19 September 2018


South Africa reminded to protect its children

by: Nthusang Lefafa   date: 01 June 2018

Child Protection Week is an annual reminder for all South Africans
that our children need to be well taken care of and protected.
This year, it runs from 27 May to 3 June, under the theme: “Let us protect all children
to move South Africa forward.”
The Bill of Rights in the Constitution specifically states that every child has
the right to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation. South Africa has also drafted legislation
to protect children based on the United
Nations (UN) Convention of the Rights of the Child, and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
In 2016, SaferSpaces (an interactive platform run by and for community safety and violence prevention practitioners
in South Africa), published the first-ever nationally representative study of child
maltreatment in South Africa. It highlighted that over 40% of young people have
experienced some form sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect
at some point in their lives. This study reported on interviews that
were conducted with 15 to 17 year olds about their lifetime experiences of violence
and abuse across South Africa. Although the figure is high, it is not unusual
as similar studies on violence against children have been conducted across
12 other countries, with many revealing
equally high rates. South Africa has made great strides in
terms of legislature to protect the rights
of children. The Child Justice Act (Act No.
75 of 2008) establishes a separate criminal justice system for children who have
broken the law. The Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment Act (Act No.
32 of 2007), includes a wide range of
crimes that commonly occur against children. The Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act (Act 7 of 2013)
deals with the global phenomena of child trafficking.
Despite these and other protections, many children still remain vulnerable to
abuse, neglect and exploitation.
Speaking at the launch of this year’s Child Protection Week in Tshwane, Deputy
Minister of Social Development, Hendrietta
Bogopane-Zulu, said since the drafting of the Children’s Act in 2005, social ills such as alcohol and drug abuse
still continue to plague the African continent’s
southernmost country.
“We can’t talk about child protection until we sort out the issue of alcohol abuse.
At the heart of alcohol abuse is also the abuse of children. Sometimes the school
is safer than the home so until we actively
deal with the issue of alcohol abuse, we will never be able to deal with the realities
of protecting children because those who are supposed to protect them are always drunk.”
Bogopane added that most forms of abuse are related. “You cannot deal with
violence against women unless you deal with violence against children. So whatever
you want to do in terms of violence
against children, you have to do in terms of violence against women.”
She said that government wants to ensure that prison is not the ultimate end
for perpetrators but that support programmes be established to rehabilitate
perpetrators to “get us to a different South Africa”.
In 2015, the UN General Assembly committed to the Sustainable Development
Goals, which include ending abuse,
exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against children, and setting a
number of goals that also target the risk factors for maltreatment.
Earlier this month, the parents of Poppie van der Merwe (3), Louisa Koekermoer
(mother) and Kobus Koekemoer (stepfather) were sentenced to life imprisonment
for her murder and another 10 years for abuse. The minor died after suffering a
fatal blow to the head while her parents were giving her a hiding. This sentence
was considered a victory in the fight against abuse by social justice groups.