SayPro Identifying and procedurally reporting violations of child rights

SayPro Identifying and procedurally reporting violations of child rights

The South African government has identified children, particularly those in rural areas, as a vulnerable group needing attention as they continue to suffer various violations of their rights in both the private and public spheres. Concerns regarding violations of children’s rights include physical and sexual abuse, neglect, malnutrition, denial of access to schools for failing to pay school fees, lack of transportation to and from school, lack of sanitary facilities, bad or dilapidated school buildings, and inadequate feeding schemes. The South African Constitution guarantees the rights of the child, which include the right to a basic education; however the reality is that a number of children still encounter challenges in receiving these constitutional rights.

There are a number of ways in which the rights of children may be violated by inappropriate exposure and media stereotyping. Children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) include:

  • Article 12: the child’s right to express views freely in all matters affecting them
  • Article 13: the child’s right to freedom of expression, which is restricted by law when necessary for the protection “of national security, or of public order … or of public health or morals”
  • Article 16: protection against interference or attack on “privacy, family, home or correspondence … honour or reputation”
  • Article 17: recognition of the importance of the media, and encouragement of the dissemination of material “of social and cultural benefit to the child” and “‘the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being”

The Children’s Charter of South Africa alludes that Children have been and continue to be abused, tortured, mistreated, neglected and abandoned by the people of South Africa. Children are not treated with the respect and dignity that every human being deserves, but instead are subjected to:

  • violence
  • poverty
  • racism, and
  • the ignorance of adults.

Children continue to suffer from the inequalities of apartheid, especially in the area of education. Children do not receive proper health and medical care and attention, yet do not have the right to demand treatment. Children are arrested, tried without lawyers and held in prisons.

Children are beaten and abused by the police and by gangs and other adults. Children are the future leaders of tomorrow, but they are not given the right to participate in consultations or negotiations about their future. The government and other political parties have put children last, not first.

Section 28 in the Constitution of South Africa is devoted to children and outlines the rights that they are entitled to. This does not mean that other rights enshrined in our constitution do not apply to them-Section 28 is specifically for SA citizens under the age of 18. It reads as follows:

  1. Every child has the right:

a) to a name and a nationality from birth;

b) to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment;

c) to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;

d) to be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;

e) to be protected from exploitative labour practices;

f) not to be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that-

i. are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age; or

ii. place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development;

g) not to be detained except as a measure of last resort, in which case, in addition to the rights a child enjoys under sections 12 and 35, the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time, and has the right to be-

i. kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18 years; and

ii. treated in a manner, and kept in conditions, that take account of the child’s age;

h) to have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state, and at state expense, in civil proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise result; and

i. not to be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times of armed conflict.

2. A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

3. In this section “child” means a person under the age of 18 years.

With such an acknowledged background of child rights violations in South Africa, every child care giver must be able to identify the various forms of violations of child rights and be aware of the procedure for bringing such to the attention of authorities. Most child rights violations are perpetrated and kept secrets in South African homes, kindergartens, medical institutions and school establishments. For example, South Africa abolished corporal punishment in September 1997, this means no school/any other establishment should administer corporal punishment on children.

The South African government has done this to protect children’s rights, it therefore becomes the duty of educators to uphold this ban and to report any cases according to procedure. The most important part in ending child rights violations is having a clear procedure for reporting and dealing with such violations.

“…the greatest challenge is ensuring that the global treaties, national plans and policies can be translated into actions which can make a difference to the lives and well-being of our children – where they go to school, where they play and where they live. Only in this way we can truly claim a ‘first call for children’.” – Graca Machel, The National Programme of Action (NPA)

The following organisations are available for reporting violations of child rights in South Africa:

  • The South African Police Service (SAPS)
  • South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC)
  • Childline South Africa
  • Save the Child South Africa.

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