ARC Condemns Recent Developments In Children’s Shelters Under State Care & Media Coverage Of Children Blaming

Local NGO, Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) has released a media statement on Wednesday, expressing great concern regarding recent developments in children’s Shelter Kudakudhinge Hiyaa in Villingili and Home for Persons with Special Needs (HPSN) in Guraidhoo in addition to the media coverage of children blaming.

As per the statement, the recent events Kudakudhinge Hiyaa are a culmination of a series of issues, inclusive of the failure to adequately manage the shelter and address the needs of children – highlighting that it is the explicit duty of the state to protect the rights of children in its care and ensure their safety and well-being.

Moreover, these issues have been further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Noting that ARC has been conducting several educational and recreational program for children and capacity-building trainings for staff since 2010, they have been denied access to shelters since the beginning of Covid-19 lockdown measures in March 2020.

Explaining further that the media coverage of the cases that involved victim blaming of the children failed to address the root causes of these issues and the systematic failure to protect the rights of the children which have eventually sunken the situation to what it is now. This includes having these children being falsely referred to labelled children in conflict with the law – leaving or forgetting the actual reasons for placement of children under state care. Righting this misconception, ARC notes that these children are victims of extreme abuse, neglect and exploitation who are placed under state care for protection as they have no other means of primary care. They further explain that misbehavior the children might demonstrate is most likely a manifestation of the trauma they have experienced and are going through and therefore all interventions targeted at any misbehavior should be focused on their protection needs, including providing professional help, guidance, counselling and other support services.

According to ARC, the NGO has brought several of these matter to the attention of state agencies as well as independent institutions on numerous occasions since last year. In this regard, they note with concern that there have been reports of no efforts have been made to engage children in Kudakudhinge Hiyaa who do not attend schools, limiting them of the full right to education; and that they are not consulted on major decisions pertaining to their lives, clearly against their full right to have their views heard on matters that affect them.

In addition to this, the NGO notes that they have been made aware that some children taken into state care away from situations of abuse, violence and neglect are temporarily placed in Family and Children Service Centres (FCSCs) in islands, without access to education until a more permanent solution could be arranged – whereas these temporary placement takes months hindering their education and limiting their basic rights.

Whilst ARC welcomes the recent transfers of children from from Kudakudhinge Hiyaa and Fiyavathi to Aman Hiyas or Safe Homes in Family and Children’s Service Centres (FCSCs) in different Atolls, the NGO also points out that a number of these transfers have taken place before adequate preparations of both the children and care workers, as well as the communities, and with no plans for the continuation of specialist services that some of these children require. In addition to this, these children have been moved from one island to another more than once, contributing to an unstable life and is not in the best interest for him or her.

The reports of the situation in HPSN in K. Guraidhoo that presently houses children is also deeply troubling for the NGO – hence they call upon the state to guarantee the rights of these children are protected and that they are provided access to required healthcare and other support.
Concluding their statement, ARC reiterates that it is the state’s liability to protect the rights of children in its care and ensure their safety and well-being; and strongly condemns these recent developments. In addition to this, they appeal to all institutions, media, and the community to show understanding, empathy and compassion in situations involving these children as they are victims of abuse, violence or neglect.

(Photo: Kudakudhinge Hiyaa)