Aden’s children in international focus [Archives:2006/934/Reportage]

April 3 2006

Walid Al-Boks
The International Committee for Children's Rights expressed concern about sexual exploitation in Aden. Aden's children not only face sexual abuse, they suffer social segregation as well.

A Juvenile Care Center source confirmed that the government turned a deaf ear to warnings from the International Committee for Children's Rights. The source also expressed concern over the rampant phenomenon of children's sexual exploitation. “It is on the increase, differing from last year. There is no precise statistic,” the source stated.

According to non-governmental organization field studies, 10 boys ranging from age 10 to 17 were at the center at that time. However, some child activists were skeptical of such studies. They believed the studies did not target all children at the center, justifying that the government handles child sexual exploitation with sensitivity.

The international committee, which warns of child sexual exploitation, said Yemen's government had no information and did not record such phenomena. A 2005 International Children's Rights report mentioned many cautions concerning childhood situations in Yemen, particularly in Aden. Top concerns were about sexual exploitation, child labor and disabled children.

The report was prepared over five years, during which the committee closely observed the situation of children living in Yemen. Also during those five years, according to international analyses, Yemen did not conduct field studies to collect information or statistics on the type of sexual exploitation and violations children face.

An exception was a preliminary study conducted in Aden and Taiz by specialized psychiatrist Jamila Mohammed Nasser. The study focused on female inmates' children in Aden's Al-Mansoura Prison as a result of sexual abuse and/or prostitution. Some study samples were presented at a 2003 regional symposium on child sexual abuse in Yemen and Jordan.

Supervised by the Yemeni Society for Psychological Health, another statistical study on the psychological aid telephone hotline program referred to the number of child sexual abuse cases. These were two remarkable studies among a fair number submitted to the committee.

The studies did not focus on child sexual abuse; rather, they were about Aden children's civil rights, child labor, freedom, physical punishment, family environment and alternative recreation and health care. They also tackled prospects for child and adolescent psychological services, combating female circumcision and Aden's education perspective.

The committee expressed grave concern about the situation of Yemeni children. It also confirmed that Adeni girls, like other Yemeni girls, suffer social segregation because they do not enjoy the same rights as their male counterparts. According to the committee, the rate of young girls in basic education is nearly the same as that of boys. During the past academic year, there were 6,671 boys and 6,264 girls in school. However, the number of girls decreased to 4,872 by sixth grade. Female student dropouts climaxed at ninth grade, with 3,764 girls dropping out of school, according 2003-2004 statistics.

Moreover, the committee further stressed children's rights, freedoms and physical punishment. It previously stressed the same issues in 1996 and 1999, expressing grave concern at the absence of birth registration. Aden used to be advanced in this respect but now is deteriorating.

According to 2004 official statistics, some 8,210 births were registered: 4,382 boys and 3,828 girls. In its recommendations, the committee denounced insults, negligence and physical punishment, basing its stance on last year's United Nations regional conference on violations against children held in Cairo.

The committee held parents accountable for insulting their children and depriving them of social care and a domestic family environment. It also referred to elementary health care and welfare, which the analytical report called “problems of disabled children, health services, adolescent health, damaging practices and mothers' rights to living standards.” The report mentioned disabled children, asserting that there are no accurate statistics on the number of disabled children in Yemen. “Yemen's government has no comprehensive or sufficient policy toward disabled children. Programs to incorporate the disabled into education are absent.”

The report wished to assign an adolescent health program. Such a program must be cared for and developed by the committee's recommendation, which stated that Yemeni children in general and adolescents in particular sorely need sexual, psychological and reproductive health awareness. In this regard, the committee depended on non-governmental organization reports indicating an increase in physical, psychological and behavioral diseases among adolescents. It called for training and qualifying secondary school teachers in chronological and behavioral characteristics, as well as behavioral and psychological disorders.

The Yemeni Society for Psychological Health experimented in some Aden schools, establishing a behavioral center for psychological guidance and a telephone hotline program for children's psychological aid. The committee thought education should have a special focus, as it is the basis on which all solutions rest.

Aden is an important cultural and educational center because it is Yemen's commercial and economic center. Previously, it was the political capital of South Yemen. According to official estimates, Aden's population is 590,413. The percentage of children under age 15 is 37 percent, while the percentage of those aged 18 is 45 percent. According to 2003-2004 statistics, there were 6,671 boys and 6,624 girls in basic education schools, while there were 10,789 boys and 9,526 girls in secondary schools, indicating that the drop out rate among girls is 70 percent. There are only two government vocational centers and the number of other educational centers does not meet local needs.

The committee expressed concern over arbitrary migration to Aden, which poses negative consequences for Aden's development and runs counter to the governorate's ability to provide services and living standards which are on the rise due to inflation. The committee's concern grew as it discussed the government's reform program, believing the discussion to protect the governorate's children is fruitless.

At the national level, the committee mentioned that 326,608 children under age 14 are working in various jobs, 167,774 of whom are girls and 158,834 are boys, according to 2004 statistics.

Walid Al-Boks is a Yemeni journalist.