Why Does Turkey Need A Rights Based Child Policy?

Why Does Turkey Need A Rights Based Child Policy?[1]

Introduction

Republic of Turkey is making an effort to prepare a comprehensive child centered strategy for the first time in its lifetime. Child rights policy for which the child rights proponents have been striving for since the ratification of the UN Child Rights Convention in 1995, is now on the agenda at least and is being discussed.  At least, because the National Child Rights Strategy’s content as well as its development process is problematic and it is still not publicized which raises another question mark. One year ago, on April 20, 2012 Minister of Family and Social Affairs Fatma Şahin has announced that Child Rights Strategy Document which was developed as a result of several meetings and in the 1st Child Rights Congress of Turkey in 2010, has been signed by the Child Rights Monitoring and Evaluation Committee.[2] In the Strategy Document, legal and practical measurements for the protection and dissemination of child rights are involved under the headings: culture of respect for children, child participation, civil rights and freedoms, child’s health and social security, special protection measures for the child and the family, child rights education and science, juvenile justice system, child friendly media and auditing, monitoring and evaluation system.[3]  What is more important what these headings cover and how the perception of child and child rights is shaped rather than the headings themselves. In this article, Turkish Republic’s child perspective will be evaluated and the essence of a rights based child perception and national child policy will be discussed beginning from the Strategy Document and the recent developments in Turkey.

Child Rights and State Responsibility

Before moving further, the first question to be answered is that since the children are humans why is a human rights perspective not enough but another category of child rights is required? The answer to this question lies with the differences between a child and an adult and is important that it gets us to a rights based child policy.

The first basic difference between the child and the adult is that children are in a fast pace of development and for that reason they have fastly changing needs when compared to those of adults. Children need adults to supply these needs. This ‘dependency’ that differs according to the age level of children and decreases as the child grows, is most often lived as an endless ‘dependency’ between the children and adults. Second basic difference is that, almost all facets of the child’s environment is planned, developed and regulated by the adults beginning from the lowest to the highest level (i.e. from the house to the Parliament).

This situation which could be considered within ageism (discrimination upon age)[4] which is one of the types of discrimination in this hierarchical world we live in, leads to adults’ deficient, inadequate or unfinished perspective of children and ends up with adults feeling it is legitimate for them to decide about what is good for children and regulate their lives rather than children themselves. Moreover the responsibility of protection of children’s rights in case of any violation lies with those adults as well. Hence, child is regarded as a small human who is at the disposal of the family, the society and the state and who could be reared in this perspective; and childhood is regarded as a temporary term that should end up with adulthood.

Child rights is for protecting, supporting and empowerment of children who are in a disadvantaged position due to this prevalent and wrong perception in the society which depends on ageism. Because, when we approach with a rights-based perspective, children need the support of adults but they aren’t dependent of them, they are individuals who have equal rights and who are more and more competent to develop views and decide as they grow and their knowledge and experience enlarges.  For that reason children should be seen as persons who need support and empowerment to establish a life in accordance with their will but not persons at anybody’s disposal. And childhood is a -temporary but permanent- period when the children could utilize the potentialities for self-realization to the highest and the greatest level. The responsibility of all the adults around children is to reveal this potential of the child by raising opportunities and to create a context where the child could learn and enjoy his/her rights. State also holds this same responsibility as an institution, which shapes the lives of children with the mediation of the adults.

UN CRC which is the primary source of children’s rights, openly voices this rights based child perspective which is explained above and puts forth the responsibilities towards the children which the adults around children and the state holds. Henceforth, Republic of Turkey has been entitled to these responsibilities as soon as Turkey has ratified the UN CRC. So the primary condition for realization of child rights in Turkey is the State to regard children as individuals with the same rights with children and to empower children, adults and all the society to enable children enjoy their rights today but not in the future.

The Convention has a content, which guides the States on how to take these responsibilities. The commitments of the State on children’s rights which are specified within the first 41 articles that also cover how the approach towards children should be like could be categorized under three basic headings. It would be fruitful to overview these responsibilities by materializing them with some examples: 1) Respect for child rights: The States can not limit, bar or discriminate for utilization of rights and should take the essential measures to guarantee children’s best interests and right to participation.[5] This principle paves the way to regard the child as an individual. With this point of view, for instance a measure to enable disabled children to have education at home[6] should be discriminatory an violate the principle of non-discrimination. Or another example could be about the child participation in the 1st Child Rights Congress of Turkey. The physical presence of children in the decision-making mechanisms without a context that they can understand and participate in would lead to objectification of children rather than the realization of their right to participation.

