Children of Belize
Realizing Children’s Rights in Belize
Over one-third of the population of the Central American country of Belize is under 15 years old.
The country has developed a national action plan (2004-2015) for children and adolescents which covers health care, education, child protection, family, protection against HIV/AIDS and culture.
Despite this plan, more progress can be made. This multicultural country’s mentality and traditions must evolve in order to improve the situation for children.
Realization of Children’s Rights Index : 8.16 / 10
Life expectancy: 73,9 years
Main problems faced by children in Belize:
In Belize, 45% of the population lives in poverty. This is largely due to natural disasters and the negative effects of the global economic crisis.
Poverty is one of Belize’s main problems and constitutes an obstacle to children’s wellbeing.
Progress has been made regarding health care for children. In fact, the mortality rate has dropped from 44/1000 in 1990 to 17/1000 in 2010.
However, many were not registered at birth and therefore do not have access to health care.
The country has the highest rate of HIV out of all Central American countries. Thanks to improvements in therapeutic practices, mother-to-child transmission has been reduced from 19% in 2007 to 3.3% in 2012.
Access to water is also very poor.
To give you an example of the hygienic conditions, 70% of schools do not follow international norms for the installation of toilets.
The attendance rate for primary schools is 94%.
The proportion of pupils who retake a year is relatively high at 14%. This contributes to students’ premature abandoning of their studies and low self-esteem.
Education is free and mandatory between the ages of 5 and 15. However, indirect costs (supplies, food, transportation, etc.) can prevent good attendance.
Adolescents who become pregnant are kicked out of school. They then have to wait one year before requesting readmission.
Schools also discriminate against disabled children, since the buildings are not accessible. The state does not provide much money for them, leaving them instead in the care of a few NGOs operating in the country. A plan for improving the well-being of disabled children has just been undertaken, after being ratified in the Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.
Corporal punishment is still relatively routine in Belize. Some parents use belts, brooms and other tools to discipline their children.
A 2010 law partially abolished corporal punishment, but a large number of parents and teachers were against it. Other people, including police officers or even strangers, are permitted to administer this type of punishment to children.
There still needs to be an awareness campaign for parents, teachers and other public authorities to show them that other methods exist besides violence to educate children.
Child prostitution is a serious problem in Belize. At the moment, there is insufficient data on child prostitution, but child trafficking for prostitution and pornography is unfortunately a common practice.
30% of prostitutes are between the ages of 13 and 18, and belong to economically disadvantaged families. These young girls offer sexual favors to older people for jewelry, books, clothes, or their school fees. Families may marry off their daughters in exchange for money.
Child prostitution is fairly widespread throughout the country.
Laws prohibit labor for children under the age of 12. Children between the ages of 12 and 13 may work, but only outside of school hours.
However, these laws are not followed and 6% of children between the ages of 5 and 17 work, mostly in their families’ businesses. Half of these children work in dangerous conditions that are legally prohibited for children under the age of 14.
Part-time work is allowed for children aged 12 and over who are still in education.