On 26 March, PRI will address the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with an oral statement, and provided a submission, “Falling through the Cracks: Guidance on Implementation of Article 30” during its forthcoming 19th session.
In the context of children of incarcerated parents, PRI’s delegates will raise provisions enshrined in the Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), but also in the Bangkok Rules, which provide guidance on the rights of children of incarcerated parents.
The invisibility of children in Africa whose parents are detained and whose rights are thereby gravely affected is the starting point of PRI’s submission. While reliable data is lacking, it is estimated that millions of children worldwide are affected: tens of thousands living with imprisoned parents and many times more that number separated from their caretaker due to incarceration.
It is significant that the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child has many provisions of direct relevance to these children, but also a number of provisions ensuring ‘special treatment’ for pregnant women and mothers who are accused or convicted of criminal offences, mirroring to a certain extent the standards later laid out in more detail in the Bangkok Rules at an international level.
While the Bangkok Rules are drafted from the point of view of mothers in prison, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child from the position of the child, interestingly – yet not that surprisingly – they come to very similar conclusions.
For example, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child – like the Bangkok Rules – requires that non-custodial sentences always be considered first and that alternatives to detention be established and promoted. In particular, Article 30(1)(f) of the ACRWC states: “the essential aim of the penitentiary system will be the reformation, the integration of the mother to the family and social rehabilitation.” As for the Bangkok Rules, the category of ‘mother’ could be inferred to include the role of sole or primary caregiver, even more so given that large numbers of children in Africa are orphaned or living separated from their parents but may still require the protections guaranteed in Article 30 ACRWC when their primary caregiver is deprived of their liberty. The Bangkok Rules, for example, in Rule 49 talk about non-custodial measures being preferred for “a pregnant woman or a child’s sole or primary caretaker.”
Click here to read a report of the meeting
Read PRI’s submission to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which refers to standards derived from the African Committee as well as from the Bangkok Rules.