2) Protection of child rights: It involves the essentiality of banning all the possible child rights violations of the adults around the children or within State Institutions and asking for essential measurements and their monitoring to enable this. To exemplify, physical violence against children is not explicitly prohibited in the Criminal Code and even further the adults right to ‘discipline’ (Criminal Code article 232) is an important shortcoming concerning the protection of child rights.

3) Preparation of the essential context for implementation of child rights: In addition to State’s taking essential legal and administrational measures in accordance with international conventions, it involves empowerment of government officials and all the adults around children for dissemination and realization of child rights.  Also it involves taking essential measures for improvement of social and environmental determinants. In this respect, a decision towards establishment of a nuclear power plan is obviously against child rights, because it violates the child’s right to health and development.

So, taking any measures concerning child rights necessitates considering all the dimensions and aspects of the issue and covering the relations between rights and special needs with respect to different childhoods. In other words it involves protection of children from every problem and enabling their utmost participation to the decisions and regulations that are related to their lives. Our need for a rights based and comprehensive child policy stems from this fact. Because only if we have a comprehensive rights based policy could we make a step towards preventing child rights violations that has been continuing despite all the positive developments.

Situation of Children in Turkey

Turkey is a country of inequalities for children as well as adults. People in Turkey can not enjoy their rights and social outcomes equally due to differences with respect to socio-economic status, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, political view, marital status and even physical aspects which compose their identity.[7] Children live these inequalities intensely since they need more protection and they are more open to external influences. These inequalities dependent upon social and individual differences lead to children’s facing various violations like poverty, inequality with respect to enjoying opportunities and services, abuse and neglect, crime etc. If we look at situation of children in Turkey under various rights headings, what is mentioned here will become more concrete.

Right to health and development:

In accordance with 2012 results of State Institute of Statistics, one third of Turkey’s population is made up of children (age 0-18). One fifth of child population is below the poverty line. The rate increases below age 15, under 15 one in four children live in poverty conditions. In rural areas this rate reaches dangerous levels, it reaches 50%.[8] Turkey has the highest level of child poverty among OECD countries.[9] As the family size increases, the risk of poverty increases and it is known that children are affected more than the adults.[10] In these conditions, the reinforcement of the government to have more children despite the fact that the inequalities would deepen and the number of children who would need social services and social aid would raise is obviously not compatible with a rights based child perception. [11]  Because this approach is disregarding the best interests of the child which is a general principle of UN CRC and it is instrumentalizing children to reach other aims.

The most fatal consequence of having a rights based child perception come along with violations on the right to live. According to the report ‘Child’s Right To Live’ prepared by Agenda: Child Association, the number of children who lost their lives due to infringements on health and education services, preventable circumstances such as natural disasters, accidents and especially occupational accidents, domestic and non-domestic violence or social causes is at least 609, in the year of 2012. [12]  Remembering the triple obligations mentioned above, it would not be wrong to think that all of these deaths contain state’s responsibility.

The health system stands out as an area where the most positive improvements took place in recent years. For example, infant mortality rate under one and under five has decreased.[13]  These improvements occurred by monitoring mothers during pregnancy and birth, and especially increasing importance given to vaccination. However, problems on adolescent health and sexual health continue. Though not having precise information due to state’s lack of data collection, problems related with smoking, drinking, addiction[14] and sexual health issues on account of early marriage are still present. According to a research done by Men and Women Equal Opportunities Commission (KEFEK) under Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM), one fourth of marriages – in some cities it happens to be one third- are considered as child marriages in Turkey. [15] The early marriages that mostly victimize girls cause mental and physical suffering of children and cyclically cause the newborn child produced by early marriages to face health hazards and infringement on right to live.

Education Right:

Education right has been violated by different barriers for different children. The challenges to access education for girls or for disabled children and the general problems on quality of education constitute impediments which restrain children to benefit from their right to get education.

For the last 10 years, the collective efforts of public institutions and non-governmental organizations came a long way on accessing education. The rates of school registration has made progress, especially because of running campaigns and studies on girls’ participation to basic education. Despite all these, in 2010-2011, schooling ratio regarding elementary school has still not reached to %100 but stuck at a %98,67 ratio. [16] With respect to secondary schooling, there are substantial issues on continuous participation of girls and poor children. Again in the years of 2010 and 2011, the secondary school registration ratio was %67,37.[17] The decreasing ratio of continuation to school as the child gets older causes a severe inequality with respect to genders. The equality between boys and girls in elementary school registration diverts in secondary school and the rates are %68,33 for boys, %64,14 for girls. Besides, these numbers only show the state of registrations, not presenting any information on continuing attendance to school. The absence of an effective monitoring system about the continuing attendance to school prevents taking necessary measures for the general population as well as for child laborers working in seasonal agriculture and for special-needs children such as Roman children. This situation leads to fatal consequences as revealed in the 2005 OECD statistics: %26 of the boys aged between 15-19, and almost %50 of the girls neither continue their education nor go to work.[18] In other words, %75 of the youth population is idle.

