Children are the most vulnerable population group in the world and rely on the protection of their parents.
Parents have the responsibility to uphold the rights of the child, ensuring that their child (ren) are raised in an environment that is safe, free from harm, and conducive to their physical, emotional, and cognitive development.
The word parent is used interchangeably with the term guardian and caregiver.
Every citizen in South Africa is entitled to human rights enshrined in our Constitution. Children are entitled to the same general human rights as adults. However, children’s vulnerability and their right to be protected from harm have afforded them a chapter in the South African Bill of Rights.
Children’s rights are entrenched in Section 28 of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of South Africa. The Constitution clearly states that children’s rights must be promoted, protected and respected, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, language, abilities, or any other status. This means that no child can be discriminated against or treated differently based on these factors.
Section 28 of the South African Constitution’s Bill of Rights stipulates that every child in South Africa has the right to:
- A name and a nationality from birth.
- Family care or parental care, or appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment.
- Basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services, and social services.
- Be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse, or degradation.
- Be protected from exploitative labour practices.
- Not be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age or risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health, or spiritual, moral, or social development.
- Not 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 kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18 years.
- Be treated in a manner, and kept in conditions, that take account of the child’s age and 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.
- Not be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times of armed conflict.
As with Section 28 in the Bill of Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that children are entitled to special care and assistance. The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed into South Africa law on 16 June 1995. A user-friendly summary can be downloaded here: https://www.unicef.org.uk/rights-respecting-schools/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2017/01/Summary-of-the-UNCRC.pdf
The United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child is underpinned by three main pillars: the protection of children from ill-treatment, promoting the freedom of a child (ren) and promoting an environment that is conducive to the holistic development of the child (ren).
Protection from ill-treatment is inclusive but not limited to protection from exploitation, abuse, violence, neglect, and any treatment that is deemed inhuman (spanking/hitting your child as punishment has been ruled illegal by the High Court in September 2019).
The freedoms that children are entitled to is inclusive but not limited to freedom of speech, freedom of thought, belief and religion, freedom to access information, and freedom of association (right to meet with other children and to join groups and organisations).
The right to an adequate standard of living, that meets their physical and social needs and supports their development. Inclusive and not limited to an environment that is conducive to the child’s emotional and physical health and encourages the child’s development. Inclusive but not limited to the child’s right to medical care and basic health care services, financial support, education, safety, shelter, and food.
The Children’s Act No. 38 of 2005 is a legal document that gives effect to the rights of children as contained in the Constitution. It highlights parental responsibilities in relation to the protection of the human rights of the child. The rights of a child stipulated in the Children’s Act No.38 of 2005 supplement the rights stipulated in the Bill of Rights. This Act also specifically states that “All matters that concerns and affects a child, this must be done in the best interests of the child”.
Every child has a voice and the right to freedom of expression. We encourage hosting family group conferences at home, to create an environment that fosters authentic self-expression in a safe space. See our blog post here as a guideline: https://bit.ly/3cEqJyS
You can download a full PDF copy of the South African Children’s Act here: https://www.gov.za/documents/childrens-act A child-friendly adaptation of the Children’s Act can be found here: https://www.unicef.org/southafrica/media/1276/file/ZAF-childrens-act-explained-booklet-1-2009.pdf.
Disrespecting children’s rights is against the law. Children cannot be denied their human rights simply because they are a child. In the eye of the law, children have equal access to the same human rights as an adult and must be treated accordingly. It is the responsibility of all adults to report any violation of a child’s human rights. A Form 22 is a legal document for reporting any harm and/or violation/abuse of a child’s right and can be completed by an adult who has reasonable concern for a child’s safety and well-being. A form 22 can be downloaded here: http://www.hsrc.ac.za/uploads/pageContent/3296/Handout%20O.pdf
As parents and citizens, it is our responsibility to respect and protect the rights of all children. To create a world where children are able to explore the freedoms that they have every right to.
The Connect Group can assist.
We provide Therapeutic intervention and assessments of children. Play and art therapy are used as intervention tools, promoting freedom of self-expression. Children’s voices have the right to be heard verbally and nonverbally. If you would like to contact us regarding the above-mentioned services please follow this link: https://theconnectgroup.co.za/contact/