The UN’s children’s rights monitors got one thing all wrong, but a more important one right in their criticism of the Czech authorities at the recent meeting of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. In a non-binding resolution, the committee asked the Czech Republic to close down the so-called baby boxes. These are secure hatches, located at hospitals, where mothers can anonymously leave unwanted newborns, no questions asked. This supposedly contravenes the right of children under the UN convention. I don’t see how. The boxes provide a completely safe way for women to give up unwanted babies. Such facilities are used in several other European countries as well. Surely a baby left in a warm, secure container has better prospects than one left in a dumpster, or a public toilet? It used to be that local media ran many reports on newborns being found in such places, but it seems to that these reports have dwindled quite a lot since the baby boxes began to be installed a few years ago.

In any case, only about 50 babies have been left in the boxes since they went into operation. On the much more serious issue of the thousands of Czech children living in state institutions, the UN committee is to be congratulated for airing the shameful fact that this relatively prosperous country has far more children in state institutions than most in Europe. This country does a lot of things well for its children, providing them (the “white” ones anyway, not the Roma) adequate schooling, good medical care, and safe surroundings to live in. But it fails to do its duty for the “white,” “black” and other kids in orphanages.

Ky Krauthamer

Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at Transitions Online. Email:

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