Social & Economic rights

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Recent Achievements and Remaining Challenges in the Fields of Statelessness and Child Marriages

On 24 December, 2018, Praxis held a conference in the Media Centre in Belgrade to present the achieved results and remaining challenges in the fields of prevention and elimination of statelessness and child marriages in Serbia.

The conference was opened by Ivanka Kostić, Praxis Executive Director, who welcomed the attendees and gave a brief overview of the multi-year activities implemented by Praxis in the field of preventing statelessness and child marriages with the financial support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). On that occasion, Ivanka pointed out that thanks to free legal assistance provided by Praxis, in the period of 14 years over 90,000 people had been able to access their basic status rights. She also expressed hope that in the course of 2019, a systemic solution to the problem of stateless persons and legally invisible children would finally be found. Referring to the problem of child marriages in Serbia, Ivanka pointed out that the legal provision allowing early marriages after reaching the age of 16 in exceptional cases had been deleted from the current Draft Law on Family, which indicated the state’s willingness to eradicate child marriages.

Participants were then addressed by Hans Friedrich Schoder, UNHCR Representative in Serbia, who pointed out that in the same period the number of persons at risk of statelessness decreased from 30,000 to 2,100. He highlighted that child marriages represented a disregard for international conventions, in particular the Convention on the Rights of the Child, endangered the girls’ health and had an additional impact on the emergence of statelessness. He also expressed his satisfaction for continuing the cooperation with Praxis and his expectation that a common goal would be achieved and that a systemic solution to the problem of statelessness would be found.

Milan Radojev, Praxis Status and Socioeconomic Rights Programme Coordinator, presented all the remaining problems faced by people at risk of statelessness. He pointed out that there were still newborns in Serbia who could not be registered immediately after birth due to the two by-laws that did not allow their registration if their parents did not possess personal documents, and added that Praxis had submitted an initiative to the Constitutional Court for examining the constitutionality and legality of these regulations, and sent an appeal to the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-government regarding their amendments.

Nataša Živković, Head of Sector for Personal Status of Citizens, Keeping Registers and Electoral Rights of the Secretariat for Administration in the Belgrade City Administration also addressed the attendees. Nataša spoke about the background of the problem of illegally invisible persons in Belgrade, as well as the beginning of successful cooperation with Praxis, dating back to 2012. She pointed out that there were currently no active cases in Belgrade relating to the registration of legally invisible persons in the civil registry books, which proved the progress made in reducing the number of legally invisible persons in Serbia.

Jelena Petrović, Praxis Child Rights Programme Coordinator, presented the activities implemented by Praxis for the fourth consecutive year in the field of prevention and elimination of child marriages with the aim of raising awareness about the harmfulness of this phenomenon. On that occasion, she also highlighted the observations gained by Praxis through educational and counselling work with Roma parents, children and representatives of relevant institutions. Jelena explained that a major obstacle to fighting against child marriages was the perceiving of the phenomenon of child marriages out of the context of Roma tradition and culture, in particular by the competent authorities, and the lack of records on child marriage cases kept by relevant institutions.

Sadija Gicić, a social worker and women’s rights activist, spoke about the responsibilities of institutions in cases of child marriage. She stressed the importance of timely response of institutions and pointed to their duty to act in accordance with binding protocols.

Finally, it was concluded that, regardless of the achievements in the field of prevention and elimination of the emergence of legally invisible persons, it was necessary to continue the intensive work on eliminating the remaining challenges in order to prevent the emergence of new cases of legally invisible and stateless persons. In the field of prevention and elimination of child marriages, in addition to the civil sector that was making the biggest contribution in combating this extremely harmful traditional practice, decision makers, social welfare centres, the police, prosecution, schools, health care institutions and the media should be involved more actively and in a coordinated manner, because without efforts of all relevant actors, it was not possible to ensure a solution to this problem.

Listen to the recording of Radio Beograd 1 about conference here.
See the article of Danas daily here.
See the article of Beta news agency here.

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Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action
Praxis means action