Children of Equatorial Guinea
Realizing Children’s Rights in Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea is a Central African country, made up of of two parts: one is continental, situated between Cameroon and the Gabonese Republic and the other is coastal and is made up of two islands, Bioko and Annobon. A National Committee of Rights of the Child was established in 1997 but its functioning is unfortunately not yet effective and little coordination exists between initiatives taken at different levels.
Realization of Children’s Rights Index :
Population: 720 000
Life expectancy: 53,1 years
Main problems faced by children in Equatorial Guinea:
Access to education
The International Committee of Rights of The Child has been welcomed in the country to put in place a law on education, making it obligatory and free. However, numerous obstacles still exist with regard to the respect of this fundamental right of the child. Indeed, the rates of schooling (57%) and of literacy remain quite weak in the country. Differences also exist between the number of boys enrolled in school, and that of girls. A conservative traditional view exists regarding girls, which means that they do not always receive a place at school. Indeed, although numerous families allow boys to pursue higher education studies, girls are generally obliged to leave school earlier because they find themselves confronted by unplanned pregnancies or obliged to do housework in their family.
On the other hand, little means are generally assigned to education; therefore it is difficult to put in place educative programmes. The country also lacks qualified teachers in order to transmit their knowledge to children.
Although a law prohibits child labour, it is not yet put into practice, and there are numerous girls who work, notably on the streets or as servants. In the capital, Malabo, the number of child prostitutes has increased over the past few years.
Guinea must therefore take necessary measures in order for the laws relative to child labour to be applied in practice.
The International Committee of Rights of The Child is deeply concerned as the country has not ratified the protocol prohibiting the participation of children in armed conflicts. Therefore, it is probable that children are used as soldiers in the wars in which Guinea is engaged in, this is a violation of the international Convention on Children’s Rights..
Many practices of discrimination still exist in Guinea, that is to say that some children do not have access to the same services as others. These discriminations predominantly affect girls, children born outside marriage, children from poor families, handicapped children or children belonging to ethnic minorities.
Alas, it appears that the State is not taking concrete and efficient measures in order to prevent these forms of discrimination.
Right to an identity and to a family
A child has the right to have a nationality, which can only be obtained following the registration of his or her birth. In Guinea, the system for registering births isnot very operational and prevents many children from having an officially recognised identity. Many parents remain unaware of the importance of declaring their children’s status at birth.
In addition, it appears that the right to a family is not always respected for children. Indeed, in case of divorce, guardianship and parental authority are automatically confined to the father of the family, thereby separating children from their mother. It is also worrying that less than 50% of children live with both their parents, in particular this is due to urbanisation, poverty, or death following HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, children who become orphaned due to this disease are not taken charge of by the state.
The mortality rate of children less than 5 years old is 121 per 1000 and that of children of less than 1 years old is 81 per 1000. Worries have been expressed regarding the standard of the health system of Guinea. This concern is all the greater as malnutrition is also very widespread among children. This is because poor families do not have access to services, like water or purification systems. The country appears to dedicate few resources to these healthcare matters.
Violence toward children
Sexual violence is also very common in Guinea. A very large tolerance exists with regard to the multiplicity of sexual relations within the family. On the other hand, the law does not formally forbid incestuous sexual relations with minors belonging to the family of the perpetrator, even when it is a question of their natural children.
Even if adulthood is officially recognised at 18 years old and the law prohibits marriage before this age, the tradition is still very strong and many girls therefore marry very young, well before the age of 18.
The opinion of the child is traditionally not taken into account within the family or in the creation of public policies. Many traditional customs still exist and therefore prevent hearing the child’s views, as well as his or her best interest, especially for girls.
During the adoption of public policies, the superior interest of the child is not always the first concern of the State.
In Guinea there appears to be a lack of an effective system of justice for minors. Indeed, there is no specific tribunal for children and when they are detained and their conditions of detention are very poor. They are detained communally with adults and do not have access to basic services.