Relatórios Apresentados por Portugal aos Órgãos
de Controlo da Aplicação dos Tratados das Nações
Unidas em Matéria de Direitos Humanos
Summary Record of the 252nd
meeting : Portugal. 15/11/95. CRC/C/SR.252. (Summary Record)
COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE
CHILD, Tenth session
SUMMARY RECORD OF THE 252nd MEETING, Held
at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Friday, 10 November 1995,
at 3 p.m.
Chairperson: Mr. HAMMARBERG
CONTENTS: CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS
OF STATES PARTIES (continued)
This record is subject to correction.
Corrections should be submitted in one of the
working languages. They should be set forth in a memorandum and
also incorporated in a copy of the record. They should be sent within
one week of the date of this document to the Official Records Editing
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Any corrections to the records of the meetings
of the Committee at this session will be consolidated in a single
corrigendum, to be issued shortly after the end of the session.
The meeting was called to order at 3.10 p.m.
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS OF STATES PARTIES
(agenda item 4) (continued)
Portugal (CRC/C/3/Add.30; CRC/C.10/WP.4) (continued)
1. At the invitation of the Chairperson, Mr.
Abreu de Lemos, Mr. de Santa Clara Gomes, Mrs. Gersão, Mrs.
Clemente and Mrs. Baptista Lopez (Portugal) took places at the Committee
2. The CHAIRPERSON invited the Portuguese delegation
to provide additional information on the questions the Committee
had asked in connection with the section of the list of issues (CRC/C.10/WP.4)
entitled "Civil rights and freedoms", which read:
"Civil rights and freedoms"
(Arts. 7, 8, 13-17 and 37 (a) of the Convention)
11. What concrete steps have been taken or are
planned to protect children, in particular those who are victims
of abuse, from harmful exposure in the media?
12. Does national legislation adequately provide,
in practice, for the protection of the child from information and
material injurious to his or her well-being, in conformity with
article 17 (e) of the Convention?"
3. Mr. ABREU de LEMOS (Portugal), replying to
a question about measures taken to prevent ill-treatment of children
in the school, said that the Constitution strictly prohibited ill-treatment,
torture or inhuman treatment and the Framework Act on the Education
System outlawed any type of violence against children. Any person
who had inflicted ill-treatment on a child would be subjected to
both disciplinary and judicial procedures. However, no systematic
effort had yet been made to uncover cases of ill-treatment outside
the school, though school psychologists, teachers and social workers
were beginning to cooperate in that area.
4. The CHAIRPERSON pointed out that violence
among pupils had to be guarded against with the same vigilance as
the ill-treatment of children by teachers.
5. Mr. de SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) noted
that, under Portuguese legislation, corporal punishment and any
form of psychological ill-treatment were prohibited.
6. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that Portugal was participating,
within the Council of Europe, in the preparation of a document covering
many aspects of the protection of the child, including protection
against exposure in the media. In that endeavour, a difficult balance
between freedom of information and the rights of the child was being
7. Mrs. KARP said that many countries faced
the same dilemma of how to strike a balance between media freedom
and protection of the child and some adopted the solution of prohibiting
the identification of a child as the victim or offender in a court
case. She asked whether the Portuguese Government had considered
adopting such a prohibition. In connection with the right of a child
to give evidence in court, she would also like to know whether there
were special investigators trained in taking evidence from children
and court procedures under which such evidence could be given in
closed session, so that the child did not have to confront an alleged
offender. She considered it encouraging that Portugal had established
teams to deal with sexual abuse or family violence, but wondered
whether there were sufficient human and budgetary resources to maintain
such a network of professionals.
8. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that the
law did not expressly prohibit identifying children who were victims
of abuse, but there was a legislative provision whereby details
of the private lives of individuals could not be publicized without
9. Mrs. CLEMENTE (Portugal) said that proceedings
in juvenile court, family court and special mixed courts were held
in private when children were accused of wrongdoing or were the
alleged victims of abuse. The identity of both the child and the
parents had to remain confidential for the duration of such proceedings;
any infringement of that provision constituted contempt of court.
In cases involving the rights of minors, the courts could call upon
the services of multidisciplinary teams composed of social workers,
psychologists and pediatricians. When it was compulsory for a child
to give evidence, an initial private hearing with a judge took place;
however, if the child's evidence would not affect the outcome of
the legal proceedings, the initial hearing was conducted either
by a psychologist or, in some cases, a social worker or a pediatrician.