4+4+4 system that came in to our lives with the decree law numbered 652 concerning the Organization and Duties of the Ministry of National Education[19] can also pose a substantial obstacle on attendance to school. The new regulation requires a ‘legal’ extension of obligatory schooling period just like it happened when 8 years of obligatory schooling period[20] was introduced. The students, seemingly registered to schools, did not attend properly causing an improvement by statistics but not in real terms; and all these may result in an adverse outcome of concealment of fields that the state should respond to. For this reason, documentation of data on school attendance / school drop-outs has to be managed thoroughly, depending on developed instruments and a monitoring system parallel to it has to be improved.

‘4+4+4’system has also brought various problems along. The most unappreciated part of the system is that it was accepted immediately, right before 2012-2013 schooling period, without feeling the need of asking opinions of the interested parties, neither of the children’s nor the adults’. The fact that this rapid transformation did not set any preparation time aside for the children and their families caused various problems especially to children aged between 5 to 5 and a half who were to start school for the very first time. Some of the children had to get an ‘inadequacy’ report on child development in order not to start going to school[21], the ones that has started faced compliance problems, and some of them had to drop out of school because they could not progress sufficiently when proceeding to phase of grasping pencil and writing in the second semester. [22]

One other negative aspect happens to be the matter of pre-school education. With the help of numerous studies and struggles that took place in this field, pre-school education had become obligatory in 71 provinces, yet due to new regulations in the education system and in the Ministry of National Education, the goal has been drifted away[23]. The new regulation will cause the resources of the Ministry to be spent largely on elementary and secondary school, the problem of insufficient numbers of classrooms that is one of the primary concerns of accessing pre-school education will continue[24]. This situation can be considered as an indicator of a loss of importance given by the government towards pre-school education, which educators acknowledge to be a most important period.

The right to mother-tongue education which is the grounding reason to add a drawback on three articles of the Convention on Children’s Rights in Turkey, is one of the base infringement fields with regard to all ethnic groups demanding the right to get education in their mother tongue. This infringement is to be overcome with the practices of elective courses in secondary school in the new education system. Though not having enough data to evaluate, since the practices has just started this year, there is a limited information concerning that elective courses are formed not by children’s demands but rather formed regarding schools’ resources and demands of parents.[25] By the end of the school year, it would be possible to have more reliable evaluations, reaching more comprehensive data.

However, these three points demonstrated briefly regarding the new education system may provide for the perception of the government towards children. This regulation that does no consider the best interests of the child, does not place importance on attendance, and that establishes a discriminatory context for children while it is supposed to create a complete opposite scene, causes many doubts on government’s tendency to take children rights seriously or government’s understanding it accurately. The effects of the new system have to be monitored.

Right to Protection:

The right to protection, which states that children should be kept away from any kind of negativeness and danger, can be monitored within the child protection system and justice system, essentially. Child Protection Law numbered 5395 which is adopted in the year od 2005 is the most suitable regulation in terms of child perception and comprehension. The law that perceives children as beneficiary individuals, rather than adopting the concept of ‘indigence’ which considers children as dependent and victims, has included ‘juvenile drifted into crime’, most importantly. And just like it was recommended in the Convention, in spite of depriving of freedom which also means imprisoning, various precautions and practices have been regulated. This regulation which indicates the understanding of ‘children are not dangerous but they are in danger’[26], unfortunately has been short of effective implementation both due to insufficiency in practices and also due to anti-democratic laws such as The Prevention of Terrorism Act. Child Protection Law very well exemplifies the motto ‘The law is there but not practiced!’ that has turned into a kind of distinguishing characteristic of the Turkish justice system. Because of this lack of implementation;

- As of the date of July 2012, 1830 children aged between 12 and 18 were imprisoned in penal institutions and prisons. Only 190 of these children have been sentenced, for the rest the state of imprisonment continues in pre-court or ongoing cases. The inadequacy of expert personnel and juvenile courts lead to depriving of children’s freedom even though the crimes are not identified.

- Almost 1500 of these children were staying in prisons with the adults. This is actually clear evidence on state’s perception that juvenile delinquents are no longer children. A similar situation is also valid for children judged by The Prevention Of Terrorism Act.

- Even though it is obligatory to take essential precautions on health and education rights of children staying in penal institutions and prisons, apart from benefiting from these rights, even to say that they are protected from abuse is not possible.

