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Call for the creation of safe spaces for children in the Pacific
In his visit to Fiji this week, Mr Bragi Gudbrandsson, a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, called for Pacific island countries to apply the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) in addressing child sexual abuse.
Gudbrandsson visited Fiji after the conclusion of the 84th Extraordinary Outreach Session of the Committee in Samoa last week. Prior to his role on the Committee, Gudbrandsson was the Director General of the Government Agency for Child Protection in Iceland and has a long-standing track record in international child rights work.
In a public lecture at The University of the South Pacific (USP), Gudbrandsson reminded the audience that children are humans and therefore hold certain rights. “The paradigm shift generated by the CRC revolutionized our perception of the child – from the child being perceived merely as a vulnerable and dependent human being in need of special care and assistance to accept that a child is, in the first place, a rights holder like any other human being,” Gudbrandsson explained.
During the USP lecture, Gudbrandsson also spoke about the ‘Barnahus’ initiative which originated from Iceland and is now applied across many European countries. Barnahus, which is the Icelandic word for ‘Children’s House’, is about minimising the re-traumatization of children who have experienced sexual abuse. The initiative minimises the number of times a child is interviewed about the abuse by authorities and lawyers and provides safe and comforting spaces for such children to be interviewed. “The initiative also takes away the requirement for children to testify and be cross-examined in Court during sexual abuse court proceedings without adversely impacting a fair trial for accused persons,” said Gudbrandsson.
Miles Young, Director of the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Regional Rights Resource Team (RRRT), said “Anything which minimises the re-traumatization of children who are sexually abused can only be a good thing. It was fantastic to see a full house at the USP lecture and to hear the large number of questions from the audience, including from Minister Mereseini Vuniwaqa. This just showed the strong interest in protecting our children from sexual abuse and in exploring ways to improve the way in which we manage sexual abuse cases involving children”.
Mr Gudbrandsson’s visit to Fiji was made possible through the support of RRRT’s donors - the United Kingdom through the Pacific Commonwealth Equality Project, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden, together with the United Nations and USP.
About Bragi Guðbrandsson:
Bragi Gudbrandsson has a long standing track record in international child rights work. He has worked extensively within the framework of the Council of Europe as an expert drafting various tools on children´s rights. These includes the Coe Recommendations on the Rights of Children in Institution (2005), on Positive Parenting (2006), Guideline of Child-friendly Justice (2010) and Child-friendly Social Services (2011), as well as the so-called Lanzarote Convention on the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (2010). Between 2014-2016, Bragi served as the elected chair of the Lanzarote Committee, the monitoring body of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
About the Committee on the Rights of the Child:
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) is the body of 18 Independent experts that monitors implementation of the CRC by its State parties.
States that have signed and ratified the CRC are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights are being implemented. States must submit an initial report two years after acceding to the Convention and then periodic reports every five years. The Committee examines each report and addresses its concerns and recommendations to the State party in the form of “concluding observations”. To date, all Pacific Island Countries have signed and ratified CRC.
Sonal Aujla, RRRT Communications Offiecr | E: [email protected]