On September 20 Georgia adopted the Code on the Rights of the Child, which will fully enter into force on June 1, 2020. The Code aiming to “ensure the welfare of the child” recognizes the rights of the child as follows: dignity, life and personal development, equality, expression and participation, personal and family life, education, healthcare, social protection and justice, etc.
Civil Georgia (Civil.ge) approached Sophio Kiladze, chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee, Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in Georgia, and Ana Tavkhelidze, lawyer at “Partnership for Human Rights” organization to assess the new Code and to provide recommendations for its effective implementation.
We offer their responses below.
Sophio Kiladze, chair of the Parliamentary Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee:
The present Code is a unified state policy [document] with the specific effective mechanisms to ensure well-being of children. It serves to reduce poverty and crime, provide quality education for children and to protect children from gambling, drugs and other harmful behaviors.
After three years of work, we have received a document outlining all key issues related to a child. Before adopting the Code on the Rights of the Child, we had the legislation, which was scattered in various legal acts or it was not regulated by law at all. Now all the flaws are refined and written down in details, including both the rights of children and obligations of a parent and a state towards him/her.
UNICEF, the European Union, our other Western partners unanimously emphasize the importance of the Child Code. There is an opinion to share Georgia’s experience with other countries, which in itself indicates to the importance of this Code.
Ghassan Khalil, UNICEF Representative in Georgia:
The Code on the Rights of the Child is an unique document in Georgian legal space covering all rights and freedoms of children in one act. It is a special law guiding all state agencies and local self-governments, other administrative bodies, the Common Courts, public and private organizations in their work and decision-making processes with and for children. Furthermore, it provides legal guarantees for empowering the child in independently exercising and protecting his/her rights, inter alia, through child-friendly access to justice institutions and mechanisms. The Code provides the rights and fundamental freedoms of the child with key measures and implementation mechanisms. It introduces a child rights impact assessment mechanism that shall be incorporated in the work of the Parliament, Government, and local municipalities, while making decisions, laws and by-laws which might directly or indirectly affect the rights of the child. Moreover, the Code reinforces the State’s obligation to align, interpret, and enforce the national legislation in compliance with the Constitution of Georgia, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and its Optional Protocols, and other international and regional treaties as recognized by Georgia.
We commend the efforts of the Human Rights and Civil Integration Committee and of its Chairperson, Ms. Sophie Kiladze, in the adoption of this important law.
Ana Tavkhelidze, lawyer at “Partnership for Human Rights”:
The adoption of the Code on the Rights of the Child is an important positive achievement, which will have a long-lasting effect on children in Georgia. The code is a special law, that unites all main principles regarding rights of the child. The document imposes guarantees for the participation of the child in the decision making process, child’s right to access to justice without any barriers, protection from corporal punishment, etc. It creates higher standards for welfare and protection of children.
Sophio Kiladze: As an author of this law, I assure you that this is why we have worked on it for such a long time, [that is] to correct any defects or shortcomings. All of the government authorities, NGOs, international organizations, experts, religious confessions, parents and children were involved in its development. The only problem we may face is an insufficient financial capacity of our state to simultaneously implement all of the benefits and programs embodied in the Code and to fully cover Georgia in all of these directions.
However, we are working with the donor organizations and our partners to implement these programs gradually.
Ghassan Khalil: The code sets high standards in terms of implementation of child’s rights. Now all related legislation and policies need to be brought in compliance with the code. We hope that the process will be smooth and we will support the Government in that. There will be a need for more investments in implementing the Code so that this important document brings changes in the lives of every child in Georgia.
Ana Tavkhelidze: When the draft Code on the Rights of the Child was presented, there were many shortcomings, that would even worsen children rights’ protection process. For example, draft document was imposing child’s obligations to family, school and the state, that does not come into compliance with international standards. Fortunately, our recommendations were taken into consideration and all the shortcomings were improved. The main challenge of the Code on the Rights of the Child is an effective implementation. If the state will not provide effective financial and political support to the implementation process, the code will fail to bring any changes.
Sophio Kiladze: Having a good law and enforce the law are two different issues. Along with finances, I think that those who work directly with children, [will] play key roles in the dignified implementation of the Code. [This will require] increasing the number of psychologists, social workers, retraining of teachers, doctors and public servants who will have to deal with children. Ultimately, it is up to humans to protect our children and create a better future.
Ghassan Khalil: The implementation of the Code will require significant efforts from the Government, Parliament, and the Judiciary. UNICEF is ready to support the implementation process by helping to bring Georgian legislation in line with the requirements of the Code, creating various implementation mechanisms, enhancing specialization of professionals, and developing various instruments, methodology, and guidelines to work with children in different areas.
Child Rights Council needs to be created under the Parliament (as required by the code) to ensure systematic and coordinated work during the process of establishing the state policy on the rights of the child, improving the legislation, budgeting and parliamentary monitoring.
Ana Tavkhelidze: There are several recommendations that have to be taken into consideration for the practical implementation of the code. First of all, all the existing laws and policies have to come into compliance with this document. Awareness raising activities for children, parents and various actors involved in child protection, are essential for implementation, as well as effective monitoring of the process.
Number of groups, mainly socially conservative Georgians, including Orthodox Christian priests, publicly decried the Code.
The Code explicitly bans corporal punishment of children in all settings, making Georgia 58th country in the world (and 33rd nation in the Council of Europe) to do so.