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New Law to Give Children More Protection
|Child Labor and Mortality Continue to Increase|
( YEMEN POST STAFF )
Article Date: February 11, 2008
''When my father died, my mother married another man and left us alone. We have uncles but they were not very nice to us. We were forced to leave our house and to go to cities in search for livelihood," said Essam who is 11 years and has two younger brothers.
“I together with my brothers clean cars to get money; however, we are harassed by older children and sometimes by people. " Essam added.
Like Essam thousands of Yemeni children took to the streets for many reasons the most important of which are unemployment, family separation, orphanage and school drop-outs.
The Higher Council for Motherhood and Childhood (HCMC) defines street children as those "who live on begging or exercise marginal jobs and those homeless or deprived of complete family care”.
The term “Street Children” was actually adopted only very recently, perhaps because of the shame involved in admitting the existence of this group and the absence of specific provisions for street children in the legal framework.
Official statistics released by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor indicate that working children phenomenon grows at 3 percent every year and around 51 percent of working children under 12 are females. The total number of working children reaches 3.2 million.
The ministry estimated the number of children working in marginal jobs that does not fit their age at 400,000, and the number of children who do not attend schools at 2 million.
A study, prepared by Working Children Qualification Center, indicated that about 80 percent of working children are males while 20 percent are females.
Dhamar governorate comes in the first place as for the number of working children with 21 percent, followed by Sana'a with 19 percent and Al-Hodeidah with 18 percent.
Meanwhile, the study pointed out that 40 percent of children sell newspapers, magazines, water, food commodities and some fast food meals through hand carts of in small shops.
Most of these working children come from outside the cities; e.g. those working in the capital come from Sana'a outskirts or from other governorates.
About 50 percent of children work at day time and come back home evening, while others spend their night in groups and sleep in streets, prompting some to call them 'Carton Children'. Most respondents noted that unemployment, death of fathers, poverty, low family income and the school failure are key reasons for which small children resort to work.
Amidst these circumstances, children face different difficulties and risks as they are deprived of family and society protection. They are subjected to all sorts of harassment and neglect. These harassments range from physical to sexual, especially by adults or alcohol addicts.
The phenomenon of street children in Yemen is quite new, but dates back to the early 1990s, when the country faced a serious economic crisis.
The number of street children is markedly increasing, and includes children of the marginalized group of Akhdam (the servant class), children of emigrants returning back following the second Gulf War in 1991, and children belonging to families coming from outside Sana'a as well as children of poor and disintegrated families.
In its report of 2008, UNICEF announced that Yemen has not achieved enough progress as for decreasing the mortality of children below five years of age.
Yemen has been ranked 41 as for children mortality as 100 out of 1,000 living new born infants die before or during their first year. About 84,000 children die every year and 250 children die every day.
New law amendments for
A new chapter has been annexed to the Republican Decree No. 12 for 1994 and it aims to criminalize the exploitation of children in illegitimate activities, including sexual harassments, begging and smuggling outside the country.
The new amendments stipulated punishing any person responsible for smuggling children for illegitimate activities by sentencing the person to five years in prison and the term increases two more years in case the performer uses cheating and tricks to trap the child. Further two years are imposed in case the smuggling is associated with sexual and physical harassment.
Still, the new law demanded punishing the father or the guardian when he helps the smuggler particularly when the child is under 10 years of age. The prison term for the guardian is three years. It further stated that the smuggler and assistors are considered contributors to any crime the child may be subjected to later on.
The exploiter is imprisoned for three years in case they use children for begging purposes and the punishment increases to seven years in case they exploit them to physical or psychological problems.
Exploiting children in prostitution or sexuality necessitates punishing the doers with terms ranging between five to fifteen years. The law also ordered five years for anyone exposing children in drawing or media in a way that goes against the common decency. It also dictated a fine of YR 50,000 against anyone responsible for beating, amputation, burning or deprivation of food and drinking, or house dismissal against children.Moreover, the law stipulated increasing the kidnapping punishment to 20 years especially when the kidnapped child is a girl. The law also calls for a three-year term against any public officer who uses force against a child under 18.