UN raises concerns about children’s rights in Sweden, Switzerland

Reuters
A UN report notes that child abuse is on the rise in Sweden and criticizes the Nordic nation as well as Switzerland, the only two European countries featured in the report, for failing to comply fully with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The report, released by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Wednesday, included an assessment of children’s rights in 12 countries, such as Turkmenistan and Iraq, where far more egregious violations were found, including horrifying revelations of the Islamic State using kidnapped children as suicide bombers.

READ MORE: ‘Beheaded, crucified, buried alive’: UN slams ISIS for killing Iraqi children

The two wealthy Western countries, however, didn’t emerge unscathed. Although the committee commended some of the countries’ efforts in improving conditions for minors in recent years, it also expressed grave concern for the “significant rise in child abuse especially of children up to six years of age” in Sweden, and noted that few police reports of abuse result in prosecution. Access to recovery and rehabilitation for victims of abuse is also insufficient, according to the report.

The treatment of immigrant children living in Sweden, juvenile prisoners, underage minorities and asylum seekers was cause for concern. The report says the state isn’t doing enough to help children from disadvantaged families, who are at an increased risk of discrimination and bullying.

“Certain groups of children continue to face discrimination, in particular children from disadvantaged and marginalized families as well as children of migrant families, including African and Afro-Swede children,” the report reads.

Criticizing a revision to Sweden’s Anti-Discrimination Act, the report laments the deletion of the word “race” from the language of the law, saying that this leaves no legal provision criminalizing the promotion of racial hatred.

The report also mentions that minority children, including Roma and LGBT youths, are frequent targets of bullying. The Committee suggests the state undertake “awareness raising programs” to eliminate all forms of discrimination.

While the committee praised the creation of an Ombudsman for children’s issues in Sweden, it noted the Ombudsman’s office doesn’t receive individual complaints from children or on their behalf.

Treatment of juvenile delinquents also troubled the committee. In particular, the committee discouraged the use of solitary confinement for underage prisoners, noting that its effects could be psychologically damaging.

In Switzerland, the Committee suggested the state allocate more money towards educational campaigns protecting children from exploitation in sex tourism. The report found certain protections apply only to children under 16, and suggested extending these protections to all under 18.

The report also added that Switzerland should allocate more money for prevention of child prostitution and child pornography instead of relegating these efforts to private organizations.

The committee urged both countries to undertake better data gathering strategies on underage victims of abuse and sexual exploitation, as neither country has adequate mechanisms for identifying and monitoring at risk children.

In both countries, the report recommendedthat those working with underage victims including judges, medical personnel and social workers undergo additional training on“child-friendly”interactions.