Turkey marks Universal Children’s Day amid widespread children’s rights violations: report

Unidentified seasonal child workers work in very difficult conditions in Harran plain near Syria border of Turkey. They can not go to school to work in the cotton fields.

Turkey is celebrating Universal Children’s Day this year in an environment where dozens of children have died in work-related accidents and access to education has significantly declined for thousands of minors in pretrial detention, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Mesopotamia News Agency (MA).

Universal Children’s Day is marked on Nov. 20, the day in 1959 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child and also when it adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

Turkey signed the convention in 1990 and enacted it in 1995, reserving the right to interpret and apply the provisions of Articles 17, 29 and 30 regarding children’s access to information, children’s education and ethnic minority children’s right to use their own language, according to the Turkish Constitution and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne.

According to MA, reports and statistics regarding violations of children’s rights in Turkey in the last few years reveal that the country is failing to fulfill its obligations as defined in the UN convention.

A report released by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu in October revealed that 39 children in Turkey died in work-related accidents in the first eight months of 2020.

The Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) announced as a result of its “Child Labor Force Survey 2019” that some 720,000 children between the ages of 5 and 17 were working, primarily to contribute to household income.

The research found that one out of three working children had not completed their education, while the remaining 65.7 percent continued to go to school while working.

With pandemic conditions adding to the opportunity gap, only around 15 percent of children in Turkey can access education, the left-wing Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) said in a September report based on data on distance learning.

According to a report by the Civil Society in the Penal System Association (CİSST),

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is currently holding around 3,000 minors in pretrial detention, disregarding the presumption of innocence and depriving them of the right to an education.

Cases of child sexual abuse also hit record levels in Turkey in recent years, with 22,689 child abuse cases launched in 2019, a significant increase over the 18,209 in 2018, statistics from Turkey’s Ministry of Justice showed.

However, this increase was accompanied by a drop in the number of convictions handed down by the courts. According to the ministry data, the number of rulings including convictions dropped from 59.6 percent to 55 percent in 2019.

Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a lawmaker from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and a member of parliament’s Human Rights Inquiry Committee, tweeted a photo of children from a ward in İzmir’s Şakran Prison.

“There are at least 780 children between the ages of 0 and 6 currently in Turkey’s prisons with their mothers,” the deputy said.

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