Children must be treated with equality, respect, and dignity like everyone else. They must enjoy the same rights as any other human being. Children’s Human Rights are those things that every child (a person under 18) everywhere needs to;
· Enjoy family life, have a home, be loved, and valued
· Grow, be healthy, and have access to quality health care
· Learn and receive quality education and training
· Become capable, confident, and competent
· Have dignity, pride, self-respect and enjoy privacy
· Be informed and consulted on matters affecting children.
· Express own views and take part in making decisions
· Play, do sport, recreation, and interact with peers
· Practice own religion, culture, and traditions
· Feel safe, secured, and live in a safe environment
· Be protected from harm, neglect, abuse, exploitation exclusions, and discrimination
Remember, everyone everywhere in the world has the same rights. All human beings are equally entitled to human rights without discrimination. Human rights and children’s rights are all inter-related, inter-dependent and work together.
We all have rights and responsibilities to respect and protect our rights. It is important that children know and understand their rights and responsibilities.
There are many laws that promote and protect the rights of children. National and international laws are specifically developed to help governments, communities, adults, parents, and children to respected and implemented the rights of children. The law makes provisions to guarantee and protect specific rights for children, such as the right to nationality from birth, parental care, basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services, social services, protection from abuse, violence, and exploitation, and from detention, among others. The law set the standard for how children must be treated, taken care of, and protected, and the duties and responsibilities of the government, government departments and institutions, services providers, civil society, public, parents, and children.
In South Africa, we have many laws dedicated to the care, education, health, welfare and protection of children and their rights. But the most important law in the country is the supreme and historic Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996. It is the highest law in the land. No other law must conflict with the Constitution.
There are also many international laws and agreements that governments adopted as part of the United Nations, African Union or other inter-governmental agreements that promote and protect the rights of children. South Africa is obligated to implement and report on progress made on these child rights agreements and obligations.
Resources: The Constitution of South Africa; The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, The Child Friendly Version;
The Constitution of South Africa of 1996 is the highest law in South Africa. It is the most important law in the country. The Constitution sets out the
· principles and values for an open, free and democratic country
· national symbols and official languages
· structures, duties and powers of three spheres of government
· function of parliament and institutions supporting democracy, and the
· function of the courts and justice system
The Constitution is the foundation of how the country must be governed. It creates mechanisms and institutions to keep the government in check and establish rights and duties of citizens. The constitution affirms the values which the government and country must uphold;
· Human Dignity
· Justice for all.
The Constitution set the standard for which all other laws must follow. Since 1996, many laws were scrapped because they did not meet the standard and was unconstitutional (illegal). Many new laws were created to meet the Constitutional standards.
The most unique feature of the Constitution is Chapter Two – The Bill of Rights. It sets out the Human Rights of citizens, and specifically the rights of children in Section 28. It defines a child as a person under 18-years and declares that the best interests of children are of paramount importance in all matters affecting the child.
Chapter Two: The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa
A Bill of Rights is also called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights. It is a list of the most important rights of the citizens of a country. The purpose of a Bill of Rights is to promote and protect the human rights of citizens against violation from public institutions and officials, and private organisations and citizens.
The South African Bill of Rights is part of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. Chapter two of the Constitution is the Bill of Rights. This makes it part of the highest law in the land. This establishes the Bill of Rights in law.
This mean that the South African government, the different departments, ministers, officials, and employees of the state must respect, promote, and protect the rights set out in the Bill of Rights. Citizens also have a duty and responsibility to do so.
The Bill or Rights also apply to all laws and policies. If the law does not promote and protect the rights set out in the Bill of Rights, it must be scrapped, changed, and improved. This way the different laws will give effect to the rights set out in the Bill of Rights.
Limitation of Rights
The rights in the Bill of Rights can be limited. A court or law could change, restricted or even taken away someone’s rights. This can only be done when;
· the law which limits a right applies to everyone
· there is good reason to limit the right
· limiting the right makes sense, like in a state of emergency or natural disaster or pandemic
All the provisions in the Bill of Rights also apply to children. However, Section 28 gives special protection for the care, rights and protection of all children in South Africa. It declares that;
(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
(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, 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 child's age;
(h) to have a legal representation and
(i) not to be used in armed conflict and 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.
Children experienced many hardships and suffered discrimination under the Apartheid Government.
The Bill of Rights, Section 28 make sure that children and their rights are protected in the new democratic South Africa.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996 is the main legislation that provides for the needs, interests and rights of the child is. As the supreme law, the Constitution set the standards for all other laws in the country that concerns children.
The Children’s Act, 2005 as Amended, is the second most important law concerning children. It gives effect to the rights of children as stated in the Constitution and International legislation and protocols. It sets the standards for the care and protection of children, parental rights and responsibilities, deals with alternative care, foster care, adoption, the children’s courts, and set new offences regarding children.
Other key legislation that is part of the national legal framework than concerns children includes;
· Schools Act, 1996 – dealing with the education of learners, the organisation, governance and funding of schools
· The Immigration Act, 2002 – dealing with admission of persons and children to, their residence in, South Africa
· The Refugee Act As Amended, 2017– dealing with asylum seekers and refugees
· The Common law Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act – also dealing with sexual offences against children
· The Film and Publications Amendment Act, 2009 – also dealing with harmful content, child pornography and online
child sexual exploitation
· The Preventing and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act – also dealing with trafficking in children
· The Basic Conditions of Employment Act – Section…. Also dealing with Child Labour issues
The Child Justice Act – dealing with children in trouble with the law
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