, widening thus slightly the gender gap.
* Gender-related prejudices have not been fully removed from school textbooks.
* The poverty rate among children is disproportionately high. For those under the age of six, the rate stood at around 24% of all cases of poverty and at around 49% of all cases of rural poverty.
* There is no effective mechanism in place to tackle domestic violence against children.
* Conditions in full-time child-care institutions need to improve, staff trained and alternative care models promoted.
* No measurable progress has been made yet in the fight against child labour.
* As regards juvenile justice, since the June 2010 amendments to the Anti-Terror Law, the Criminal Procedure Code and other legal provisions, Turkish legislation provides that (...) the 'aggravating circumstances' provided for by the Anti-Terror Law will not apply to children and that they will be tried only in children's courts or juvenile serious crime courts. Implementation of this law is not complete.
* The number of juvenile detention centres is insufficient.
* The Child Protection Law requires that juvenile heavy criminal courts should be established in all 81 provinces. In provinces where no such courts exist, children are tried in courts for adults.
* Trials in juvenile courts are often long.
* Some 2,500 children aged between 12 and 18 were in prison. However, imprisonment for children should be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. According to 2010 statistics, the 0-18 age group makes up 35 percent of the Turkish population.
Findings for Samsun
Şahan, TTB delegate for the city of Samsun on the Black Sea coast, also revealed rights violations experienced in Samsun.
According to the Samsun Provincial Crime Map and Analysis 2010 Report published by the Governor's Office, 53 cases of sexual assault were registered throughout the year, 81 incidents of sexual abuse of children, 91 cases of under-age sexual intercourse, 120 incidents of sexual harassment and ill-treatment in 400 families.
Recommendations made for Samsun included for instance the development of an emergency action plan for child neglect and abuse, increasing the number of child psychiatrists and extending training for parents as well as personal in the health sector. (HK/VK)