UNICEF and FI-Benin Collaborate to Stop the Practice of Ritual Infanticide
As Benin comes up for its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in October 2012, Franciscans International (FI) facilitated a meeting between Franciscans at the grassroots and UNICEF to follow-up on the UN’s recommendations related to the issue of ritual infanticide in Northern Benin.
Three members of the Franciscan Family met with UNICEF-Benin in Contonou on 27 October 2011. They discussed their respective advocacy activities and ways they could collaborate to stop the practice of infanticide of so-called ‘witch children’.
UNICEF reported that a group of judges was working on the Children's Code in Grand Popo which would provide the opportunity for FI to raise the issue of ritual infanticide. “This is a positive step forward as FI’s advocacy work is focused on the public acknowledgment of infanticide based on witchcraft and to address it in the legal framework, by recognising it as a separate crime from murder,” says Francesca Restifo, FI International Advocacy Director.
UNICEF agreed to introduce the Franciscan Family to the network of NGOs in Benin working on the issue and to provide timely information on the Children's Code. They will also encourage general interaction with Franciscans regarding their national campaign and forthcoming forum in 2012 on the issue of witch children.
Further to the meeting, the French Embassy also contacted FI for information on its work on the issue of infanticide which they also wish to address during the UPR review of Benin next year.
FI and Franciscans first raised concerns about this human rights violation at the UN in 2008 during the country’s first review under the UPR and the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. FI continued to deliver follow-up statements to the UN Human Rights Council asking the Government to reinforce measures to prevent and eliminate ritual infanticide which results in the death of innocent children. In December 2010, FI organised an in-country workshop providing a forum for key stakeholders, including representatives from the Government of Benin, the European Union, journalists, health practitioners, and other NGOs, to dialogue and strategise future action. FI and Franciscans will submit a UPR Report on the current situation for the UN Human Rights Council to consider during the country’s review.