In the Dominican Republic, more than 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. Inequalities are evident everywhere and the majority of the population falls into one of two extremes: families are either very rich or very poor. Many children suffer the consequences of living in poverty, mainly in terms of health, education, and work some children are particularly affected and, as a result, are marginalized from society, among them are the children from single mothers, children of immigrants, as well as children living in rural areas.
In general, poverty is defined as “a state of existence in which a person does not cover the basic needs to live”. A poor person “lacks what he needs”, and a poor minor is “a boy or girl who lacks what is necessary to survive”.From an economic perspective, poverty can be defined in two ways:
- Absolute poverty: Income is insufficient to support the physical needs of an individual.
- Relative poverty: An individual’s income is lower than that of other members of the community.
It is important to highlight that the economic definition of poverty is invariably linked to monetary wealth. However, it cannot be defined simply in material terms, we must also take into account the “ability of a person to use the resources that he has.”
Beyond the economic dimension, poverty affects other fundamental rights. The dignity and self-esteem of a person are also affected and poverty prevents the exercise of individual freedoms; it is a threat to the security of one’s existence (lack of income and access to housing, health care and justice) and undermines general personal development (intellectual, cultural, family and social). As for children, the definition of poverty should not be limited to a consideration of insufficient financial resources. In fact, children suffering from poverty are also deprived of their fundamental rights and future prospects. Poverty prevents a child from surviving and hinders all aspects of their development, either physical, mental, emotional, cultural, social, familial or spiritual. The impact of poverty is so great that it could be considered, without any doubt, as the main cause of the violation of children’s rights.
Most of poor children are born already in an environment of poverty. “Poverty brings about more poverty and creates a vicious circle”. A child lives in poverty because his family and country suffers from it. Historically, all nations have had to face problems of misery and poverty at some point. Today, extreme poverty affects more than one billion human beings around the world. Poverty is on the decline, but efforts to combat it are still insufficient, however, it is not an unrealistic dream. There are solutions, what is missing is the real political will on one part of the world.
The consequences of child poverty are devastating. Currently, poverty causes the death a child every three seconds. Poverty deprives children from the fundamental right to life. In addition, it deprives them of having the opportunity to have an education and prevents them from having access to health care, clean water, food, shelter, security and protection, information, etc. In this way, poverty is a real threat to childhood and systematically violates the Rights of the Child as defined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Right to Health care
Efforts have recently been made to improve both the quality of care centers and access to them. Infant mortality has been reduced considerably, in addition there has been an improvement in health care and hospital resources. However, not all Dominican children have benefited from these improvements.
For example, due to cost and insufficient coverage, children from poor families still have limited access to health facilities, and the services these facilities provide. AIDS is also prevalent throughout the country. Although much progress has been made in preventing HIV transmission, the persistence of the virus remains a concern. Many children discover that they are orphans, and their chances are extremely bleak.
Right to an Education
More than 40% of Dominican children are illiterate. Children living in rural areas, like immigrant children, do not have easy access to schools. Furthermore, the quality of education itself is not as good as it should be: teachers are poorly trained, school programs are not suitable for students' needs, and many educational facilities need to be repaired. Its also alarming the fact that in the Dominican Republic, only 60% of children complete their primary education.
Also, many families are in favor of children leaving school to work full time and thus improve the household economy.
Numerous acts of discrimination can be seen in the Dominican Republic not only among certain segments of the civilian population, but also at the official level.
Haitian children are some of the main victims of this type of discrimination. Most of them live in Dominican territory due to the current situation in their country. However, the Dominican Republic does not allow them to have an equal position as their own citizens, especially when it comes to public services. For this reason, they have very restricted access to education and medical care. However, a great progress has been made in this regard. Discrimination against girls is still latent throughout the country, with discriminatory customs persisting.
Mistreatment and abuse
The Dominican Republic has made great efforts to effectively deal against child abuse, in accordance with current legislation. However, many children experience abuse, either caused by their families or at school. Recently, some research have been made, revealing the many cases of abuse that occur in homeless shelters.
Child labor, an aberration worldwide recognized that continues to be a reality in our societies. Many children throughout the world still carry out economic activities that seriously compromise their development and can put their lives at risk. The International Convention on the Rights of the Child in its article 1 includes under the definition of a child "every human being below the age of eighteen years, unless, under the law that is applicable to him, he has attained the age of majority earlier.
In the Dominican Republic, one every ten children is forced to work. The country has prioritized this problem and has modified its legislation, as part of the effort to eradicate it, but child labor in the Dominican Republic remains like a real problem.
Many children are exploited in agricultural fields. Other children have become victims of an even worse form of trade. For example, the expansion of tourism has led to children being exploited by sex traffickers who force their victims to prostitute themselves or to be subjects of numerous and abominable sexual practices.
In the Dominican Republic, 40% of young women are forced to marry before the age of 18. They are prepared very early for their future role as wives. However, these marriages often have serious consequences for the health of young women who do not yet understand what marriage entails.
Right to Identity
The children's right to identity:
From the moment of birth, every person has the right to obtain an identity. Identity includes first name, last name, date of birth, gender and nationality. It is proof of the existence of a person as part of a society, as an individual who is part of a whole. This is what characterizes them and differentiates themselves from the others.
All children have the right to have an official identity, this means to have a name, a surname, a nationality and to know the identity of their parents. In the Dominican Republic, more than a quarter of births are not officially declared to public authorities. The government has tried to improve this situation, but its efforts remain insufficient. Consequently, there are children who have neither official identity nor nationality.
This causes great difficulties for those people who, because they are considered invisible in the eyes of society thus they cannot enjoy their rights.