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Transforming Society

Securing Rights

Restoring Dignity

South Africa is failing to act in the best interests of its children

Attention: Editors and Reporters

Friday, 2 June 2017

The South African Human Rights Commission (the Commission) recognises National Child Protection Week which is marked annually to raise awareness about the rights of children. Child Protection Week is a precursor Youth Month, celebrated and recognised in South Africa.  The Constitution enjoins us all to act in the best interests of the child.  
Child Protection Week is given great attention by the Commission as it marks a time dedicated to children. For us in South African it gives the opportunity to reflect on the rights of children. At this time in our country this is a much needed time to reflect more deeply. While the Commission marks the rights of children as a dedicated and ongoing focus of its work, it will implement special measures nationally to advocate for the protection and promotion of the rights of children.

While children enjoy all the rights provided in the Bill of Rights, Section 28 of the Constitution creates special protections for every child to a name and a nationality from birth; to family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment; to basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;” to mention but a few. These rights appear to be violated with ease in our society.

It is a concern for the Commission, that within the extensive human rights framework in our Constitution, children remain amongst South Africa’s most vulnerable persons. Media reports of the brutal murder of children, child trafficking, prostitution, and other violence meted out to children, are a reflection of our standards as a society.  A 2016 report entitled; Sexual Abuse of Children and Adolescents in South Africa - Forms, Extent and Circumstances, published by the  UBS Optimus Foundation, records the reality of the South African child to be one where one in three South African children would have experienced some form of sexual abuse. Placed in context, this means that of the 18.6 million children under the age of 18, 784,967 (between the ages of 15 –17) have experienced some form of sexual abuse.”
Despite the many progressive measures implemented by the State to uphold the rights of children, many continue to be abused in private spaces, and many more remain vulnerable to the legacy of poverty and inequality. Our policies and practise have also been at odds when it comes to the protection of children with disabilities and undocumented minors, with many struggling to be accorded basic rights to food and education. National programmes to combat malnutrition in South Africa are a further example of how we fall short. Statistics indicate that 27% of children under the age of five are stunted, 12% are underweight, and 5% are wasted, 55% of those aged 15 and above are overweight obese and 15% of infants are born with a low birth weight according to a World Bank Report titled, Nutrition at a Glance.

The Commission recognises the vulnerability of children to their environment, other social conditions such as crime, poverty, ill health and poor education. In response the Commission has created special complaints procedures and spaces within all of its offices country wide to be better able to serve children. The Commissions commitment to promoting, protecting and monitoring Children’s Rights, has resulted in the child friendly spaces and complaints processes to make the Commission more accessible to children who wish to reach it for help. These efforts are intended to support children as direct complainants to the Commission and form a part of the range of interventions by the Commission to advance the rights of children.

During November this year, the Commission will take its campaign on children’s rights further, through schools and materials meant to assist children as rights holders.

Issued by the South African Human Rights Commission.

Gushwell Brooks – Communications Co-ordinator Tel: 082 645 8573 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The South African Human Rights Commission.

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About us

The Human Rights Commission is the national institution established to support constitutional democracy. It is committed to promote respect for, observance of and protection of human rights for everyone without fear or favour.

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