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Courts - Africa - Children's law inadequate

Current children’s laws not adequate

BuaNews (Pretoria)
August 4, 2004
Posted to the web August 4, 2004
Nombini Matomela
Cape Town

The current legislation on children needs to be altered to protect them from social ills.
These include maltreatment, abuse, neglect, degradation, discrimination, exploitation and any other physical and moral harm or hazards.
This according to Dr Maria Mabetoa who is a Chief Director responsible for children's rights in the Department of Social Development.
Dr Mabetoa today briefed the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Social Development on the department's proposed changes to the Children's Bill.
She said the old legislation no longer protected children adequately.
"The 1983 Childcare Act does not really talk to issues that are in the constitution and in the UN [United Nations] Convention on the rights of the child," she said.
Dr Mabetoa said the proposed Children's Bill would make provision for the structure, services and means for promoting and monitoring the sound physical, intellectual, emotional and social development of children.
The draft law would also seek to strengthen and develop community structures, which could assist in providing care and protection for children.
Dr Mabetoa added that the significant amendments included the inclusion of rights and responsibilities of children, which were not covered in the current Act.
The changes also included specific provision for the participation of children in matters affecting them especially in courts and decisions affecting them.
"The bill proposes to lower the age of maturity and provides for parental responsibilities and rights agreements.
"The age of maturity was very confusing because it differed from one situation to another but in the bill it has been lowered to 18 years but in the Children's Act it varies from 18 to 21 years," Dr Mabetoa said.
The bill also proposes that Partial Care facilities be registered so that the department could properly monitor such.
Partial Care is provided when a person, with or without reward, takes care of more than six children on behalf of their parents or care-givers.
An extension of the rights of unmarried fathers and provision for High Court procedure to allow persons other than parents to gain rights with regard to children, are also provided for.
"It also includes the need to formally recognise and provide for child-headed households and the protection of children," she added.

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development is expected to brief the committee on the functioning, powers and jurisdiction of children's courts, tomorrow.
Meanwhile, public hearings on the bill are scheduled to take place next week.

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