Especially for children judged by political crimes, the state of abuse reaches to more fatal extents. The sexual abuse case towards children in Pozantı prison is recorded only to be the tip of the iceberg.[27]

According to UN CRC, while ‘depriving from freedom’ is defined as the last precaution for juvenile drifted into crime (No. 37), to put children into the same cells with adults is not only against many laws along with Child Protection Law, but also it is impossible to make sense of placing children arrested for political crimes with judiciary adult convicts. On of the most essential problematics of child protection and justice system in Turkey is that confined institutions are closed to state or civil society’s supervision.

While the case is as it is stated for the children under the justice system, there are also various distress for the children under the protection system. In recent years, the alternate caring services have been diversified for children that departed from parental care for different reasons. As it is pointed in the Strategic Plan of 2010-2014 prepared by the Old Social Services and Children Protection Institutions, it is changed from the structure of barracks to formation of love houses (a settlement that a mother is responsible for multiple children’s responsibility), the practice of custodial family has been tried to be extended. The general approach of the state in recent years is that child protection should be done through ‘family’, not through state institutions. It is not that hard to come to conclusion that political power thinks that communal part under the control of the Ministry who are women, children, disabled people and senior citizens can only exist and maintained inside of a family. Hence, in accordance with the budget monitoring on 2011 reported by Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, when SSCPI was the responsible institutions and Ministry had not founded, it was detected in the fund tables that the fund of Department of Children Services decreased while the fund of Department of Social Help Services increased. This confirms the information that families that had to give their children to state custody was economically supported, while the children was living with them. As well as the importance of family for the children’s psychosocial development is proved, it should be acknowledged that protecting services cannot only provide economic support, and concrete guidance services towards families should be performed. Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform underlines the inadequate budget reserved for this. [28]

One important subject in the field of child protection is the child labor. According to Turkish laws it is forbidden for children to work under the age of 15. Also children older than 15 can only work under specific conditions, in light duty and with the reduced working hours. Even though this case is the legal regulation, according to a research of Turkish Statistics Institute’s on Child Labor Force in 2012[29]; %5,9 of the children aged between 6 to 17 work in paid labor. The employment ratio of 6-14 aged group, for whom working is illegal, is %2,69. This ratio comes up to 292 thousand of children. %50,2 of working children do not go to school; %68,8 of them is boys but there is also a field where girls work intensely: Housework. TSI has defined domestic labor as a work since the first research on child labor made in 2006. %56,8 of domestic labor children consist of girls. Accordingly, weekly working hours of %80,1 of children aged 6 to 17 (6 million 12 thousand individual) is 7 hours and less in domestic labour, and %61,2 of this children are girls. These results indicate, whether or not they bring financial income o not, most of the children in Turkey are laborers. It should also be made clear that seasonal agriculture laboring and waste collecting are defined as ‘the worst forms’ of child labor and these fields grow rapidly in Turkey. [30]

One other aspect that needs to be pointed out is the change in the number of child laborers with respect to years. According to the results of initial 2006 reports on TSI Research on Child Labour, though the ratio of child labouring remain the same, the number of children has increased by 3 thousand.  If the government reinforces increase in the family size -as is the case now-, without effective policies to combat child poverty it would not be an assertive foresight to say that the number of child laborers would continue to increase.

If we add children working and living in the streets, children suffering from urban transformation, children in conflicted environments, children used as a subject to sexual exploitation, refugee children and many others to the different groups of children mentioned before, we would be talking about a massive population in need of protection in Turkey. The magnitude of this population presents the base deficiency of protecting system is the rareness of preventive services. Because the accepted perception and implementation in Turkey is to interfere when the need to protection occurs,  in other words, when what is done is already done. Whereas, the real meaning of protection has to be the regeneration of environment in which children may possibly face with any kind of suffering, thus detecting the possible harm beforehand and preventing the act. For example, on the subject of child abuse, neither children, nor adults surrounding children such as teachers, doctors, and police officers are informed sufficiently. This information extends over from what is negligence or abuse to what to do when faced with such cases, and more importantly, how such cases could be detected and monitored before it came to action. It needs to be clarified that, even though Child Observing Centers that have been started to be established within Medical Schools aim at resolving this deficiency, the issue is not about the institutions but about mentality. To expect that physical abuse would come to an end as children is observed to be a product and beating is observed as a tool to upbringing and clearly not regarded as illegal for a large segment of the society, and to expect that sexual abuse to come to an end as the court board are convinced that child was asking for it because he/she did not resist in rape cases even though it is clearly regarded as an illegal cannot go any further than being good intentioned wishes.

What to do then?

