The Government Passes the Child Rights Bill



Nadin Nimri

After more than 3 years of consideration, in its session held yesterday, the Council of Ministers passed the Child Rights Bill.

Ayman Mefleh, the Minister of Social Development, tweeted on Twitter “The Council of Ministers passed the Child Rights Law", and he extended thanks to NCFA, MoH, MoE, MoSD and the parties who enacted the law.

In a statement to Alghad, Mefleh said “the passage of the Bill by the Council of Ministers in the session held on the day before yesterday is a strong impetus regarding Jordan's international obligations, especially since Jordan has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2006”.

He also noted that the passage of the bill is an investment in childhood, which serves the development process, stating that “the implementation of the law will entail additional financial costs for the treasury, but we have come up with legal provisions for implementation over several years, specifically in the fields of education and health.”

As for the programs associated with the work of MoSD, Mefleh explained that “the services contained in the Bill will be provided in the first place, and the articles contained therein ensure the principle of the best interest of the child”.

On his part, Dr. Muhammad Fakhri Miqdadi, the Secretary-General, described the decision in a statement to Alghad as "a good achievement". However, he said, "we are still only halfway, where the law is still subject to the approval of House of Representatives and the Senate after being referred to both Houses following discussion”.

“We hope that discussions in the Parliament will result in a child rights law that is appropriate for Jordan,” Miqdadi added. He also noted the importance of discussions with the Parliament’s Legal Committee in this regard.

As to the details of the law, Miqdadi said “The Law reflects the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and such reflection is incorporated in the articles of the bill passed by the Council of Ministers”.

“The law focused on issues that concern society” he added, where  he considered that the law establishes the importance of development in issues of concern to us, such as education, school dropouts, expansion of kindergartens and health care, protection from violence, and children's welfare and development.

“The Law is not broad.  Articles of the Law specify the services that should be provided by the relevant ministries and entities” he explained. He considered that such specification is the guarantee for implementation.

"The Law provides that the Council is required to issue periodical reports to the Council of Ministers to measure enforceability of the Law".

The Council announced the start of preparing the bill at the end of 2015. According to explanatory statements for the law, the purpose of the Law is to provide a general legal reference for child rights, as well as to cover legislative gaps, and submit the draft to the Council of Ministers in March 2019. However, the passage of the bill was delayed under the pretext of the financial cost for the bill.

According to a financial impact study with respect to the bill obtained by "Alghad", its cost is estimated at 78 million dinars, including the strengthening of health services, through 56 million for children not covered by the primary healthcare services, and 21 million for the strengthening and expanding  of educational services by increasing the compulsory educational stages, including kindergartens.

To address the financial cost challenge,  last February, the Legislation and Opinion Bureau reviewed the law and set a maximum of ten years   for deciding on the cases that entail financial costs.

According to the explanatory statements for the law, the law is the safety valve that regulates the rights contained in the Convention, and the passage of such law guarantees that the Kingdom will implement the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Bill stipulates for quality services to be provided, such as education, health, social care, and child treatment and rehabilitation. Moreover, the Bill contains new provisions, where it contains a provision on the ensuring best interest of the child in all procedures.

The Bill also affirms the basic rights of the child, such as the rights to life, health, expression and privacy, not endangering him, providing them with free legal assistance, coordinating between the authorities to provide such assistance, developing a legal provision on the appointment of a paediatrician in hospitals and comprehensive health centres, and developing a provision on protecting the child from cybercrimes.

Additionally, the Bill addresses the gaps in the Education Law concerning the right to education. While the Education Law provides for compulsory basic education, it does not contain measures to protect children from a drop-out.

The Bill also deals with the right to recreation and play, where it provides for the child’s right to engage in play and recreational and talent improvement activities that should be provided by the relevant entities. And it provides for dealing with vulnerable children, disabled children, children without family support and victims of substance abuse.

The Bill affirms the right to free education in public educational institutions, obligating the child's guardian to enrol them in compulsory education and to take measures to prevent the child from dropping out, obligating educational institutions to preserve the child's dignity, and prohibiting violence in schools, including corporal or degrading punishment. The Bill provides that the Ministry of Education is required to define mechanisms for reporting cases of corporal or degrading punishment in educational institutions, to make them available to the child and his parents, and to take appropriate disciplinary and legal measures in this regard.

The Bill prohibits discrimination against children born out of wedlock, and provides that “This category of children has the right to obtain official documents such as certificates, IDs, or national numbers without any special marks”.

Further, the Bill expressly prohibits parents from beating children for disciplinary purposes, where it provides that “Provided that the capacity of the parents or the guardian does not constitute an excuse for committing any of the acts mentioned and specified in the previous article in cases that pose a threat to the child”. The said acts include “exposing the child to violence, abuse and exploitation.”

This article of the Child Rights Law address the gap contained in Article 62 of the Penal Code, which permits disciplinary beat, where paragraph (a) of the said Article provides that “the law allows forms of discipline exercised on children by their parents, as sanctioned by general custom”.