A child who considered that parental responsibility was being badly
exercised or believed himself to be the subject of ill-treatment
in a school or institution had every right to file a complaint with
10. The CHAIRPERSON, summing up the discussion,
said that, in Portugal, as in many other countries, the civil rights
of children in respect of information technology and the media were
protected primarily through self-discipline in the media themselves.
That raised the question of accountability for the implementation
of the Convention, however, and the Committee hoped that the Portuguese
delegation would inform individuals responsible for decision-making
in the media of its belief that self-discipline must be exercised
scrupulously to ensure that no child was harmed by access to certain
types of information.
11. He invited the Portuguese delegation to
provide further information on question 14 in the section of the
list of issues entitled "Family environment and alternative
care", which read:
"14. Please provide further information
on the procedures for monitoring the situation of children in institutions
and other alternative care arrangements such as foster placement."
12. Mrs. SARDENBERG asked for clarification
on paragraphs 32 to 34 of the report, which described the conditions
under which a child might be institutionalized. Was the trend towards
institutionalization or de-institutionalization? The abandonment
of children seemed to be a common problem and she wondered whether
any research into the causes of the phenomenon had been conducted
and whether reliable data was available on its prevalence.
13. Mrs. KARP asked what mechanisms were used
to determine whether the continued confinement of a child to a mental
institution was justified or whether other treatment options should
be looked into.
14. The CHAIRPERSON suggested that the overall
system for the inspection and review of conditions in all institutions
for children and of training of staff for such institutions should
be further described.
15. Mrs. CLEMENTE (Portugal) said that the institutionalization
of a child was always a measure of last resort. All institutions,
either public or private, to which a child might be assigned were
entirely open to inspection. Control over conditions in such institutions
was exercised both externally and internally. External control measures
included the ability of any judge who had institutionalized a child
to visit the institution and interview the child at any time. All
institutionalization orders were reviewed biennially.
16. Internal controls were exercised by the
institutions themselves through their multidisciplinary teams. Members
of such teams had attended higher educational institutions and had
received specialized training for dealing with signs of child abuse.
Each child had a treatment plan, regularly evaluated by the multidisciplinary
team and devised in cooperation with the child. The plan called
for close involvement of the family in treatment, a measure which
provided an additional form of control. Monitoring of the way the
institutions operated and of the quality of services they provided
was carried out under the auspices of the Institute for Social Reintegration,
a department of the Ministry of Justice. There was thus an extensive
system for verifying that the extremely serious measure of institutionalizing
a child was properly applied and well understood by the child.
17. Mrs. BRAS GOMES (Portugal) confirmed that,
from the standpoint of the social security administration, institutionalization
was the last resort; foster care was the preferred solution. A mixed
team of psychologist, social worker, educator and nurse provided
assistance to a child in selecting a foster family, but paid particular
attention to maintaining contacts with the biological family. An
assessment was made as often as possible of the child's progress
in the foster family with a view to determining whether such placement
should continue. In some cases, foster placement went on for such
an extended period that a decision on adoption or assignment to
a foster home had to be made.
18. Much progress had been made in recent years
in opening up foster homes to the community, partly through the
newly authorized involvement in the social services sector of private,
non-profit institutions. Such facilities were overseen by the social
security administration, but, recently, an additional effort had
been made to provide the staff itself with the necessary tools for
evaluating and monitoring the work of the facilities.
19. Mrs. BADRAN asked what qualifications had
to be offered by individuals who worked in preschool or day-care
facilities. The report mentioned that the great demand for such
services was being at least partially met by a network of "child
minders" and she asked whether there was any intention of incorporating
that network officially into the school system, especially since
the cost of such services must be significantly lower than that
of day-care centres. Were women who served as "child minders"
given any training or equipment, such as toys, to help them perform
20. Mrs. BRAS GOMES (Portugal) said that most
child minders worked in close collaboration with others, in groups
of 10 to 12. They operated under the auspices of a preschool or
day-care facility, which evaluated their activities and provided
them with toys and other forms of assistance, premises for discussion
among themselves and opportunities to take the children on group
outings. Child minders were covered by social security. There was
a danger that, as the activity was not well paid, it could be used
as an indirect form of exploitation of women's labour and perpetuate
unfair working conditions. The Government was alert to that danger,
21. Mr. ABREU de LEMOS (Portugal) said that,
since public funds covered about 30 per cent of budgetary requirements
for preschool institutions, additional efforts had to be made to
ensure their survival. One of the primary objectives of the new
Government was to ensure that preschool facilities were available
in nearly 100 per cent of the country by 1999. The achievement of
that objective required the involvement of society as a whole and
of governmental and non-governmental organizations. The action of
local authorities would be especially important in terms of providing
facilities and impetus. The Ministry of Education, for its part,
was committed to finding room in its budget for the salaries of
workers in preschool institutions.