A rights based and a complete child policy is the most important tool to reverse this negative situation. Because only in this way, there may be a child-centered structure that treats the child as an individual and puts emphasis on permanence, persistence and coherence in implementation of child rights. There are certain phases and adjustments we need in order to have this kind of a child policy. To list what needs to be done;

1)    One handed coordination by an ‘executive’ institution: Establishment of the Ministry of Family and Social Policies is a significant development. With the reservation of the drawbacks mentioned above on the structure of the ministry, the unification of social services, the existence of a line ministry and the fact that it provides coordination among all ministries are essential facts. Still, it is hard to mention that there is an effective coordination both in the Ministry and among various ministries. Regarding our observations and collected information in the meetings we have attended or were informed of, we can state that many studies are taking place in similar fields but most of the time it is out of the question to establish a connection between these studies. This is a structural malfunction and efforts are being made to smooth it out. For example, Child Rights Monitoring and Evaluation Commission is significant as it is responsible for coordination among ministries and for establishment of a child rights strategy. However,  s strong technical cadre and an authorization for the Ministry to ensure that the decisions taken are implemented is required for effective implementation of the tasks the Commission is entitled to.

Another extent of the coordination in the field is to create contact between public and non-governmental organizations working in the field, and to transfer knowledge from the field towards policies. Though considerable improvement has occurred in the past years on this subject, it is not possible to speak of a settled information exchange on the attendance, transparency and inclusion in decision-making. Therefore, it is obligatory for the coordination, which is progressing, to obtain a more effective and productive structure.

2)  To adjust required regulations: In order to put child rights into practice, all of the laws about children and all of the articles that affect children need to be reconsidered and need to be based on a child rights content just like in Child Protection Law. More importantly, the regulations expressing how to enforce laws need to be prepared with the same approach.

3)  Sufficient resource allocation: Emphasis given to a task under the control of state is directly related to the sources allocated for that task. According to calculations of Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform[31], even though 1 third of Turkey’s population is made up of children, the ratio of the expenditure made by central authorities allocated for children without educational expenses regarding GNP was only %1,10 in the year of 2011. When the expenses on education are added, this ratio rises up to %3,43. What makes this table look even more fatal is that these ratios are decreased as to ratios of 2010. Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform has calculated the same ratios as %1,19 and %3,57 in 2010. Platform has calculated annual expenditure of each child including education as 612 TL in 2011[32]. With this level of resources, it is impossible to overcome the negativeness children face in Turkey. Political power has to move towards a budget balancing so that children who are part of society can actually benefit from the growth that often is emphasized proudly.

4) Development of an effective data collecting and monitoring: In order to develop any kind of policy, there need to be concrete and clear data on what the situation is. At the same time, these data need to be evaluated with analysis that would indicate needs of different masses. In Turkey, there is data decomposed regarding gender, geographical position, ethnicity and socio-economic status, which can help us monitoring children in Turkey, benefit from their rights equally. Also national data generally demonstrates the situation positively. This creates doubts on the reliability of the data. This is probably because of State’s perception on different segments as threats and its reflex towards protecting itself. However, in the process of problem solving, the understanding of State’s being a common party that can act with different segments of society is essential in order to reach rights based conclusions.

The State’s perception toward self-protection is also valid for monitoring studies. In Turkey, it is not possible to state that there is an effective monitoring study in any field of child rights. The greatly expected Public Auditing Law has failed in satisfying needs. Because in the Law, auditors who has to be independent are defined as state officers; moreover legislation, judiciary and practices of military institutions are left out of coverage. In addition to that, there is only one auditor responsible for women and children as a continuation of mentality that puts family first, not the individuals. Under these circumstances, it is not expected to trust that effective monitoring could be performed. But in fact, establishing a transparent and independent monitoring system towards these implementations is essential in respect to resolving malfunctions in the implements and strengthening or punishing the responsible people when it is needed (especially punishing responsible people who did not fulfill their tasks in abuse cases has to be preventive caution); and also going forward with more concrete steps as it would be visible to see the progress made.

The coordinating institution that is responsible for realization of child rights, Family and Social Policies Ministry should become a pioneer to establish a monitoring system, which aimed at different practices but worked in coordination. For that purpose, benefiting from researches showing how an effective indications set could be formed such as Understanding Child’s State To Be Good[33], could also function as a mentor to the Ministry.

5) Informing all the staff and adult for implementation: All government employees who work directly or indirectly with children have to be informed about what child rights are, Turkey’s legal and institutional adjustments, their own responsibilities, where to consult in case of facing with a problem. Also, a platform in which these employees could deliver this information to children and people who are responsible for childcare has to be created. It is essential that the State take these actions into its priority practices for the mentality transformation mentioned throughout the article.

