Swaziland to be a child-friendly country

Summary: Deputy Prime Minister Themba Masuku is excited about the recently enacted Children’s Protection and Welfare Bill of 2010. He said it covered a number of pertinent issues that related to the being of children in the country. Masuku said the Bill, which was passed by the House of Assembly this week was very comprehensive.

 The DPM said it sought to operationalise Section 29 of the country’s Constitution.  

“This is a landmark Bill focusing on the welfare of children in this Kingdom. It further seeks to domesticate UN Conventions and those of the AU. We are excited by the passage of this legislation by both chambers of parliament and are hopeful that once His Majesty appends his signature and it becomes law it will change many things.

“This will change our country’s child friendliness standing index of African governments as a country. In 2008 the country was ranking number 48 in Africa. I am hopeful that once the law has been enacted it will improve and that will make the country a child friendly place,” said Masuku.

He said the Bill was now having a comprehensive chapter on who could adopt and who could not. Masuku said the ambiguity on the inter-country adoption was making it difficult for government to allow people to adopt children.

The DPM said a number of things were not in the best interest of the child and it was for that reason that government stopped inter-country adoptions.

Masuku said he was happy that the Bill has now given chiefs powers to preside over minor issues where children from different homesteads may have fought over something petty.

He said in the past some parents would go to the police whenever there was a dispute.

“My office found it very difficult to take children to a place of safety but with the Bill we will be able to intervene on behalf of that child. The regulation of this will put controls in place on how parents cannot be allowed to oppress their children because of their religious beliefs,” addedMasuku.      

Save the Children Communications Officer Senelile Khumalo said given that June is a children’s month, they, together with the entire civil society, would be extremely happy to see the Children’s Protection and Welfare Bill signed into an Act.

She said this Bill would bring together all policies and regulations on children’s protection and welfare. It designates the Magistrate’s Courts as Children’s Courts; this will enhance access to justice for children and speedy resolutions of cases involving minors. It also provides for the diversion of child offenders from the criminal justice system.

The Bill also repeals the minority status to children, as it allows them to appoint legal representatives in their own name, which is especially important in cases of maintenance.

The role of communities, especially community leaders, with regards to inheritance issues involving children has also been elucidated.

“By their very nature all children are vulnerable hence the responsibility of all duty bearers is to ensure that the rights of children are protected and their wellbeing is put into consideration. In 2002 members of the civil society through support of SCS and UNICEF initiated the process of conducting an audit of all laws and policies that address the needs of children. 

The results of that audit indicated that there was a gap in terms of a comprehensive legislation that aims at protecting children holistically. This influenced consultations with various stakeholders including, amongst others, government ministries and departments, parliamentarians, CSO, traditionalist, and most importantly children.

We acknowledge the financial support from UNICEF and Save the Children Sweden for contributing towards the facilitation of these consultations.

Save the Children also acknowledges the fact that government signed the UNCRC in 1989 and further ratified in 1995,” said Khumalo.

This implied that government was committed to the domestication of the UNCRC.  We applaud government for this giant step in taking the plight of children to the highest level.  She said the country would now be reclassified as child friendly because of the protective legislative environment it has provided to its children. 
She said Save the Children recognised the efforts of both chambers of parliament for working tirelessly to get the Bill passed, particularly to those who pledged to support the enactment of this particular Bill when they were sworn into parliament.

Magistrate’s Courts to handle Children’s issues

According to some sections of the Bill that was adopted with amendments by the House of Assembly on Monday this week, a Children’s Court will have to be found in all the country’s Magistrate’s courts.
The Act states that the child must be taken to a place of safety before the child can be taken to a Children’s Court.

All these should happen within 48 hours after the occurrence of the incident. It states that the distance the child will have to travel will be taken into consideration.

There will be instances where officers will not be able to bring the child before the Children’s Court in time and guardians of that child will have to urgently take the child to a local magistrate’s court. There will also be certain people that will be regarded as people fit to look after children before they can be taken to a children’s court.

The person that will be fit will have the responsibility of providing everything that the child might need so that the child does not find himself/herself marginalised or segregated.  

The Act states that if the incident happens at a traditional authority the chief of the area will need to be informed about the taking of the child to the place of safety. A police officer together with a social welfare officer will be notified of impending arrest.

Cases of parents using their religious beliefs to deny children medical attention is going to be a thing of the past once the act comes into force.

More information:

Owner: Lunga Masukupdf: http://www.observer.org.sz/index.php?news=39049


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