THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT OF THE VULNERABLE IN CAMEROON, CASE STUDY ON CHILDREN AND THE ELDERLY
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Rights of children in Cameroon is considered as a fundamental human right which ought to be respected, the constitution of Cameroon has guaranteed these inalienable rights of children as their fundamental rights.
This has been provided in the preamble of the constitution as further enshrined in article 65 which makes the preamble part and parcel of the constitution and other legislation enacted in the country.
The problem this research seeks to address is the ineffectiveness in the protection of the rights of the child in Cameroon which is manifested in the various forms of child labour such as child trafficking and sexual exploitation especially child prostitution.
The practice of child trafficking affects the protection of children’s rights in Cameroon.
Children are trafficked from the rural areas to urban areas to be used as labourers, hawkers, prostitutes, thieves and street beggars, however the aim of this research paper is to critically examine the laws protecting the right of the child in Cameroon.
The research paper identifies children’s rights in Cameroon and the extend of the protection and examine possible recommendations to the protection of these rights
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
For various reasons, there are some particular people who are weak and vulnerable, and have traditionally been victims of violation and consequently require special protection for the equal and effective enjoyment of human rights As such, most often, human rights instruments which have been ratified by Cameroon set out additional guarantees for persons belonging to these groups.
They exist several vulnerable groups in the world at large amongst which include; Women and girls, disabled persons, refugees, children, elderly people amongst others.
However, my focus and emphasis of this research will be on the vulnerable groups like; Children, and Disabled persons.
The rationale behind this study will solely talk on the above-mentioned groups and the concept of Fundamental Human Rights and Public Liberties and in “extensio” the beginning or historical evolution of the concepts of Human Rights.
England occupies a prominent place when it comes to the studying of the institutional origin of Human Rights as the country is considered as the pioneer in the implementation of Human Rights. The very first text on Human Rights is the Magna Carta adopted in 1215. It marked the awareness of the British citizens and strongly stood against the omnipotence and absolutism of the crown.
The Magna Carta imposed boundaries to royal powers by making the king a person not above the law but a person who must go according to the law.
The second pact was the Habeas corpus adopted in 1679 and it laid a solid foundation in the respect of Human Right in the judicial domain such as the right to fair hearing, and the right not to be trial arbitrary.
But it should be noteworthy that, the notion of Human Rights originated since the beginning of man’s social life. Human Right is based on the principle of respect for the fundamental assumption that is; each person is a rational being who deserves to be treated with care and dignity.
But in ancient Greece and Roma, one can only see that the notion of Human Rights was originated in the cases of human right claims of inhuman treatment provided to slaves.
The common ideology of thinkers like Socrates and Plato had the effect of protecting the intention of human right philosophy, the Natural Law theory of St. Thomas Aquinas who is one of the pioneers of Natural Law Theory, every human being by nature is endowed with rights and freedom which are innate to them. Human rights are therefore prior and superior to any social organizations.
Other thinkers like John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau, highlighted the theory of natural law from a perspective of a social contract. According to them, Equality must be the foundation of any society. “All human beings are born free and equal both in rights and dignities…”
Also, the American Bill of Rights was summited on the 25th September 1789 and was adopted on the 15th December 1791.
It was the very first text that comprises the first ten amendment of the United States Constitution in 1787 It aimed at limiting the Federal government authority over the Federated states and the citizens and it also manifested certain rights such as; freedom of speech, press, association, privacy, fair trial and amongst others.
All these institutions and articles were to stand the test of protecting Human Rights in the world at large but our main concern will be Human Rights protection of the vulnerable groups in general and Cameroon in particular and how various state institutions and Non-governmental Organizations protect these people because of their vulnerability
The United Nations and its organ the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] adopted in on the 10th of December 1948, states that ‘Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of human family is a foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world’.
This simple buttress on the fact that human rights are natural rights given by God and should not be deprived from anybody. Everyone has the right to enjoy rights which been accrued to him or her irrespective of his age, sex, group or social status.
Various intentional organizations have been set up to eradicate policies against violation of human right. It should be noted that, there is no particular text talking about the concept as a whole but rather each class of vulnerable has been sorted out and each group with its own regulating it.
For instance, International Labour Organization [ILO], the Convention on Right of a Child [CRC] 1990, the Convention of Rights of Disabled Person [CRPD] created in May 2008, the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [ICESCR], 1966 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [ICCPR], and laws enacted by the Cameroons parliament like the Constitution, Labour code, Penal Code and the Cameroon Criminal Procedure Code. All these stand in to protect vulnerable.
In Cameroon, a move away from international conventions, the Cameroon Penal Code, and the Cameroon constitution, in its preamble, affirms that ‘We the people of Cameroon declares that human person, without distinction as to race, religion, sex, or belief possess inalienable and sacred rights’.
This is in line with the fundamental freedom enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the charter on Human and People’s Right and all dully ratified international conventions relating thereto in particular to the principles below;
- All persons shall have equal rights and obligation (without exceptions to the vulnerable;
- The state shall ensure the protection of minorities and shall preserve the rights of indigenous population in accordance with the law;
- Freedom and security shall be granted to every individual subject to the respect for rights of others.
Children are considered a vulnerable group of people who’s the running of their activities depends on the adult.