6) Reinforcement on children about their rights and increasing their participation at every level: As a requirement of child participation which is a part of accepting children as individuals and trusting in their individual opinions on their lives and their capability in producing solutions is an indispensable condition of a rights based policy. In order to maintain an actual participation, children need to be informed about the situation and progress in a clear and comprehensible way; arranging the platform of participation considering their special characteristics such as children’s age, development stages, and ethnicity; participation of different children, respecting children’s opinions without instrumentalizing them and paying attention to their views need to be provided. Otherwise, only a non-functional participation would occur and in spite of reinforcement discrimination could occur. In Turkey, the most popular participation tools in recent years have been school councils and provincial child rights committees. But it is not possible for both of them to state they fulfill the conditions mentioned above. This is mainly for two reasons. The first reason is the adult ignorance on how the participation should maintain. And the second reason again depends on adult’s perception of the child.  Generally examining, adults do not believe that children can adopt opinions about their lives and environment. However many non-governmental organizations that worked on the field like the studies of IBU Child Studies Unit[34] shows the exact opposite. These sort of studies shows that if participated actively, children have opinions both on actual subjects such as the education system, right to play, right to be protected from violence and also issues happening around them such as Van earthquake, refugee children coming from Syria and traffic accidents and present solution ideas. Therefore, what adults should do for their part is rather than saying that children cannot manage, they should start to believe that children can manage, they need to trust children’s potential and they must create the required environment so that children can realize this potential.

Epilogue

When the current situation and what it is required is stated in sequence, as it is in this article, it becomes obvious that we have a long way to go to put child rights into practice. Having a not pessimistic but a realistic point of view and creating solutions sticking to a rights based approach, it is really possible to make a steady progress for this cause. Of course  the very first step is that political power has to put out a sincere will. It needs to be pointed out that AKP government has initiated many developments concerning child rights. Preparing the Strategy of Child’s Rights is one of the leading improvements. Yet, when announcing that just like Minister Fatma Şahin stated when signing the Strategy, viewing children as ‘a human capital’[35] stands for a complete contrast with child’s right conception which we have been telling about all throughout the text. Because considering children as a human capital is continuing with the perception of the child as a commodity of the family and the state; it means to continue to ignore their presence but only to care for their adulthood stage; but regarding the contributions they would make to society on the other hand and thus regarding socio-economic priorities, it means protecting and supporting of what is good, valuable and productive for the society. The national Strategy should not be prepared under these perceptions.

To achieve this, as much as the political powers, people who work in the field of child rights and people who have sensibility towards this subject, either young or adults; everyone has a responsibility. We need to keep on our struggle to turn states’ positive approaches into even more positive ones. As we do it, we have tools such as reports and suggestions of Child Rights Committee or international institutions as EU that makes our hands stronger in the game. We need to make collective and individual efforts to create platforms to share our opinions on transforming the perception of child, placing an understanding of child rights to government workers, we have to utilize all opportunities.

Beyond this, there is one other thing we can and should do personally. One major contribution of feminism to political thought is to show that what is individual is political. This, on the one hand, means that political decisions can interfere with our most secluded areas, but on the other hand it also means that each relationship we build in our personal lives have the potential to convert politics. Therefore, for becoming a part of the rights based child policy, each of us can start with reviewing our perception of the child and relationship we build with children around us. By building equal relationship with children, converting our language of protecting children into protecting the rights of children, we would take important steps on accepting all children as individuals and consisting the needs of different children.

Zeynep Kılıç, İstanbul Bilgi University Child Studies Unit

Please cite this publication as follows:

Kılıç, Zeynep (August, 2013), “Why Does Turkey Need A Rights Based Child Policy?”, Vol. II, Issue 6, pp.6-20, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (ResearchTurkey), London, Research Turkey. (http://researchturkey.org/?p=3733)


[1] This article is written during a time when Gezi Resistance had not started. Both the resistance and the police intervention in response had a strong influence on children as well as adults. Most of the children have witnessed the events on account of the adults in the environment and through the media. Some of them have actively participated in the protests and have experienced the peaceful environment in the Gezi Park as well as the forceful police intervention. There have been hundreds of children who have been severely or less severely injured or detained not only in Istanbul but also in other cities of Turkey. (For an analysis evaluating the first month of the Resistance, Child Rights Violations Report in the Gezi Park Events of Agenda: Child Association could be checked: http://www.gundemcocuk.org/content/view/1525/1/). Only message from the Government towards children who had previously developed the Child Rights Strategy mentioned in this article had been to address the mothers to ‘call home’ their activist children who are already adults. The process is continuing and involves opportunities for child participation as well as the need to protect child rights. These opportunities and needs should be taken into consideration by the child rights advocates and certainly the government.

