Issa Hallak in an interview with Nadine Nimri – Advocacy, communications and human rights journalism trainer, and Media Director at Save the Children
Supporters & Opponents… The Controversy Surrounding the Child Rights Act
The controversy and the voices subsided, and hashtags and videos stopped its spread. It is time for me, as a participant in the Generation 01 program, to research the topic more, ask, present points of view, search for answers, and then write the blog that you are reading today.
Since the Child Rights Act was presented to Parliament, it has been a trending topic on social media and traditional media channels for a good while. Between supporters and opponents, various campaigns have been launched; Some of them aimed at raising awareness and correcting concepts, some revealed fears, and reservations, and some, unfortunately, reinforced conflict and misleading information.
In an interview with Nadine Nimri, a specialized trainer in advocacy, communications, and human rights journalism, Director of Media at Save the Children institution, and campaigner for the Child Rights Act, we talked for a while about this controversy; Concerns as regards the law, the difference it might make, and why we need it.
Let us start with the concerns in mind
Through this blog, I aim to make some terms clearer and correct others, and perhaps, I will not be able to do that unless I address what is concerning me and other people about this law.
- Nimri said: “In the draft Child Law, the word “enforceable legislation” is mentioned 11 times out of 35 articles. For instance, matters related to personal status and family refer to the personal status law currently in effect, while matters related to education refer to the law of the Ministry of Education, and others related to freedom of speech refer to the legislation in force from the Cybercrime Law and the Press and Publications Law. This indicates the importance of referring to the legislation in force in the Jordanian state.”
Here are examples of the concerns that many people have, to which regard, Nimri explained the laws:
- “The law states not to interfere with the child’s personal life, but there is an important sentence that cannot be ignored: Taking into account the duties and rights of the parents, the legislations in force, and how mature the child is. And we all know that parental rights are protected by custom, which in many cases is a part of the legislation.”
- “This law will not allow children to view pornography, because it is criminalized by law and their circulation is prohibited in Jordan under the cybercrime law currently in force.”
- “The law was not set to take children away from their parents as some say, we have crucial laws on the subject, such as the protection from domestic violence law, which is more sensitive, and entails removing the abuser or take the abused children into custody.”
- “The case of child labor is addressed in the current labor law.”
- “The case of changing religion and gender is addressed in the current personal and civil status law.”
These are some of the concerns Nimri mentioned, and according to my observation and research, they are considered the most common among people on social media. In my opinion, adding the child law to the legislations in force, which have never been debated, is a positive outlet that makes us somewhat reassured.
Back to the basics, why do we need the children rights law?
In a society where children make up more than 40%1 of the population, the rights of the child must be preserved and governed by specific and clear laws that apply to everyone. What are the gaps that this law will fill?
Nimri said: “First, let us agree that the law is not a magic solution; It will not be easy to move from where we are today to an advanced stage in the field of child rights and protection. The issue requires adequate time for awareness and support campaigns to practically implement and apply the law. In Jordan, we issued a law for the rights of people with disability, which is a very positive step, yet it is not easy to implement its provisions, especially with regard to inclusive education, providing an inclusive environment in schools, and offering job opportunities for this segment?
However, there has been gradual progress since the law was passed. Same goes for the Child Rights Act; The existence of legislation that guarantees rights is the first step, and then gradually comes execution, monitoring and accountability.”
I can summarize what Nimri said in three main aspects in which the law will have a fundamental role:
- First; Health Care:
“Today, the public health insurance is only available to children under 6 years of age, but with the law in place, we will ensure that health care is provided to children from 7 to 18 years old. Existing health insurance is only available for children of Jordanian nationality, whereas we have refugees, expatriates, and children of Jordanian mothers, who have the right to equal access to treatment like all other children.”
- Second; Education:
Nimri pointed out that the high rate of school dropout in Jordan, especially after COVID 19, should be addressed through this law and other legislations in force. A recent report was published on one of the local channels describing the dropout rate in our schools as “terrifying”, we have around 7000 dropout students each year in primary education, which entails the necessity of urgent solutions2. According to the Child Rights Act draft, the child’s guardian or person entrusted with his care will be obliged to enrol the child in primary education, and measures will be taken to prevent the child from dropping out or cutting his education short3.
- Third; Protection:
Nimri shared her thought of the current age and the challenges, stress, and negative tendencies, to which children may be exposed, such as drug addiction, especially with cheap synthetic drugs easily accessible to children. Nimri also referred to the increase in suicide rate among adolescents and youth, which suggests the necessity of a law that enable rehabilitation and psychological support centers for those under the age of 18.
Here, I will refer to a report in Al-Ghad newspaper stating that Jordan recorded 167 suicides last year, among which were 23 juveniles whose ages ranged between 12-17 years4.
“With all these facts, we not only need a law that protects children, but we also need guarantees for its implementation,” said Nimri.
What is the link between this law and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Some believe that the Child Rights Act is not much of an important step in light of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Jordan ratified in 2006, with reservations on some articles, such as adoption and the right to adopt a religion or not. What is Nadine Nimri’s point of view on that regard?
“In 2008, Jordan withdrew the Child Rights Act upon ratification of said convention. It was later found that there was no application or commitment to the terms of the convention, and that a law would further ensure this. There are various laws issued in Jordan even though we have ratified international conventions; The labor law has provisions on the prevention of human trafficking and forced labor, which are stated in International Labour Organization conventions, and The Persons with Disabilities Act includes terms mentioned in the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Does approval of such terms in international conventions entail redundancy of their issuance at the state level?
There are 13 Arab countries that preceded Jordan in passing a child law, including Tunisia, Algeria, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Paradoxically, some opponents of the Jordanian Child Rights Act reside in countries where such laws are enforced and perhaps are more advanced than that of Jordan; Some of them have even ratified the international convention with some reservations, as has Jordan.”
Regarding the next phase, Nimri explained there will be regulations and instructions appended to the Act upon its approval, which will contribute to its further improvement.
Child protection is an undebatable cause
On an important note, Nadine Nimri stated: “I don’t think the Child Act is the most critical of the laws that exist today, I don’t understand the controversy around it. Perhaps, the government should put more effort in clarifying the law to the public through seminars, workshops, and face-to-face dialogues, which in my view are more effective than social media.”
The Child Rights Act is the first step towards a better life for our children, and sure it still needs some amendments, but we, as individuals, bear the responsibility of raising awareness and limiting false information. We should seek professional advice on terms we do not understand, do the required research, and then demand making the necessary changes.
Finally, whether you are a supporter or an opponent, we must all agree that child protection is a right. As adults, we must abide by this right without fail, not to remain silent about any case of violation, and to constantly educate ourselves about it.
Image: Issa Hallak in an interview with Nadine Nimri – Advocacy, communications and human rights journalism trainer, and Media Director at Save the Children
This blog highlights the ideas of Issa Hallak after an interview with Nadine Nimri, one of the most prominent activists in the field of advocacy for the Child Rights Act, as part of the Generation 01 program implemented by Generations for Peace, with the support of the US Embassy in Jordan.