22. Mrs. EUFEMIO asked whether children placed
in foster care were allowed frequent contacts with their biological
families and, if it was decided that a child could not return to
his or her biological parents, whether the foster family had the
opportunity and the right to adopt that child.
23. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that
all research done on child abuse covered abandoned children as well.
The phenomenon of street children, especially in Lisbon, was now
a subject of special study, including by a non-governmental organization
that was developing projects to assist such children. She could
make the results of its research available if members of the Committee
24. Mrs. BRAS GOMES (Portugal) said that there
was nothing in the legislation to prevent a foster family from becoming
an adoptive family; there were simply two different administrative
procedures that had to be carried out. One of the major responsibilities
of the professional team assigned to help a foster child was to
promote regular contacts with the biological family.
25. Mrs. CLEMENTE (Portugal) said that, if a
foster family wished to adopt its foster child, it had merely to
make that intention known and the adoption procedures described
earlier in the discussion would be carried out. The only difficulty
might be the age of the foster family, for persons aged over 50
were not entitled to adopt children.
26. The CHAIRPERSON said that, although the
Convention did not indicate whether children's institutions should
be administered privately or publicly, it did make it clear that
responsibility for upholding the rights of the child could never
be privatized and that it lay with the Government.
27. Mrs. SARDENBERG said that the Committee
would certainly wish to recommend that personnel working in private
institutions should be made conversant with the principles embodied
in the Convention. Now that Portugal had signed the Hague Convention
on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry
Adoption, she would like to know when it intended to ratify that
instrument. She understood that there were discrepancies in the
inheritance rights of adopted and biological children and would
like to have clarification on that point.
28. Mrs. KARP asked whether, upon reaching a
certain age, an adopted child had the right to learn the identity
of his biological parents. She had noted that a child had the right
to express his views in adoption proceedings as from 14 years of
age, but that, for foster placement, the age of consent was 12.
Could the delegation explain the discrepancy?
29. Mrs. CLEMENTE (Portugal) said that Portuguese
adoption law was contemporaneous with the Hague Convention, both
instruments dating from May 1993. The Hague Convention had been
taken fully into account in the drafting of Portuguese legislation
on adoption, which expressly referred to that Convention in its
preamble. It was to be hoped that Portugal would be in a position
to ratify the Hague Convention very soon.
30. There was no distinction between adopted
and biological children as far as inheritance rights were concerned.
31. The identity of a potential adoptive parent
could not be revealed to a biological parent without the express
permission of the adoptive parent. Conversely, the identity of a
biological parent was always made known to the adoptive parent unless
the biological parent stipulated otherwise. There was, indeed, a
gap between the ages of consent to adoption (14 years) and foster
placement (12 years). The reason was that the relevant legislative
acts had been adopted at different periods, the law on foster placement
being more recent and reflecting an intention to lower the age of
consent that had yet to be put into effect in respect of adoption.
32. In reply to questions by Mrs. Eufemio and
Mrs. Karp, she said that it was for the biological parents to decide
whether or not to reveal their identity to the adoptive parents
and that, in adoption proceedings, the views of the biological children
of potential adoptive parents were taken into account if those children
were aged 14 or above. During the pre-adoption process, it was quite
common for younger children to be allowed to express their views
33. The CHAIRPERSON invited the Committee to
take up the section of the list of issues entitled "Basic health
and welfare", which read:
"Basic health and welfare"
(Arts. 6, para. 2, 23, 24, 26 and 18, para. 3, 27, paras. 1-3, of
17. Please provide further information on the
situation of disabled children, including access to education, training,
health care services, preparation for employment and recreation
opportunities. Please also indicate any studies the Government has
taken or envisages undertaking in order to become more informed
about the general situation of disabled children in Portugal. Paragraph
130 of the report mentions that the establishment of district coordination
units are under study. What progress has been made in this area?
