The Egyptian Coalition on Children Rights (ECCR) issued a statement on Monday expressing their approval for the final wording of Article 60 in the constitutional draft, which deals with children’s rights.
The article defines a child as any person under the age of 18, and says “every child has the right to a name and identification papers, free compulsory vaccination, health care, family or alternative care, basic food, shelter, religious education and cognitive development.”
Under its provisions, the state must also guarantee “the rights of children with disabilities, and is responsible for their rehabilitation and integration into society” while also committing to child care and protection from all forms of violence, abuse and ill-treatment as well as sexual and commercial exploitation.
Child labour is prohibited before surpassing the age of basic education completion, and in any business that is life endangering.
The article also commits the state to the establishment of a special judicial system for children, whether victims or witnesses. Children may not be criminally accountable or detained except according to the law, the article says, and the period specified should be provided with legal assistance and in isolation from adult detention places.
Hany Helal, the coalition’s secretary general, said agreement on this text in the country’s constitution would represent a “quantum leap” forward for children’s rights if passed.
It would also mark the beginning of hard work for all social workers in this field, Helal said, namely in implementing those rights on that ground.
According to the statement, ECCR believes that the proposed article, if passed, would act as an explicit declaration of the state’s commitment to protecting the rights of all children on Egyptian soil.
The coalition has been calling for such action since the announcement of a redrafting of the country’s suspended 2012 constitution, which ECCR says failed to respect children’s rights.
According to ECCR lawyer Ahmed Meseilhy, “The constitutional assembly in 2012 removed some critical words from the document that we proposed which voided the document from its value and meaning.”
In September ECCR had submitted a number of recommendations concerning children’s rights to the 50-member assembly amending the constitution. The coalition was part of three different hearings with three different committees until the article passed the preliminary vote.
Meseilhy clarified that the Constituent Assembly will have a final round of voting on all the articles before putting the constitution to referendum. “We hope nothing changes in the article, since we approve of it as it is,” added Meseilhy.
ECCR is a group that is composed of 100 NGOs working on children’s rights and a legal team that is spread all over the country to offer free legal counseling to children.
The article that was proposed to the Constituent Assembly was created upon three different pillars. The first was based on the experience shared by children from a range of socioeconomic strata expressed in focus groups. The second was based on a study of the constitutions of countries that have article for children rights such as India, Brazil, and Algeria. The third was based on the different experiences of civil societies in those countries and how they were able to formulate their own article and then see it passed in the document.
The proposed article is intended to protect all children regardless of their socioeconomic strata and other background.