Myanmar: limitations and violations of children's rights in orphanages

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Kostina, Oleksandra
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Currently, Myanmar and its inhabitants are experiencing military, economic, religious and geopolitical conflicts in almost all the regions of the country. This is clearly demonstrated on the map of the restricted areas in Myanmar, which has been divided by different colors depending on the level of danger in the region. Some of the zones are completely restricted to foreigners, which corresponds to one of the Asian pillars and its inherent principals of non interference, cultural relativism and significance of sovereignty. Consistently in the issue, military conflicts are affecting first the most vulnerable groups of people, leaving a dramatic mark on them and on the development of future generations. International human rights observers have remarked arising trend in the quantity of the disadvantaged victims, especially orphans in the region. Religion has played a significant role in establishing moral rules in the Asian understanding of morals and dignity. Most citizens of Myanmar are inclined to their traditions and practice them regularly in their daily life. There is a wide variety of pagodas and temples in this region, and Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam brought their own influence into the lives of the orphans in Myanmar, as most of them live and are supervised by monks or nuns in the monasteries. An alarming increase in the number of orphans in Myanmar has a negative affect on these children’s lives, depriving them of their childhood and hope for dignified future. Whereas in some other parts of the world there is an idea that aims to move away from the orphanage system and to adapt a family stay system instead, such is not the case of Myanmar. This scenario is naturally connected to the economic situation and current conditions of the population in the country. This thesis will investigate situation of children in Myanmar, under the scope of reports of the UNICEF, Save the Children and other NGOs/INGOs. There we will take into consideration legal decisions and documentations, and relevant international institutions' data (UNICEF, UNDP, NGOs/INGOs) to witness the situation of children's rights violations, especially the access to health and reports about orphans’ birth registration (namely as regards those aged from 2 to 16) and data from the different international organizations that work in this field. We will see, then the real current situation from the realistic and critical prospective. The focus is on the Monastic School, 'Zayar Thiri' where I conducted an initial investigation considering the present-day state of the orphanages and the various human rights implications. The emphasis will be given on two spheres: access to health, and the birth registration of orphans who are aged 2-16 years old and who lost their parents during the conflict in the Shan State and other conflicts in Myanmar. Consequently, 90 girls, victims of an arduous situation in Myanmar, do not have any documents of their birth registration, and hence no access to health and education. Unfortunately, this situation leads to child trafficking, child labor, child marriage and other forms of violation of children’s rights. It is crucial and urgent to answer these questions and move towards a possible solution: What is the current situation with the orphans in Myanmar? What has already been done by the UN, Save the Children and other NGOs/INGOs in Myanmar in this context? What is the main reason of non-existence of birth registration? What is the potential of the DNA test to find relatives of the orphans? Why is the state not providing basic life standards for the orphans? Who is responsible for that? (for example, on nutrition in emergency, they only receive rice twice per day, and no education and access to health are guaranteed). What can be done to improve the standards of life for the orphans in Myanmar? KEYWORDS: Convention on the Rights of the Child; Asian Values; UNICEF; Orphans; Right to Health; Housing; Education; State’s Obligations; Religion; Poverty; Birth Registration; Deprivation of liberty
Second semester University: New University of Lisbon
Convention on the Rights of the Child, orphanages, Myanmar, UNICEF, right to health, housing, education, religion, birth certificates, international obligations, state responsibility, liberty, children rights