18. Please provide further information on the
measures taken to reduce the high number of accidents involving
19. Paragraph 126 of the report indicates that
disparities exist between different regions of Portugal with respect
to living conditions, especially as regards nutrition and hygiene/health
standards. Has the Government developed additional specified targets
and strategies to address this situation?
20. What measures is the Government taking to
reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancies? Are the policies of
the Department of Health directed towards tackling the high level
of teenage pregnancies, and the policies of the Department for Education
directed towards sex education fully coordinated on this issue?
21. In view of the information contained in
paragraph 146 of the report, please provide further details on the
results of any research undertaken into the effectiveness of the
poverty-eradication programmes made possible through support from
the European Social Fund.
22. Is the Government considering the possibility
of raising social security allowances relating to children, which
the Government itself has acknowledged as being 'below the cost
of maintaining a child' and 'manifestly not commensurate with the
cost of living' (paras. 142 and 246 of the report)? How are families
made aware of the benefits available to them? How straightforward
are the application procedures to receive these benefits and is
assistance and guidance offered to ensure that they are 'application
34. Mrs. BADRAN said that a 10 to 12 per cent
disability rate among children was extremely high; the report acknowledged
that insufficient information was available on the situation of
such children in Portugal. Statistical research must be conducted
to establish the relationship between the provision of health services
and the presence of disabilities; it might also reveal a link between
the occurrence of disabilities and the minority community, which
related to article 2 of the Convention. The
report also did not include information on measures taken on behalf
of disabled children: were they institutionalized? were they treated
in the community on an out-patient basis? What measures were in
place for the early detection of disabilities?
35. Mr. GOMES PEDRO (Portugal) said that he
regretted the absence of statistical information on disabled children.
Admittedly the problem, which was both widespread and complex, deserved
thorough investigation. Portugal's approach to prevention and intervention
was twofold. First, it had created the district-level functional
coordination units already mentioned; secondly, it would soon transfer
the responsibility which currently lay with developmental units
in hospital and ambulatory services to district developmental centres.
Those centres would inter alia, provide post-graduate training for
doctors, nurses and other primary-care professionals, with special
emphasis on developmental screenings for children of a very young
age. A study had been conducted, about five years' earlier, to monitor
the cases of all babies born at risk in Portuguese maternity centres;
its purpose was to establish the relationship between early identification
and the development of handicaps.
36. In reply to a question by Mrs. Eufemio,
he said that accidents were the foremost cause of death among Portuguese
children and accounted for a large share of the health budget. The
Government was applying a multi-disciplinary approach to the teaching
of a culture of safety and conducting research for that purpose.
It had established 187 community posts nationwide, to be filled
by paediatricians who were specialized in intervention and community
services and who would work hand in hand with district health coordinators.
Furthermore, a national accident prevention and infant safety programme,
which was designed to promote the idea of "safe communities",
was in the planning stages. In addition, a child-safety law that
had recently been enacted should prevent some traffic-accident injuries.
37. In reply to a question by Mrs. Karp, he
said that employers were required by law to provide accident insurance
for their workers.
38. Mrs. KARP said that motherhood, per se in
very young girls, constituted a danger to their futures. Did Portuguese
anti-abortion legislation take the age of a pregnant girl into consideration?
39. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that
abortion was permissible by law in cases where the pregnancy resulted
from rape or in those which involved a danger to the health of the
mother or the child. The Penal Code allowed for the sentence to
be flexible, depending on the circumstances of the woman who had
had an abortion; the situation of a very young girl would therefore,
of course, also be assessed when such a determination was made.
The question whether unusual vulnerability should be weighed in
an abortion decision was in fact currently under discussion in Portugal.
40. The CHAIRPERSON said that Portugal should
describe what measures it was taking to protect children from victimization
associated with the poverty of their guardians.
41. Mrs. BRAS GOMES (Portugal) said that Portugal's
anti-poverty projects had helped to improve the lives of large numbers
of people. Almost all such projects targeted children and young
people and emphasized poverty prevention. Furthermore, their thrust
was multidisciplinary: social security workers cooperated with educators,
health personnel, local administrators and NGOs in seeking solutions
to the problems of children not attending school, as well as those
living in unacceptable conditions. In her view, greater efforts
should be made, however, to integrate the many lessons learned in
those projects into national policy.
