Costly Delay: Nam lags behind in child protection

 

Windhoek – The snail’s pace towards the enactment of the Child Care and Protection Act is one major bottleneck delaying Namibia from fully implementing the United Nations recommendations on children rights.

The Child Protection Bill, which was first drafted in 1994, has been revised several times with intentions to replace the outdated Children's Act No. 33 of 1960.

For the past five years, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, with technical assistance from UNICEF and Legal Assistance Centre, has been working on the revision of the Child Care and Protection Bill, which is yet to be passed by parliament.

The Co-ordinator for Gender Research and Advocacy Project, Dianne Hubbard, says although government is making steps in the right direction regarding the safeguarding and protection of children, the country needs to ratify the Child, Care and Protection Bill to ensure that Namibian children are adequately protected.

She says the legislative framework in place does not provide sufficient protection or mechanisms. While the government is fully behind the passage of the new Bill, for various reasons the Bill has been delayed.

“We have this law that needs to be passed in parliament. That is another burning issue among the children and the youth, because it is a law that needs to be respected. We hope that the Bill will be presented to Parliament this year,” she says.

Once the Bill is passed, Namibia will be in line with Article 15 of the Constitution that articulates child rights.

“Law reform in this area is essential if children in Namibia are to receive the care and protection they deserve,” she says.

Without the new legislation, Namibia also lags behind in fully implementing the United Nations recommendations on children rights.

In 2013, UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, an expert body that reviews whether member states are complying with their obligations under the Convention and its Optional Protocols, expressed disappointment over the fact that a number of past recommendations were not successfully implemented.

In its observations on Namibia's Third Periodic Report, released last year, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) committee underlined that Namibia needs to implement recommendations relating to legislative reform, discrimination against girls and children with disabilities, child labour and administration of juvenile justice.

While welcoming the initiatives to review laws from the pre-independence, the CRC regreted Namibian failure to adopt and implement key national legislation concerning children, as required by the Convention.

In particular, the committee noted with concern that despite discussions that began over a decade ago, two notable laws on children's rights, the Child Care and Protection Bill and the Child Justice Bill, have not yet been adopted.

Hubbard says the Child Care and Protection Bill will address some of challenges facing children in the country such as child labour.

The new Act will provide for various forms of alternative care for children who have been abandoned or are not safe in their usual homes, she says, adding that such facilities may also be utilised as alternatives to police cells and prisons for young offenders.

However, according to Hubbard, the CPB will not address everything, therefore, more needs to be done in a number of areas.

“For example, the government is also working on a juvenile justice Bill but again progress is slow and without it, the management of children in conflict with the law leaves much to be desired. In terms of children with disabilities, the policy framework is in place but more resources need to be provided to ensure that children with disabilities are not discriminated against,” she said.

Regarding the safeguarding and child protection in the country, Joyce Nakuta, the Deputy Director for Child Care Services in the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, notes that the phenomena of missing children, baby dumping, child abuse and neglect are of great concern to the government.  

Despite the absence of the new law, Nakuta emphasises that the ministry has in place systems and structures in place to address challenges facing children in Namibia. 

The ministry has personnel known as Community Child Care Workers, who are doing prevention work through radio talks, community meetings, outreaches to schools to provide information on how to prevent the mentioned social phenomena and to educate the communicate on early intervention.

She says the MGECW has the National Agenda for Children as a programme that brings together different line ministries, organisations, and interested individuals to improve on the coordination of services delivered for the protection of children known as National Permanent Task Force on Children.

June 2014
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