Court: Children can be denied clean water when parents can’t pay
Parents or guardians of a child cannot derive an unconditional right to access drinking water from the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The court in The Hague made this ruling in a case brought by Defense for Children and the Netherlands Jurists Committee for Human Rights.
The plaintiffs said that cutting off the water of parents with payment arrears violates the rights of minor children, but the court disagrees. Regulations already in place state that households with arrears can only be cut off after several reminders and notifications to debt counseling agencies. Emergency provision is also provided for a few days.
The primary responsibility for the well-being of children lies with their parents or guardians, the court said. "It is, therefore, primarily up to them to make an arrangement if they cannot pay the bill so that access to drinking water continues or is restored." The court stressed that things might be different in certain cases, but that was not the point of this case.
Marielle Balmann of Defense for Children is disappointed by the ruling. "It is precisely because of their vulnerability that children should receive extra protection. Governments should therefore always put the best interest of the child first when making and implementing legislation and policy." Vulnerable families also don't always know the way to a solution, the claimants fear.
Reporting by ANP.