42. The CHAIRPERSON invited the Committee to
take up the section of the list of issues entitled "Education,
leisure and cultural activities", which read:
"Education, leisure and
cultural activities" (Arts. 28, 29 and 31 of the Convention)
23. Please provide the statistical and other
information disaggregated by rural urban areas on the level of preschool
and school enrolment. What is being done to increase the number
of children attending preschool education and to encourage parents
to involve their children in such education? What is being done
to facilitate school attendance in remote areas?
24. What further measures are being taken to improve the quality
of education and teaching and to ensure the adequacy of educational
43. Mrs. SARDENBERG asked whether there was
a high commissioner for poverty in both the southern and the northern
parts of Portugal. What was his mandate? As a consequence of rapid
urbanization and the likewise rapid entry of women into the workplace,
moreover, many children were left unattended at home: what measures,
if any, were aimed at assisting those children?
44. The CHAIRPERSON said that it would be useful
to know whether Portugal had undertaken to define the term "child
poverty". That term should be seen as embracing the quality
and quantity of time that parents accorded to their children.
45. Mrs. BRAS GOMES (Portugal) said that the
problem of children left at home by working parents was an urban
phenomenon affecting both rich and poor. The children deemed to
be at greatest risk were those between the ages of 12 and 16, who
were neither young enough to be taken care of nor old enough to
be on their own. The concept of leisure care - previously seen as
after-school care, had been reformulated to cater for the needs
of older children. The Government was reorganizing leisure-care
centres to make them more appealing to older children and inviting
children to take part in their design.
46. Portugal had not, in fact, discussed the
question of "child poverty" as such. Its conceptual approach
to the problem was instead that of "children at risk".
The Government had determined that a family should not be entitled
to a minimum income simply by virtue of its poverty, but had to
acquire that right by taking a step towards social integration.
47. Mrs. SARDENBERG welcomed the initiatives
described by Portugal, which were, in her view, much in keeping
with the spirit of the Convention.
The meeting was suspended at 4.30 p.m. and resumed
at 4.40 p.m.
48. The CHAIRPERSON invited the Committee to
take up the section of the list of issues entitled "Special
protection measures", which read:
"Special protection measures"
(Arts. 22, 30, 32-40 of the Convention)
25. Please provide further information on the
ways in which access to the asylum-seeking process is provided to
children in practice. Do the status determination procedures vis-à-vis
asylum-seeking children make use of any special mechanisms to cater
for the psycho-social needs of the child?
26. What measures have been taken to avoid asylum-seeking
children being kept in custody while they await deportation? In
this connection, what rules, regulations or guidelines exist to
ensure that detention is used only as a measure of last resort and
for the shortest period of time, as provided for in article 37 (b)
of the Convention? What mechanisms exist to monitor such detention,
if it exists? What alternative solutions have been developed to
avoid the use of detention in such circumstances?
27. Please provide additional information on
the number of children deprived of their liberty, reasons for such
deprivation and the length of detention. In addition, please provide
further details of the measures taken to ensure in practice that
children deprived of their liberty are separated from adults?
28. Please provide further information on the
treatment of young law offenders and, in particular, on the following
- What types of institutions exist for the custody of young law
offenders and what specific official rules are there for their
- How are the conditions in such institutions monitored?
- Are there complaint procedures in cases of ill-treatment?
29. What further measures, if any, are envisaged
to ensure more widespread recourse to non-custodial measures of
guidance and supervision to children in conflict with the law, as
detailed in paragraphs 196 and 197?
30. In light of the information contained in
paragraph 185 and 190, is the Government considering adopting additional
legislative and other measures to ensure the implementation of the
provisions of article 40, paragraph 2 (b), of the Convention?
31. Is the Government considering the possibility
of providing for different legislative acts and supervisory measures
which should apply to children within the system of the administration
of juvenile justice and children requiring protection and assistance
due to ill-treatment, abandonment, etc...? (para. 182)
32. With respect to the implementation of article
32 of the Convention, please provide further information on the
number of inspection visits made, of non-observance of regulations
reported and of sanctions imposed.
33. In light of the information contained in
paragraph 219 of the report, please indicate the Government's plans
with regard to the ratification of ILO Convention No. 138.
34. What strategies is the Government adopting
in response to the problem of children living and/or working on
the street? To what extent does the Government cooperate with non-governmental
organizations in their programmes to prevent, protect and reduce
the number of children living or working on the street? Are there
any studies being undertaken to clarify the real causes and most
effective solutions to combat the spreading of this phenomenon?
