Protecting girls and boys from harmful practices in plural legal systems

Adis Ababa (Ethiopia) 14 June 2012 - Law Reform, community dialogue and social mobilization are key strategies to prevent and promote the abandonment of harmful practices against children these were crucial strategies identified by the International Expert Consultation held in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, hosted by the SRSG on Violence against Children and Plan International, and co-organized with the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF, the NGO Council on Violence against Children and the African Child Policy Forum.
In her opening statement, Marta Santos Pais highlighted the importance of national comprehensive law reform processes to prohibit and address all forms of harmful practices against girls and boys.
Across regions, millions of children have been subject to various forms of harmful practices, including female genital mutilation/cutting, early- and forced marriage, breast ironing, son preference, female infanticide, virginity testing, honour crimes, degrading and harmful initiation rites, forced and bonded labour, forced feeding and nutritional taboos, and children accused of and sacrificed in witchcraft among others.
“To abandon these practices countries need to address their root causes. Law reform on violence against children, including harmful practices, is an essential component of this process and cannot be reduced to isolated or fragmented actions or ignore the role of customary and religious law. The establishment of accessible, child-sensitive and safe counselling, reporting and complaint mechanisms to address incidents of violence is crucial to support and protect children affected by these practices", said the SRSG.
The Consultation identified positive legislative processes from different regions, and it reflected on potential loopholes and challenges in implementation, as well as awareness-raising and social mobilization initiatives to address deeply rooted social conventions.

Participants identified strategic follow-up actions to prevent and address harmful practices in different regions and at the international level.
The conclusions of the expert consultation will inform the development of a thematic report, with concrete recommendations for law reform and effective enforcement in support of the abandonment of harmful practices.

The report will be launched on October 11, 2012, to commemorate the International Day of the Girl Child.