Panama

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Persistent violations
  • Child labour[1]
  • Low and discriminatory minimum ages for marriage[2]
  • Trafficking of children[3]
  • High rates of infant and maternal mortality[4]
  • High rate of drop outs from education[5]
  • Insufficient sexual and reproductive health education[6]
  • Corporal punishment[7]
  • Lack of information and services for children with HIV and AIDS, particularly girls[8]
  • Discrimination agaisnt indigenous children[9]
  • Low age of criminal responsibility[10]
  • Use of, and conditions in, pre-trial detention for children[11]
  • Difficulties in access to birth registration for certain groups of children[12]

For more details, go here

Footnotes
  1. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, Universal Periodic Review
  2. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review
  3. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
  4. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
  5. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
  6. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
  7. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review
  8. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
  9. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Universal Periodic Review
  10. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  11. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, Universal Periodic Review
  12. UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, UN Human Rights Committee, Universal Periodic Review



Introduction

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Situated on the juncture between North and South America and between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Panama has huge strategic importance. A presidential democratic republic, it has overcome a history of invasions and military dictatorships and is now the fastest growing economy in Central America. Nevertheless, children's rights are violated - in particular, the age of criminal responsibility is low and discrimination against the indigenous population and afro-descendants is widespread.

Geography

Panama lies at the junction of the North and South American continents and the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It is consequently a country of huge strategic importance.

Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin. It is home to a huge variety of tropical plants, animals and birds.

The capital is Panama city.

Population and language

The population is about 3.5 million. The ethnic composition of Panama is varied and comprises approximately 70 per cent Mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 14 per cent Amerindian and mixed (West Indian), ten per cent white and six per cent Amerindian. The main languages are English and Spanish.

Politics and economy

Panama is a constitutional democracy. Conservative supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli won a landslide victory at the April 2009 presidential election. Panama’s strategic importance means is has been a target for intervention by the US, which in 1989 invaded Panama to depose a former ally, Manuel Noriega. It controlled the Canal until 1999.

Major exports include bananas, fish, shrimp, and petroleum products. There is a growing tourism industry. Panama’s major trading partner is the United States.

Elite families of European descent control most of Panama's wealth and power. About 40 per cent of the population live below the poverty line.

Legal system

The legal system is based on a civil law system

Media and civil society

Panama's media are free to present news and comment. According to Reporters Without Borders: "Panama stands out as an exception in Central America, which is notoriously dangerous. Cases of assaults against journalists are extremely rare."

Many international NGOs have moved their regional offices to Panama. When the US handed over control of the Panama Canal and the surrounding Canal Zone in 1999, the government encouraged international organisations to set up offices there by exonerating them from paying national taxes for 20 years and giving them buildings in the area free of charge to renovate.

Human rights and children's rights

There are concerns about violence against women and discrimination against Indigenous Peoples and Afro-Panamanians. Four people have recently died in clashes between protesters and police. Panama also recently lowered its minimum age of criminal responsibility from 14-12 to the consternation of children's rights organisations.

Panama ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on 12 December 1990, the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict on 8 August 2001, and the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography on 9 February 2001.

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