(paras. 123 and 236 of the report)
35. What measures have been taken to support
the integration of immigrant children into Portuguese society? What
is being done to improve their current living conditions, as well
as preserving their linguistic or cultural origins? Paragraph 239
of the report mentions the Decree-Law No. 212/92 passed to help
regularize the situation of clandestine immigrants. Please provide
details of the content of this decree, including as regards access
to social services and education for children of such immigrants."
49. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal), referring
to issue No. 25, said that very few children were in fact seeking
asylum in Portugal. There had been only 10 applications by unaccompanied
children aged between 15 and 18 years in the first six months of
the year, chiefly from Angola and Romania. Under Portuguese law,
such children were entitled to apply for asylum in their own right,
and were thus eligible for assistance from the Portuguese Council
for Refugees. They were deemed to constitute a vulnerable group
and, as such, were entitled to be provided with food and housing
by the social services, on the same basis as Portuguese children
in a similar situation. If a child asylum-seeker was in danger,
the juvenile court could intervene.
50. The specific question on airport procedures
was perhaps more difficult to answer. In a case that had occurred
the previous year and which had been given wide publicity, a young
mother with a child had arrived at an airport to join her husband
in Portugal. Since she had had no papers, the airport authorities
had attempted to deport her. Following a public outcry and a visit
to the airport by the Portuguese First Lady herself, a lawyer had
successfully applied for habeas corpus for both mother and child.
51. The CHAIRPERSON suggested that it might
be appropriate for the Government to seek to regulate that problem
in a more systematic way, in order to avoid the need for such extraordinary
measures if a similar case should arise in future. He asked whether
unaccompanied minors arriving at airports would be subject to detention.
52. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that
unaccompanied children seeking asylum did not in fact come to Portugal
by air, but by boat or overland. Once in the country, they were
given psychological and social assistance. Although by law reception
centres for asylum-seekers ought to be provided, in fact no such
centres existed and thus neither adults nor children were subject
to detention. If a child was found abandoned, it would be regarded
as a child in danger and entitled to protection.
53. Mrs. SARDENBERG said she understood that
Portugal had a two-track system for processing applications for
asylum. Under the normal procedure, the applicant would be granted
a temporary residence permit, but, under the accelerated procedure,
no assistance would be given by the Government. Her information
was that, since 1993, all applications had been channelled through
the accelerated procedure. Could the Portuguese delegation comment
on that point?
54. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said the law
on asylum-seekers had been changed in 1994. The previous regime
had been far more generous, granting asylum not only on grounds
of persecution for political or religious views, but also on humanitarian
grounds. The change had been strongly criticized, not only by the
public, but also by the opposition party in Parliament. In practice,
asylum was now granted only very rarely: thus, in the first six
months of 1995, only seven applications had been approved.
55. Mrs. SARDENBERG asked whether, under the
new regime any special training was given to immigration officials
on the need to respect the rights of refugee children.
56. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that
she had no information relating specifically to children in that
57. The CHAIRPERSON pointed out that it was
the Committee's view that States parties should always keep border
police and other officials informed on how the special needs of
children should be met.
58. Mrs. KARP asked whether, in view of the
fact that the Convention defined the child as any human being below
the age of 18 years, the Government was considering re-evaluating
the distinction made in the juvenile justice system between children
above and below 16 years of age. Paragraph 214 of the report indicated
that, because youth care centres were not prepared to receive young
offenders aged between 16 and 18 years, judges had to sentence them
to imprisonment, although for reduced terms. There thus seemed to
be a problem in finding alternatives to imprisonment. Even for children
aged below 16 years, it seemed that juvenile courts existed only
in the cities and that, in the rest of the country, children were
brought before the regular courts. Were there plans to extend the
network of juvenile courts?
59. She understood from paragraph 187 of the
report that, because the focus in the juvenile courts was not on
criminal responsibility or on securing a conviction, establishing
the facts was considered less important and that, as a result, the
child did not have the right to be represented by a lawyer. Could
the Portuguese delegation elaborate on due process in juvenile courts,
in view of the fact that such courts had powers to sentence children
to detention in an institution, and that was an infringement of
60. Mrs. BAPTISTA LOPES (Portugal) said that
there was no possibility of the juvenile courts sentencing a child
aged under 16 years to detention: for them, the regime was entirely
one of protection. While it was true that there was no direct connection
between the seriousness of the offence and the action taken by the
court, that was because more emphasis was placed on the situation
of the child in the context of its future development. Children
were not accorded the same guarantees as adults where court procedure
was concerned, but it was intended to reform legislation in that
61. Although juvenile courts were concentrated
in the major cities, in practice, any case involving a minor that
came before an ordinary court would be referred to a juvenile court
which had country-wide jurisdiction.
