/ 27 May 2008

Skweyiya: Foreign children have right to be protected

Foreign children have the same right as their South African counterparts to be protected, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya said on Tuesday.

”Section One of the Children’s Act defines a child as a person under the age of 18 years. It does not add any additional requirements such as South African citizenship or that the child had to be born in South Africa,” he said at the launch of Child Protection Week.

He said this meant foreign children were offered the same protective measures in terms of this legislation while they were in South Africa.

He said it was sad that children were once again bearing the brunt of xenophobic violence, losing parents and loved ones, as well as their homes and being forced to flee for their lives.

”In implementing the Children’s Act it is vital that we reinforce the need to honour this legislation and ensure the protection of all children within our borders.”

He said the Child Protection Week under the theme ”Getting South Africa ready to implement the Children’s Act”, was an acknowledgement of the fact that for a long time ”we could not protect our children adequately” against abuse and violent acts.

”Therefore we are celebrating a new dawn this week, hoping that this legislation will be properly implemented and we will achieve its intent of protecting the rights of our children.”

He said the Children’s Act of 2005 and the Children’s Amendment Act of 2007 were ready for implementation.

”It has been ten long years since work initially began on the Children’s Bill. In the meantime the conditions facing the children of South Africa have deteriorated, sometimes with added complications … Finally, we are on the home stretch to realising the constitutional rights of our children.”

The Children’s Act seeks to stipulate principles relating to the care and protection of children, define parental responsibilities and rights, and to regulate matters concerning the protection and well-being of children.

To advance care and protection the Act provides for a two part child protection register.

Part A of the register will keep a record of all reports of abuse or deliberate neglect of a child, all convictions of all persons on charges involving the abuse or deliberate neglect of a child, and all findings of a children’s court that a child is in need of care.

Part B of the register will keep a record of persons who are unsuitable to work with children.

A variety of professional people such as teachers, medical practitioners, psychologists and others, must on reasonable grounds, report on a child who has been sexually abused, neglected or abused in a manner causing physical injury. – Sapa