Ebadi: Children Rights Are the Same As Human Rights
Yaas-e Nou (Persian Morning Daily)
Thursday, Oct 9, 2003 Vol. 1, No 176 Page: 15
By: Mahvash Kian-Ersi
Summary: Renowned Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi was announced on Oct 9 to have won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in favor of democracy and freedom in Iran. Ebadi was the first Muslim woman and also the first Iranian to become the Nobel peace laureate. One day before this astonishing announcement, she talked to reformist Yaas-e Nou on the occasion of World Children Day (Oct 8). Here we offer the full text of our interview with this university professor of law.
Text: The children should grow coordinately from physical, spiritual, cultural and economic points of view. The families and the governments are obliged to provide the facilities to the children to grow. The significance of children's growth prompted the world nations to draw out an international convention for children's rights. In the face of social, cultural and economic abnormalities, the children need healthy atmosphere. Now we read a short interview with Shirin Ebadi.
Q: What do you think about children's rights, regardless of boundaries and differences?
A: Children's rights are the same as human rights. The only difference is that the parents should also abide by them. The children should enjoy the right of living in a healthy society, the right of participation and they are entitled to be provided with necessities.
Q:To what extent do international conventions incorporate such ideals?
A:Regarding children's rights we have the international convention for children's rights. The convention contains the wishes of intellectuals and lawyers for children throughout the world. The countries which can abide by the intents would see ideal conditions for children.
Q:How is implementation of this convention guaranteed?
A:The countries joining the convention are committed to putting into action the intents, or else, a United Nations children committee would file lawsuit against them. Ignorance of the decisions adopted by the committee may even result in economic sanctions against that specific country.
Q:Have you ever seen such a case?
A:No, because the convention is not an old one.
Q:Are the international organizations conducting any special research on implementation of such conventions?
A:The countries that join the convention should present a report on children's rights to the UN children's committee in five years. The committee would issue warning if the report deems violating children's rights. If the country turns a blind eye to the warnings, it would experience harsher decisions like sanctions.
Q:What do you think about conditions of children's rights in Iran vis--vis the international convention?
A:If we consider the convention as international criteria and standards, I regret to say that we are far from the standards. For instance, marriage age is low in our country. The girls are accountable before the law since the age of 9 and the boys since the age of 15. The blood money compensation for Muslim children and Zoroastrian children are not equal. The blood money compensation for boys is twice the girls. In other worlds children face legal discrimination and it contravenes the convention.
As I said the international convention on children's rights represents an international criterion and the laws should be revised in line with this convention. We cannot put international conventions
into action unless we set regulations for their implementation. The law underlies any function.
Q:How well are children, parents and teachers familiar with children rights in Iran?
A:Unfortunately, they are not familiar enough. That is why the Association of Defending Children's Rights is holding training courses.
Q:What can the government do to raise the knowledge of children's rights in the society?
A:Training on children's rights should be launched as a subject in junior and high schools.
Q:What can be done to rehabilitate the street children who are roaming the streets since they are six?
A:The government can spend its budget allocation for street children on procurement of building, employment of social assistants, foodstuff, cook, etc. The government should pay the street children stipends to bar them from working in the streets. Anyhow, such a plan needs special executive mechanisms to take effect. For instance, the pays should be earmarked for up to two children in a family and the government should stop releasing pays if the children flunk. In
that case, the society would not face a flood of illiterates in the future.
Q:What discipline is adopted to deal with child abuse either by parents or the relatives?
A:The latest version of law dealing with child abuse was adopted in 2002. According to this law, any physical blow or mental trauma against children and under-18s amount to a crime and no individual plaintiff is required in this case. The public prosecutor can cope with the offenders. The important point in this law is that the judiciary and not the parents are entitled to lodge a lawsuit.
Q:How can we support the children subject to abnormal conditions at home?
A:If it is proven to the court that abnormal conditions at the family would damage the physical and mental health of the children, the court authorizes anyone who is ready to accept the child. Or the court can order the children be looked after at the State Welfare Organization.
Q:What problems do we have in Iran regarding children's rights?
A:The Iranian law looks at the children as properties of the parents. For instance, if a neighbor kills a child he would face `qisas' (the eye-for-an-eye law of retribution) -- required by the Islamic Penal Code. The same man will not face such punishment if he kills his own child and he will at most get ten years in jail if the mother files complaint. We have similar laws. When a couple decides to get divorced, the custody of over-2 boys and over-7 girls rests with the father
while the future of such children is forgotten. The law should take into account the independence of children.
Q:How will a mother who kills her own child be punished?
A:Such mothers face eye-for-an-eye law of retribution and they do not enjoy any acquittal.
Q:Can you tell us the problems concerning implementation of laws set for children?
A:We have to revise the laws but the present articles are often ignored due to lack of facilities. For instance, insufficient dormitories and schools bar us from implementing our regulations.
Q:Taking into account the cultural and native characters of various regions in our country, how can we make a better world for children?
A:We should revise our view of children and let them think independently in their own world.
Q:Newspapers quoted the judiciary as saying juvenile delinquents would no longer face flogging and execution. How come this proposal came up?
A:I announced in a speech six years ago that the 1925 law, backed by Seyed Hassan Modarres, was much better than the law adopted in 1991. The first law was drawn up when Iran was under the monarchy but 70 years later, the law has shown backwardness. Our laws have not made any headway and they have even lost credibility. In my speech, I proposed revival of the 1925 law.
Now, I see many others advocating the same law and the judiciary proposal is based on the 1925 law.
I hope that one day we will have regulations in line with our society and do not make ourselves content with the prevailing laws.