62. The possibility of raising the age of criminal
responsibility to 18 was not currently being considered. The institutionalization
of children who had been in conflict with the law was contemplated
only as a last resort. It would be ordered not on the basis of the
seriousness of the offence, but on the basis of whether or not the
family was able to provide adequate care and education.
63. Mr. KOLOSOV said that he would appreciate
information on the actual regime in institutions for juvenile offenders
in Portugal, in view of the country's lack of resources. What kind
of diet was provided, was there forced labour and were opportunities
given for contact with families?
64. Mrs. CLEMENTE (Portugal) said that there
were currently some 100 young offenders aged between 16 and 18 years
in detention in Portugal. A special prison existed for young people
aged between 16 and 21 years guilty of minor offences, which provided
education and training, as well as support programmes for drug addicts.
Young offenders guilty of serious crimes were sent to another prison
near Lisbon. So far it had not been possible to separate young offenders
from adult prisoners.
65. Sentences of pre-trial detention were usually
served in prisons in the regions, where detainees would be nearer
their families. Family visits were encouraged, since they were considered
important for the mental and psychological wellbeing of prisoners.
66. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that
children aged below 16 years who had been in conflict with the law
would be placed in training institutes or reception centres rather
than in detention centres. There, care was taken to treat them as
individuals and family visits, as well as home leave on weekends and holidays, were encouraged. The cost to the
Government of care in such centres was $2,000 per child per month.
Any inhuman or degrading treatment of children in such circumstances
was now prohibited and, should it occur, the persons responsible
would be disciplined or prosecuted.
67. She stressed that sentencing by the juvenile
courts did not imply abdication of responsibility on behalf of the
parents. Accordingly, family visits were encouraged as a way of
maintaining parents' involvement.
68. Mrs. SARDENBERG asked whether the budget
allocated for juvenile justice was sufficient to provide an adequate
infrastructure for dealing with children brought before the courts.
Because of the lack of resources, were such children sent back to
their families without anything being done to protect them from
danger in future? When cases from rural areas were transferred from
juvenile courts in the cities, were parents given help with travel
expenses and where were children held while their case was being
69. She was not clear why there was need for
a separate regime for children aged between 16 and 18 years, since
such children were usually petty offenders. Why should not the age
of a child be defined on the basis of the Convention?
70. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that
travel expenses for family visits were met by the authorities. Young
people in institutions were not compelled to work. The problem was,
rather, the lack of sufficient work opportunities, since the prison
population in Portugal was fairly high. Prisoners did, however,
receive a small salary for work done. Prisons were under the overall
supervision of the Ministry of Justice, although institutions for
juvenile offenders were administered by a separate department.
71. In reply to the question whether the Government
intended to introduce guarantees for minors brought before the courts
and whether it was intended to differentiate between measures to
be applied to minors in danger and measures to be applied to minors
guilty of offences, she said that Portugal had now revised its legislation
on those points to bring it into line with the Convention. A bill
to that effect was currently before Parliament. The reply to issues
30 and 31 was therefore in the affirmative.
72. Mrs. SARDENBERG said she would welcome clarifications
on the question whether street children in Portugal maintained ties
with their families. It was known that, in some countries, they
did maintain those ties.
73. Mrs. EUFEMIO said that the street children
were being exploited for begging purposes. They lived in the street
and were not abandoned by their parents. Mention had been made of
Gypsies, who also used their children for begging, and she would
like to know what was being done about that situation. In countries
like the Philippines, people tended to give the beggar money because
there was a child nearby and they felt pity for the child.
74. Mrs. GERSÃO (Portugal) said that
street children constituted a fairly new problem, particularly in
Lisbon. An institute with funds provided by the European Union was
working to help those children. Money was also provided by the State.
Some street children cut all links with their family, whereas others
maintained contact with their family and went home occasionally.
Their family were usually displaced persons, immigrants or Portuguese
citizens who had left the countryside for the city.
75. Efforts were made to win the children's
trust, to persuade them to renew their ties with their parents and
to return to school. The results were quite encouraging because
the majority of children had re-established contact with their families
and many had returned to school.
