International Humanist and Ethical Union
42nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council (9th – 27th September 2019)
General Debate on Item 8
The Vienna declaration emphasizes the importance of states to take major efforts “in promoting respect for the rights of the child to survival, protection, development and participation”
In recent years, however, it is regrettable to note that a number of States have begun to legislate treaties based on religious grounds that are incompatible with international child protection conventions, with the aim to disrupt international agreements and back away from signed commitments. For example, the Moroccan Government Council recently adopted a Bill that aims to ratify the Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam, the Islamic Covenant which, in several articles, conflicts and violates the International Covenant on the Rights of the Child.
As evidence of this, the Covenant makes a distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim children, therefore enshrining a culture of discrimination between children on the basis of religion. The Covenant also threatens the right of the child to freedom of expression, stating that “the freedom of the child to dress is guaranteed, but should be in accordance with the Islamic law.” This clause can, for example, be misused by some political forces to impose the veil on children.
The Covenant on the Rights of the Child in Islam also stipulates the need for Member States to take the necessary measures to protect the child from what it calls “the cultural and intellectual influence … which contradict Islamic law.” This argument has been used to deny children the right to scientific education; an example of that is Turkey’s removal of the theory of evolution from Highschool or the Moroccan Islamic education course book which labeled philosophy as misguided, foolish and decaying.
Human rights and children’s rights must not discriminate between individuals on the basis of religion and ethnicity. They must guarantee the same rights to all regardless of belief and race. Depriving children of their right to education under the pretext of protecting them from “the cultural and intellectual influence… which contradict Islamic law” cannot in any way contribute to the coexistence and acceptance of other cultures and religions or beliefs, it only impedes dialogue and communication and deepens hatred and prejudice.
The Convention on the Rights of the Child in Islam is a retreat from the commitments of the OIC towards children’s rights. Therefore, we call upon States that have ratified this Covenant to lift its ratification in respect of their international obligations.
'The Convention on the Rights of the Child in Islam', Humanists International