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Benin government must better protect children: UN rights expert

A UN independent rights expert on Friday called on the Benin government to better protect the rights of children after a visit to the country reportedly revealed widespread abuse and exploitation. UN Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography Najat Maalla M'jid reported [press release] that many adults abuse and exploit children under the pretext of tradition, custom and religion. The Special Rapporteur outlined numerous instances of infanticide of children considered to be sorcerers, child abductions for placement in voodoo convents, forced marriages, physical abuse, rape and female genital mutilation. While Benin has a legal framework in place to prevent these abuses, the Special Rapporteur reported that the nation suffers from inadequate implementation and enforcement resulting from a lack of resources. The UN independent expert urged the Benin government to decentralize enforcement mechanisms and to provide local protection methods accessible to all children. She also appealed to the international community to support Benin's establishment of these strategies to better protect the rights of children.

The rights of children continues to be an important issue across the globe. In September Sweden's Ombudsman for Children Fredrik Malmberg called for the country to ban infant male circumcision [JURIST report], claiming the practice violates the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Also in September UN officials urged member states to ratify [JURIST report] the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its three optional protocols at the 2013 treaty event held at its New York headquarters. During the same timeframe Human Rights Watch reported [JURIST report] that Bahrain security forces are detaining children without cause and "subject[ing] them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture." In August Philippe Duamelle, the UNICEF representative in Egypt, expressed concern [JURIST report] that children are being used as symbolic witnesses and subjected to violence in the recent unrest.

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