The issue of protecting the right of a child could be traced as far back as 1913 when a young English lady by name EglantyneJebb on her mission to Macedonia was shocked by the sufferings of children following the Balkan war.
In 1919, she founded a forum ‘save the children’ which organizes campaigns to feed and clothe children in Europe after the First World War She played a key role in the drafting and promoting of the 1923 Geneva Declaration that recognized that ‘’Man owes to the child the best it has to give’’ and in 1924, the declaration was adopted by the League of Nations as the Charter of child welfare.
Following the widespread horror and sufferings brought about by the World War 2, the United Nations created the first intergovernmental agency concerned exclusively with children on December 11 1946.
It was later on adopted by the General Assembly in the resolution 57(1) setting up the Children Emergency Fund and later on is known as United Nations International Children Emergency Fund [UNICEF].
The UDHR recognized that, a child must be subject to special care and attention. The General Assembly, unanimously adopted a binding convention on the rights of a child in November 20 1989 in a resolution A/44/24. Also, the Convention on the Rights of a Child [CRC] 1990, stresses on the rights of every Human being below the age of 18 years.
Unless under the laws applicable to a child. Also, other relevant standards relates to the protection of a child including the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of a child 1990.
Also, the Penal Code makes it clear that “No judgment shall be meted out against a child under the age of ten; ten to eleven years old cannot be put to pre-trial detention nor condemned to detention. Moreover, the preamble of the Cameroon constitution makes it clear that ‘The state shall guarantee the child’s right to education……’’
The ideas of the protection of elderly persons came as result of the discrimination against the ageist, there are considered vulnerable and are unable to protect their rights. The International Bill of Rights applies to everyone and is technically referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [UDHR] and Article 25(1) applies to old people and it states that;
“Everyone has the right to security, a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of himself and his family”. The two conventions of ICESCR and ICCPR offer generic Economic, Social, Political, Civil and Cultural rights to everyone including the old persons.
Important specification on the ICESCR are the work related rights (Article 6-7), and the rights to social security (Article 9), the rights to adequate standard of living (Article 11)and the right to attainable standard to physical and mental health (Article 12).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The principal concern of this work is to ascertain the height of Human Right protection of the vulnerable groups by the international community in general and Cameroon in particular.
Vulnerable groups such as children, woman and girls, elderly persons, disabled and refugees most often than not subjected to massive violations of their inalienable rights.
Hence, this work will draw an appraisal in both its violations and laws regulating it both national and international.
Also various difficulties faced in implanting human rights decision to protect the underdogs in our society. Added will be various problems and solutions.
Firstly, according to the Amnesty international report 2016, the very first problem with the implementation of human rights especially with the vulnerable groups is the victimization of Human rights defenders.
The government most likely harasses human right activist as they are seen as threat and causing insecurity to the nation building while advocating their work.
This mostly occurs in countries like Chad, Cameroon, and Central African Republic amongst others.
There are prosecuted and jailed. Ironically, international community’s which these governments have ratified treaties which stay mute and act only prior to massive violations
Many issues have been raised by Cameroonian as to why customary practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are still practiced by some communities in spite of its negative effect on human rights concerning the rights of human rights.
According to the National Commission of Human Rights and Freedom, February 2016 report, some regions in Cameroon such as the Far North and South West Region suffer abuses in the face of customary practices.
Also, the issue that occurred in the South West and North West regions in November 2016 and in Buea, in particular where girls were been subjected to torture and rape. This has left many Cameroonians to ask the following questions;
- To what extent is the right of women safeguarded in Cameroon?
- To what extent has the legislature and judiciary uphold the principle of women’s right in Cameroon and What mechanisms has been used by the Cameroon government to enforce the rights of women?
Vast report has been produced by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as to what has become the incidence rate of children working between the aged of 5 to 14 years old. A vast majority of children Labour is seen in rural and also some in informal urban areas as children are predominantly employed by their parents.
Reports from the ILO show that child’s Labour is a growing phenomenon in Cameroon. Many people are unaware of the ever-increasing violation of children’s right through child’s Labour thus to be asked are;
- What determines child’s Labour?
- What effect does it have on the rights of children in Cameroon?
Also, it becomes a problem as the lack of information to the National Commission where violations of right of the vulnerable exist in rural areas.
These violations are unreported most at times because the commission ends with its activities only in urban areas.
The commission is not everywhere as such, human right violation especially violation of those of the vulnerable are not accounted for especially in remote areas. All these leave a question if the vulnerable are actually been protected?
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The research project seeks to answer the following questions;
- Who are those considered as being vulnerable?
- What are the categories and problems faced by the vulnerable groups (children and disabled persons)?
- What are the means of protection of these groups both at the national and international levels and are these means effective?
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
This study is carried out to achieve the following objectives. There exist both a general as well as a specific objective of this work.
1.4.1 General objective
The main objective of this work is to examine the protection of the rights of children and the elderly persons in respect of their vulnerability.
1.4.2 Specific objective
The specific objective of this work shall include amongst other things the following?
- To examine the national and international laws and regulations that protect the rights distinctive rights of children and the elderly persons
- To examine the difficulties faced by children and the elderly persons
- To analyze the various mechanisms but in place by the government to protect the rights of children and elderly persons.
- And lastly, this work seeks to examine if the mechanisms put in place are effective.