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In a Tough Year, Some Good News for Children

Governments Renounce Child Marriage, Child Soldier Use, Attacks on Schools

Students and teachers from around the world call for schools and universities to be protected from military use.  © 2015 Bede Sheppard/Human Rights Watch
For many children around the world, 2017 could hardly have been worse. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children fled mass atrocities by government security forces in Burma, while millions are bearing the brunt of war and unprecedented humanitarian crisis fueled by the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade on food and medicine in Yemen. In Greece, thousands of migrant and asylum-seeking children are trapped in horrific conditions. The list goes on.

But there is also some good news for children from 2017. Here are some reasons for hope:

  • After years of child soldier use, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s armed forces were removed from the UN’s “list of shame” for child recruitment, while hundreds of children were released from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines.
  • In the United States, the states of Arkansas, California, New Jersey, and North Dakota all banned sentences of life without parole for child offenders in 2017 – the most states yet in a single year. Twenty states and the District of Columbia now ban the sentence, up from five states just five years ago.
  • The Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala each raised the minimum age of marriage to 18. New York State, which had allowed children as young as 14 to marry, also passed anti-child marriage legislation.
  • Fourteen countries joined the Safe Schools Declaration and pledged to protect schools during war, bringing the total number of endorsers to 71.
  • In a landmark ruling, the International Criminal Court found a Congolese warlord liable for US$10 million in reparations for former child soldiers.
  • For the first time, the government of Saudi Arabia allowed physical education for girls in state schools.
  • In October, a South African high court declared corporal punishment of children to be unconstitutional. The same month, the Indian Supreme Court ruled that sex with a child bride is rape.

This progress for children shows what is possible. 2018 offers new opportunities to protect children from exploitation and abuse, and advance all children’s rights so they can be safe, develop fully, and live with dignity.

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