A Mandate to End Placement of Children in Institutions and Orphanages: the Duty of Governments and Donors to Prevent Segregation and Torture

Protecting Children Against Torture in Detention: Global Solutions for a Global Problem (2017)

56 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2018

See all articles by Eric Rosenthal

Eric Rosenthal

Disability Rights International

Date Written: February 16, 2017

Abstract

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez brings overdue attention to children detained in institutions and the need to protect them against torture or ill-treatment. The Méndez Report establishes that the obligation to prevent torture requires governments to stop the unnecessary institutional placement of any child. There are 8-10 million children detained in orphanages and other institutions around the world. Research demonstrates that raising children in a congregate setting is inherently dangerous, leading to psychological damage, developmental delays, and an increased risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation. The vast majority of children in orphanages are not orphans – 80 to 98% have a living parent. The reason for most orphanage placement is the lack of protection and support for families who live in poverty as well as the lack of assistance for children with disabilities to remain at home. UNICEF has called for an end to institutionalization worldwide, and European regional branches of UNICEF and WHO have called for a moratorium on new placements of young children. Despite this, governments and international donors continue to support orphanages, and the institutionalization of children continues to grow. The implications of the Méndez report are clear: governments and donors who support the institutionalization of children are perpetuating an increased risk of torture.

The Méndez Report calls for the placement of children in institutions to be limited to the last resort. This is consistent with current interpretations of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). In addition, Méndez calls for limiting placement to the shortest time possible in the least restrictive manner. These protections go beyond interpretations of the CRC in General Comment #9 of the CRC Committee. Since models of family care exist for all children – and most placement can be avoided by protecting families – Méndez’s recommendation would bring an end to long-term placement of children. Méndez’s recommendations are informed by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which protects the right of children to grow up in a family environment. To implement this right, the CRPD Committee has called for an end to the placement of children in institutions. General Comment #9 should be updated to harmonize it with the requirements of both CAT and the CRPD.

Immediate attention is also needed to protect the millions of children now placed in institutions. The protection against torture and ill-treatment is universal, without exception, and does not permit delays in implementation. The lack of funding is not an excuse for leaving children at continued risk. The Méndez Report demonstrates why urgent action is needed to create the community services and family support systems necessary to ensure that all children live and grow up in a family. A moratorium on new admissions is the most effective way to fulfill the mandate of the Méndez Report – combined with immediate action to integrate institutionalized children back into families.

Keywords: disability rights, children's rights, institutionalization, segregation, torture, orphanages

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Rosenthal, Eric, A Mandate to End Placement of Children in Institutions and Orphanages: the Duty of Governments and Donors to Prevent Segregation and Torture (February 16, 2017). Protecting Children Against Torture in Detention: Global Solutions for a Global Problem (2017), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3271306

Eric Rosenthal (Contact Author)

Disability Rights International ( email )

1825 K Street NW
Suite 600
DC, DC 20006
United States

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