21742943_1587099034678072_8661674354833056246_nToday a Public Hearing was held in organization of the association ROMA S.O.S. and the offices of UNICEF, UNFPA and NDI, in the Club of Members of Parliament – Skopje, in order to respond to the question: How to get better legal and institutional protection from the issue of “child marriage”? At the public hearing, present guests were representatives from the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior, the State Education Inspectorate, the State Council for Prevention of child delinquency, the Office of the Ombudsman, as well as MPs in the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia, legal / judicial practitioners, representatives of national and local institutions and non-governmental organizations

In addition to the organizers, representatives of the relevant ministries also spoke:

*NESIME SALIOSKA (Executive Director, ROMA S.O.S.) – “The conclusions and recommendations from the two-year commitment to identify potential solutions, translated into the amendments to the Criminal Code, the Law on Family and the Law on Secondary Education, will be presented and discussed today. Based on expert comments and suggestions, they will be finalized and processed to the competent ministries.

Proposals are in line with the provisions of the Children’s Justice Law, international conventions ratified by the Republic of Macedonia, as well as with the conclusions and recommendations of the UN Committees on the progress of the country in protecting children’s prosperity and integrity. “

*ELSPET ERICSSON (deputy representative, UNICEF) – “We are here to support and raise the voice for the necessary legislative changes – to ensure that this dangerous practice that results in harmful consequences is brought to an end. Every child deserves to be a child and every child deserves for us to work to provide them adequate protection and security. “

*SONJA TANEVSKA (Deputy Representative, UNFPA) – “From the direct experience of other EU countries that have worked on the issue of child marriages, we can easily help adjust the existing protocols so that they are incorporated and implemented in our country. Only a complete approach that would cover the fields of health, social affairs, education, justice and the civil sector can give a result. Any response to child marriages should be based on a human rights approach. “

*SLAGJANA MARJANOVIKJ PANOVSKA (Program Coordinator, NDI) – “We support this initiative from the very beginning because we believe that although the proposed legislative changes are not big, they are essential – they directly affect not only the lives of the children, but also their families and society in general. “

*SAMKA IBRAIMOSKI (Minister without portfolio) – “Your presence at this event proves that the organizers managed to sensitize the public well that all citizens, not just the Roma, are facing this phenomenon. As pointed out in the preface to the case study, it is a question related to children who are not mature enough to make decisions independently. Therefore, the state, through legal provisions and actions of the institutions, should protect their rights and best interest.

The proposals are aimed at implementing a non-discriminatory policy, through which all young individuals can fully realize their potentials and capacities in realization of their own and common vision.”

*MILA CAROVSKA (Minister of Labor and Social Policy) – “In the past year, 150-200 marriages were concluded between or with minors. This confirms that what is provided in the law as an exception is in reality a rule. This issue is absolutely not a Roma issue, but concerns everyone, and therefore the distribution of responsibilities between all bodies (social, health, educational and municipal units) is required. In all this approach, I agree most with the proposal to edit or prohibit the extramarital community between and with minors, and the role of the centers for social work needs to be further discussed and defined. “

*OLIVER RISTOVSKI (Deputy Minister of Justice) – “I personally support the proposed amendment and I will commit myself to it. The recommendations have already been taken into consideration by the Ministry of Justice and will be further considered by the working group established to fully review the Criminal Code. In this process, the civil sector will be involved and consulted. “

*ANETA TRPESKA (State Secretary, Ministry of Education and Science) – “A proactive approach is needed in the prevention of the issue of child marriages, with intervention since elementary education. It is necessary to accurately define the situation of the child at risk, as well as educate the teaching staff for its recognition and appropriate monitoring or acting.”

SUGGESTIONS: The attendees pointed out that the announcement of the introduction of a Family Social Worker within the planned amendments to the Law on Social Protection could be applied as a method of dealing with the issue of child marriages, given their foreseen role to coordinate the activities of the local institutions in providing services for families at risk. It was pointed out that it is necessary to check a potential intervention in the Law on Health Protection – healthcare workers can seriously contribute, if their obligations are precisely defined.

CONCLUSION: Child marriages are a social phenomenon that affects the lives of young people. In doing so, a range of violations of rights defined in international and national legislation is being created. Many factors contribute to this: children think that love is the leading force in creating their future, their parents do not know how to deal with this behavior, competent institutions are limited in procedures, uninformed in a timely manner and unreliable of how an to whom to report . The responsibility for this phenomenon is common and we are all obliged to contribute to reducing the number of child marriages. The phenomenon is also seen among boys, but it especially reflects on girls with whom marriages receive a gender dimension. Discussion of Roma associations and Roma communities was initiated because of the fact that among them child marriages are most represented, but not that they are limited to one ethnic group. It is important to create preconditions for normal and humane living for all, regardless of their affiliation, which is why we agree to take the necessary state commitments and institutionalize the phenomenon.

For that purpose, the prepared draft laws for amendments to the Family Law, the Law on Secondary Education and the Criminal Code were reviewed and on the basis of the prominent comments and suggestions will be finalized and then formally taken by the ministries for their further processing before the Parliament.