76. Most of the children were aged between 14
and 18 years and many begged in towns. The first study which her
organization had carried out had related to children who were victims
of neglect and abuse and had then been extended to cover children
who begged in towns. Her organization had developed an interdisciplinary
project to help those children.
77. Under Portuguese law, begging was not a
crime. However, it was a crime to exploit children for the purpose
of begging. Therefore, parents who sent their children out to beg
might well be committing a crime. While the problem had not disappeared,
it was not so visible in the urban areas as before. Gypsy children
begged with their mothers and the usual response by the public was
to give them a little money.
78. Mrs. SARDENBERG said it seemed that most
children involved in child labour were concentrated by region, age
group and activity. If that was so, she would like to know whether
there was a comprehensive policy for that problem.
79. Mrs. EUFEMIO, referring to the question
of child labour, asked whether the ILO was involved at all in Portugal
and whether the Government intended to explore the possibility of
eliminating or minimizing child labour.
80. Mrs. CLEMENTE (Portugal), replying to a
question by Mrs. Karp, said that, in June 1995, the Government had
submitted a proposal to Parliament for the approval of ILO Convention
No. 138. The question was still on the agenda of Parliament. The
procedure would be approval of ratification by the Assembly and
then a presidential decree.
81. With regard to the question of how many
inspections had been made and how many children had been covered,
she said that in 1990, there had been 4,900 visits and, in 1994,
about 5,600. The number of children who were in fact child labourers
had decreased from 230 in 1990 to 201 in 1994. Her organization
was probably moving in the right direction and was no longer looking
only for the symptoms, but was also trying to find the causes.
82. Mr. de SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) said
that, unlike the problem of street children, the problem of child
labour was more difficult to eradicate. Considerable progress had
been made in combating not only the phenomenon itself, but also
83. As far as Macao was concerned, the Convention
was not applicable as such. However, in the territory's present
circumstances, it was considered that China ought to be consulted.
Of course, the subject had been raised in the joint Portuguese/Chinese
Commission and it was hoped that an agreement would soon be reached
on extending the Convention to Macao. It was also hoped that the
Convention would be applicable before Macao had been integrated
84. Mrs. SARDENBERG, summarizing the Committee's
tentative conclusions said the impression had been gained that Portugal
was at a very important point in its history following the revolution,
integration with the European Union and the establishment of a new
85. Portugal was moving towards democracy and
modernization, which would have a great impact on children. It was
to be hoped that the situation would be reflected not only in the
implementation of the Convention, but also in an improvement in
the situation of children. She welcomed the many positive steps
and decisions that had been stressed during the discussion. In that
connection, she drew attention to the political will that Portugal
had demonstrated in implementing the Convention. She referred to
the 1 per cent increase in the educational budget for 1996, the
extension of the preschool network, the increase in the duration
of compulsory schooling, the decision to ratify the ILO Convention
No. 138 and other decisions relating to child labour. The minimum
wage programme would also have a major impact in many areas.
86. There was a need for the more dynamic implementation
of article 4 in relation to international cooperation, but she welcomed
the more active approach adopted in respect of cooperation with
87. She recognized that it was important to
provide information to refugee children about their rights in their
own language. Consideration should also be given to the possibility
of protecting the identity of children.
88. She hoped that the discussion had encouraged
Portugal to reaffirm its political commitment and give priority
to the social visibility that children in Portugal should have.
89. Mr. de SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) thanked
all members of the Committee for their patience and took note of
the fact that they considered the information provided to be useful,
frank and open. That reflected his country's attitude towards the
Committee and the fact that its delegation had come to the Committee
in order to establish a dialogue and exchange views.
90. During the discussion, many of the problems
his country faced had been seen in a new light. His country had
done a great deal, but it was aware of its shortcomings and of the
fact that it still had a great deal to do. The Committee's recommendations
would be studied and submitted to the Government. The Committee's
suggestion for a national discussion of the problems of children
was most welcome and it should be noted that a study was being prepared
on that subject. The study would certainly take account of the Committee's
91. He looked forward to receiving the Committee's
written concluding observations and recommendations and thanked
the members for their contribution and the attention they had given
his country's problems.
92. The CHAIRPERSON said that the members of
the Committee had learned a great deal about the problems Portugal
faced and the progress it had made in connection with the implementation
of the unique international Convention on the Rights of the Child.
They had appreciated the delegation's openness during the discussion
and the efforts Portugal was making to find new solutions.
The meeting rose at 6.10 p.m.