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Measures in works amid low child’s rights ranking

A bandage covers a wound on a student’s head in Phnom Penh after he was allegedly hit over the head by a teacher in 2014.
A bandage covers a wound on a student’s head in Phnom Penh after he was allegedly hit over the head by a teacher in 2014. Hong Menea

Measures in works amid low child’s rights ranking

A new report has ranked Cambodia 125 out of 163 countries in terms of its protection of children’s rights, even as the government works to finalise a sub-decree and code of conduct to better shield children from abuse, exploitation and neglect.

The KidsRights Index 2016, released yesterday, gave countries scores based on their respect for children’s rights to life, health, education and protection, as well as the countries’ enabling environment for child rights. Despite its low ranking, Cambodia’s score was near the median, with its child’s rights environment its lowest-scored metric.

However, the government’s Cambodian National Council for Children is finalising a sub-decree that would fill a current gap in the country’s child protection framework, and seek to “eliminate and prevent risk and harm to children”, according to a copy of the draft. The sub-decree would apply to any public or private entities that work with children.

“The sub-decree is very important to help stop violence against children,” said Nhep Sopheap, general-secretary for CNCC. The estimated implementation cost is about $100,000, she added.

The sub-decree could go to the Council of Ministers for approval as early as next month, said Sambath Sokunthea, child rights technical coordinator for Plan International Cambodia, who has been assisting with the drafting process.

The Ministry of Education is also developing its own child protection policy that aligns with the sub-decree, she said.

Meanwhile, a program by UNICEF and the Ministry of Education in 2015 trained teachers in 12 primary schools on positive discipline in hopes of curbing corporal punishment, which remains a problem despite having been banned in 2007. Depending on funding availability, as many as 1,200 more teachers could be trained this year, said UNICEF spokesman Bunly Meas.

“It is envisioned to be gradually scaled up nationwide to reduce all forms of violence in schools,” he said.

Nget Thy, director of the Cambodia Center for the Protection of Children’s Rights, said children in Cambodia face a higher risk of abuse because of a lack of understanding of children’s rights. “The government needs to improve this situation, but not alone; it needs to collaborate with NGOs and other organisations,” he said.

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