Last edited: December 2005
Summary and Analysis
After ratifying the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC] in October of 1990, Nicaragua amended its Constitution to reaffirm its commitment to children's rights and to give the Convention constitutional authority. In 1998, Nicaraguan legislature approved the Code on Children and Adolescents, which incorporated all of the principles of the CRC and initiated the creation of a more comprehensive child protection system. Currently, the protection system is supervised by the National Council of Comprehensive Care and Protection of Children and Adolescents, an inter-Ministerial agency which coordinates the State authorities and other organizations that work with children and is responsible for both formulating and implementing policy. The Ministry of the Family also runs several programs related to different aspects of child protection, and the Department for the Comprehensive Care of Women and Children and special police units were established to work in prevention and response to child maltreatment and neglect. In 1999, Nicaragua established the Office of the Procurator for the Defense of Human Rights, which included the Special Procurator for the Defense of the Human Rights of Children and Adolescents, with the responsibilities of an ombudsman for children. Child protective proceedings take place in district courts.
According to Representative Orlando Mayorga Sánchez in the National Assembly of Nicaragua, previous to the CRC the fundamental model in child-related policy in Latin America was that of “la Concepción Tutelar de los Derechos del Menor” (the Custodian Concept of the Rights of the Minor), which regarded the child as a silent and passive subject of judicial or administrative proceedings. The CRC inspired a shift in philosophy to regarding the child as a human being with rights and opinions. Representative of this philosophical change was the replacement of the term “minor,” with its connotation of inferiority, with “child” or “adolescent” in many governments throughout Latin America, including Nicaragua.
Article 17 of Nicaragua's Code on Children and Adolescents is clearly modeled on Article 12 of the CRC, which provides children with the right to express their views in proceedings with affect them. Nicaragua's version goes on to state that if this right is not allowed, the proceeding in question is null and void. Like the CRC, the Code on Children and Adolescents offers three ways in which children may express their views: directly, through a representative, or through an appropriate organization. However, Nicaragua's legislation does not specify the means through which a child would find representation or what would constitute an appropriate organization. Though neither the law nor Nicaragua's reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child clarify the issue, no relevant agencies or representation programs seem to exist, so it is likely that in practice, children communicate their views directly.
Nicaragua faces several impediments to the full implementation of the CRC and the Code on Children and Adolescents. It is one of the poorest countries in Latin America, with 45.8% of the population living in poverty and with over 30% of the children who live in poverty suffering from malnutrition. It is vulnerable to natural disasters such as hurricanes and earthquakes. The country is also still suffering from the effects of the 1980s civil war.
Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)
Convención sobre los derechos del niño, ratificada el 5 de octubre de 1990
1. Los Estados Partes garantizarán al niño que esté en condiciones de formarse un juicio propio el derecho de expresar su opinión libremente en todos los asuntos que afectan al niño, teniéndose debidamente en cuenta las opiniones del niño, en función de la edad y madurez del niño.
2. Con tal fin, se dará en particular al niño oportunidad de ser escuchado, en todo procedimiento judicial o administrativo que afecte al niño, ya sea directamente o por medio de un representante o de un órgano apropiado, en consonancia con las normas de procedimiento de la ley nacional.
Constitución Política de Nicaragua y sus Reformas
Arto. 71 Es derecho de los nicaragüenses constituir una familia. Se garantiza el patrimonio familiar, que es inembargable y exento de toda carga pública. La ley regulará y protegerá estos derechos.
La niñez goza de protección especial y de todos los derechos que su condición requiere, por lo cual tiene plena vigencia la Convención Internacional de los Derechos del Niño y la Niña.
Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia
Arto. 17 Las niñas, niños y adolescentes tienen derecho a ser escuchados en todo procedimiento judicial o administrativo, que afecte sus derechos, libertades y garantias, ya sea personalmente, por medio de un representante legal o de la autoridad competente, en consonancia con las normas de procedimiento correspondientes según sea el caso y en función de la edad y madurez. La inobservancia del presente derecho causará nulidad absoluta de todo lo actuado en ambos procedimientos.
Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified Oct. 5, 1990
1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.
Political Constitution of Nicaragua and its Reforms
Art. 71 It is the right of the Nicaraguans to constitute a family. Family inheritance is guaranteed and is unrestricted and exempt from all public charge. The law will regulate and protect these rights.
The childhood has the pleasure of special protection and of all the rights that their condition requires, which the International Convention on the Rights of the Child plainly enforces.
Code on Children and Adolescents
Art. 17 The children and adolescents have the right to be heard in all judicial or administrative proceedings that affect their rights, freedoms, and guarantees, whether personally, through the medium of a legal representative or of the competent authority, in accordance with the standards of the corresponding proceeding, according to the case, and as a function of age and maturity. The inobservance of the present right will cause the absolute nullity of all of that which was enacted in both proceedings.
Additional Resources and Links
Federación Coordinadora Nicaragüense de ONGs que trabajan con la Niñez y la Adolescencia [CODENI]— Coordinated Nicaraguan
Federation of NGOs that work with Children and Adolescents (In Spanish): http://www.codeni.org.ni/
Consejo Nacional de Attención y Protección Integral a la Niñez y la Adolescencia [CONAPINA]— National Council of Comprehensive
Care and Protection of Children and Adolescents (In Spanish): http://www.conapina.gob.ni/
Ministerio de la Familia— Ministry of the Family (In Spanish): http://www.mifamilia.gob.ni/
 Diputado Orlando Mayorga Sánchez, Exposición de Motivos, Dictamen Ley de Reformas a le Ley 287, Código de la Niñez y la Adolescencia (Dictamen Desfavorable), at 6 available at http://www.asamblea.gob.ni/ (March 5, 2003).
 The translations in this document are not official translations.
 G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989).
 Nicar. Const., art. 71.
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