Together member: Scottish Youth Parliament
Children and young people have a right to be free from all forms of violence, including mental and psychological violence.
“The verdict is clear – mosquito devices are not compatible with human rights. Please listen to the views of young people which have been gathered and note the research on their prevalence. Please revise the plan to ban these devices in a binding, not guiding, way.”
Lewis O’Neill MSYP (Scottish Youth Parliament Rights Review, April 2018)
“Mosquito devices send a message to young people that they aren’t welcome in their own communities. This abuse of our human rights from childhood to early adulthood doesn’t make shops and public spaces safer, it’s divisive and makes young people feel alienated.”
(Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament)
“I had to take my seven-year-old daughter to hospital because she was screaming in pain because the alarm makes such a high-pitched noise. We’re not allowed to step outside our front door because as soon as we do, she puts it on. It’s an absolute nightmare. It’s driving us absolutely mad. My children can’t come out of the house and play; it’s like living in a prison.”
Mosquito devices are electronic ‘anti-loitering devices’ that emit a high-pitched buzzing sound at frequencies that only children and young people can hear. They are designed to be uncomfortable and unpleasant and drive children and young people away.
When asked their views, two in five young people report health effects or discomfort from encountering mosquito devices. 68% of these young people reported suffering headaches and migraines, whilst 48% said they endured earache and tinnitus. Other effects included experiencing nausea, anxiety and panic attacks. These effects can be felt even more strongly by certain groups of children and young people, such as those with autism, babies and very young children. For many autistic children and young people mosquito devices can further increase social isolation by making them feel unable to access public spaces.
“As a teenager I was always going to hear it, but as I had autism it was heightened. It was a high-pitched whizzing, whirring. I’ve heard of cases involving some people with autism who can’t go anywhere near a store because it actually makes them sick.”
(Paul, an autistic young person)
International organisations, such as the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Council of Europe, have criticised the devices as cruel, degrading and discriminatory, and have repeatedly called for the devices to be banned. To date this has not happened in Scotland.
Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) are campaigning for the devices to be banned on the basis that they violate a range of rights under the UNCRC and other human rights laws. MSYPs highlight potential infringements of the right to be free from discrimination (Article 2), to be protected from violence (Article 19), the right to freedom of assembly (Article 15), the right to play (Article 31), and the right to be protected from cruel and degrading treatment (Article 37). MSYPs have been involved in submitting FOI requests, lobbying local authorities and launched a public petition in late 2018.
SYP’s campaigning has led to a series of successes: devices have been removed from Fife Council properties and the Council is also considering a total ban; Perth and Kinross Council has committed to removing all devices; and ScotRail has banned their use in all train stations across their network. In the progress report following the 2018 Cabinet Meeting with children and young people, Scottish Government reiterated its opposition to the use of mosquito devices but has said that under the current devolution settlement it does not have the powers needed to restrict the sale, supply or use of mosquito devices. Whilst incorporation of the UNCRC into Scots law would not give the Scottish Government these powers, it could contribute to a positive culture change around attitudes towards children and young people, encouraging local authorities, businesses and individuals to follow a voluntary ban. The Scottish Youth Parliament have also called for a ban on the use, rather than the sale, of mosquito devices through devolved powers for justice and health.