[2] ‘Child Rights Monitoring and Evaluation Committee’ which is established with the Circular of Prime Ministry dated 4 April 2012 and published in the Official Gazette with number 28254, is coordinated by the General Directorate of Child Services under the Ministry of Family and Social Policies and involves representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Work and Social Security, Environment and Urbanization, Foreign Affairs, Youth and Sports, Interior Affairs, Development, National Education, Health, Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications as well as the Department of Religious Affairs, Radio and Television Supreme Council, Information and Communications Technologies Authority, Higher Education Council, Union of Bar Associations and Head of Human Rights Department of Prime Ministry, Turkey’s Child Coordinators of Child Rights and enough number of representatives from institutions and NGOs working with and for children who would be determined by the Family and Social Policies Minister. (Emphasis added by the author)

[3] For the strategy document: http://www.cocukvakfi.org.tr/resource/docs/kongre_yayinlari/19_StratejiKitabi.pdf (accessed at: 18.03.2013)

[4] Discrimination based on age which is described in English literatures as “ageism” or “age discrimination, consists of excluding practices towards children, young and old people who form the age groups that are not productive and fertile in market economy. The fact that these sort od practices become more visible increases the studies on this field. For an instance case: Kenan Çayır, “Agism/ Age Discrimination”; http://www.secbir.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/ya%C5%9F%C5%9F1.pdf  (accessing date: 21.03.2013)

[5] One of the main principle of UN CRC’s which is not to discriminate (No. 2) involves the principles of no children having to face with discrimination due to their or the parents’ state or special characteristics; in any case the first thing to care is the welfare of the children and be nice towards the children; priority benefit (No. 3); attendance (No. 6) which is to ask children’s opinion about any subject that is interested to her/him and respect to those opinions. The agreement’s 4th principle is the protection of child by defining life and improvement well enough.

[6] “Education Services at Home and at Hospitals Instruction” which is constituted by the Minister of National Education on February 3rd, 2010, enables children to continue their education if they cannot access schools directly due to their health issues. The practice that is very important especially for children, who experience in-patient treatment, unfortunately was designed as a ‘service’, not as a ‘right’ regarding its title in the Instruction. And exactly for this reason, it creates discrimination between disabled children. Because the implementation only consists of in-patient children, and among these children only the ones whose families are aware of the situation and has a convenient environment for education at home. The state of benefiting from education right, which is one of the essential rights only by performing certain conditions, does not comply with the understanding of right. For the Instruction:

http://orgm.meb.gov.tr/meb_iys_dosyalar/2012_10/02031840_evde_hastanede_egitim_hiz_yonergesi.pdf (accessing date: 18.03.2013)

[7] For a further research: Inequality in Turkey; A. Candaş, V. Yılmaz, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Turkey Edition, 2012

[8]UNICEF 2010 The Situation Of Children In Turkey Report

[9] OECD Family Database Information, 2011

[10] TSI 2008 Results of Poverty Researches, 2009

[12] One should bear in mind that these numbers are only limited by the incidents encountered in surveys. The full text can be accessed through the website of Agenda: Child! Association:  http://www.gundemcocuk.org/basin/Gundem_Rapor2012.pdf

[13] The ratio of infant deaths that was 21,4 per mille in 2005 decreased to 7,7 per mille in 2011. The same ration on child deaths has decreased from 26,6 per mille to 11,3 per mille. (TSI, 2012)

[14] According to a survey on 26.009 children who are getting educated in 261 schools located in 60 provinces made by Turkish Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction in 2006, ratio of smoking student is %15,6; the ratio of students stated to have drunk at least one alcoholic beverage is %16,5. These ratios showing the average numbers, three times more in boys comparing to girls. The ratio of students took drugs and stimulants in the past three months are %2,9. Drug usage in Turkey, http://www.tubim.gov.tr/Dosyalar/istatistik/genc_nufus.pdf, access: 18.3.2012

[15] For accessing reports on early marriages KEFEK’s sub-committe has surveyed in 2009: http://www.tbmm.gov.tr/komisyon/kefe/docs/komisyon_rapor.pdf

[16] National Education Statics, 2011-2012, Ministry of National Education, 2012

[17] A.g.e.

[18] For further information: Childhood in an Unequal Society ; P. Uyan Semerci, S. Müderrisoğlu, A. Karatay, B. Ekim Akkan, Z. Kılıç, B. Oy ve  Ş. Uran, Bilgi Uni Y., Istanbul, 2012

[19] http://www.resmigazete.gov.tr/eskiler/2011/09/20110914-1.htm

[20] Researches made for dropping out of school in the 8 year of schooling period indcates the highest rate is seen in 5th and 6th grades. But because of the “old” regulation that made elementary schooling lasts till the age of 14, even though children have dropped out the yseem as id they continue in legal records and increase the statics of school attendance. For accessing two researches on the subject: F. Gökşen, Z. Cemalcılar ve C. Gürlesel, Policies on Dropping Out of Shool and Monitoring and Preventing in Turkey, “ Maintaining Gender Equality in Education and Social Survival Project Research Report, 2006.

[21] Former Minister of National Education Ömer Dinçer, in response to parliamentary question numbered 7/12925 asked by Istanbul parliamentarian Erdoğan Toprak, has stated that the number of children got medical reports in 2012-2013 period is 70.861 even though they were a part of obligatory schooling period by the date of 26.11.2012. This number forms %20 of the interested age group.

[22] This information depends on the information got from school councelors and observations acquired during IBU Child Studies Unit’s studies in 35 elementary and secondary school in Istanbul in 2012-2013 schooling period.

[23] Sabancı Universitesi Education Reform Initiation’s annually published Monitoring Education Report in 2011, it was stated that schooling ratio in the content of ‘Project of Reinforcement of Pre-education’was aimed in the age group of 48-72 months in 2011-2012 schooling period to be %50, 2012-2013 schooling period to be % 70. Even though schooling ratio was stuck at %44 in 2011-2012, it was commented that each year the expectations that an improvement would be seen comparing the past year. But with the new implementation, the prior aim of pre-education which consisted of 48-72 months age group, most of them had to start schooling obligation. This situation dangered the state of attendance in the 1st grade, and also made the aimed ratio of %70 attendance to pre-education impossible to access. (EİR 2011, page: 61. )

[24] S.U. Education  Reform Initiation and Mother Child Education Organizaton; “Early Childhook Education and “4+4+4” Refulation” Political Report, April 2013. on the date of 20.05.2013 http://erg.sabanciuniv.edu/sites/erg.sabanciuniv.edu/files/ECE_ACEV_ERG_Rapor.pdf  taken from mentioned address.

[25] This information depends on the information got from school councelors and observations acquired during IBU Child Studies Unit’s studies in 35 elementary and secondary school in Istanbul in 2012-2013 schooling period.

[26] Many thanks to Mrs. Seda Akço for making the perception on juvenile drifted into crie clear for us.

[27] For further information: http://bianet.org/biamag/bianet/136468-pozanti-cezaevi-nde-cocuklara-cinsel-istismar-iddiasi

[28]Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, Letter to the Parliamentarian, 2012, page: 8  (The report can be accessed through www.kahip.org this address)

[29] TSI, Child Labor Survey, 2012. on the date of 21.05.2013: http://www.tuik.gov.tr/PreHaberBultenleri.do?id=13659 taken from the mentioned site.

[30] Hence, Child Rights Committee’s last report, it has been recommended as required in the Agreement numbered 182 by International Labor Organization which suggests Removing and Immediate Cautions on The Worst Cases of Child Labouring (1999), preventing children from social and economic exploitation which also adopts removing regulations relevant to altering employment age of youth to coincide with the time they are done with obligatory education and regulations which enables children work in dangerous cases.

[31]Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, Letter to the parliamentarian, 2012 (The report can be accessed through www.kahip.org this address)

[32] Public Expenditures Monitoring Platform, Letter to the parliamentarian, 2012, page: 8

[33] Childhood in an Unequal Society report published in the name of Bilgi University Publications in 2012, of the research surveyed across Istanbul by Pınar Uyan Semerci , Serra Müderrisoğlu, Abdullak Karatay, Başak Ekim Akkan, Zeynep Kılıç, Burcu Oy and Şaylan Uran With the support of TÜBİTAK.

[34] These two titles are cited from two works of IBU Child Studies Unit. These are, the study of Constitution My Constitution which is run in cooperation with Agenda Child Organization and children’s expressing their opinion about the year of 2012 on radio programme called Söz Küçüğün. In both studies opinions of diferent children living in different cities are expressed and in the first study ilk çalışmada TBMM Anayasa Komisyonuna, the second work is shared with the audience of the radio programme running on Açık Radyo called Söz Küçüğün. For further information: http://cocukcalismalari.bilgi.edu.tr/


Comments

One thought on “Why Does Turkey Need A Rights Based Child Policy?

  1. Eln

    A really compelling topic, treated extensively by the author…. but are there no editors? it’s such a pity the quality of writing is so low, it makes for a very rough read.

    Reply

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