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Chil­dren

 
Children

The LRC believes that chil­dren are the foun­da­tion on which a new South Africa must build itself. Although a num­ber of impor­tant Con­sti­tu­tional Court cases have resulted in an evolv­ing jurispru­dence that impact on the real­i­sa­tion of children’s socio-economic rights, numer­ous key chal­lenges remain. Some, such as the fail­ure to imple­ment leg­is­la­tion and ful­fil gov­ern­ment com­mit­ments suc­cess­fully, reflect a gen­eral strug­gle within Gov­ern­ment to give prac­ti­cal effect to the objec­tives it has set itself. In this regard, the LRC has sought to inter­vene on a num­ber of lev­els: to advo­cate for changes in pol­icy and leg­is­la­tion; to work together with gov­ern­ment in the draft­ing of reg­u­la­tions; and to engage with pub­lic ser­vants in order to improve mech­a­nisms for faster deliv­ery.

The LRC con­tin­ues to seek long term reme­dies to social inequal­i­ties by rep­re­sent­ing chil­dren whose con­cerns are symp­to­matic of the plight of rural and impov­er­ished com­mu­ni­ties through­out South Africa. It acts to com­pel the state to hon­our its oblig­a­tions to chil­dren.

We have par­tic­i­pated in var­i­ous meet­ings deal­ing with the Children’s Amend­ment Bill. We con­tinue to engage in law reform efforts and to work together with other NGOs includ­ing the Edu­ca­tion Rights Project at Wits Uni­ver­sity; Uni­ver­sity of Pretoria’s Child Lit­i­ga­tion Project, Cen­tre for Applied Legal Stud­ies; the Children’s Insti­tute at Uni­ver­sity of Cape Town; the Socio-Economic Rights Project at the Com­mu­nity Law Cen­tre, Uni­ver­sity of the West­ern Cape; Alliance for Children’s Enti­tle­ment to Social Assis­tance (ACESS); and the Children’s Rights Cen­tre in Dur­ban.

Bar­ri­ers to edu­ca­tion:

Specif­i­cally, the LRC uses the law to chal­lenge bar­ri­ers to edu­ca­tion, includ­ing:

  • Lim­i­ta­tions placed on access to food through the School Feed­ing Scheme
  • Lack of trans­port to schools or safe pas­sage to schools
  • Under-resourced schools, inad­e­quate infra­struc­ture and over­sized classes
  • Dis­crim­i­na­tion against chil­dren who can­not afford school fees, uni­forms or books
  • Dis­crim­i­na­tory and stig­ma­tiz­ing poli­cies, atti­tudes and prac­tices
  • Inap­pro­pri­ate and ille­gal dis­ci­pli­nary mea­sures

Non-registration of birth and its neg­a­tive con­se­quences on chil­dren:

Birth reg­is­tra­tion not only gives a child a rec­og­nized legal exis­tence and iden­tity, but it opens the door to other rights such as access to health and edu­ca­tion ser­vices, offers pro­tec­tion against dis­crim­i­na­tion and neglect and deter­mines a child’s treat­ment within the jus­tice sys­tem. Cur­rently there is no express pro­vi­sion con­cern­ing the need for the imple­men­ta­tion of an effec­tive birth reg­is­tra­tion mech­a­nism and process in South Africa.

Inabil­ity to access to social wel­fare grants and the impact of HIV/AIDS:

We have an ever increas­ing num­ber of young chil­dren who are affected by HIV/AIDS through the death of one or both par­ents, through hav­ing to care for an ill fam­ily mem­ber and/or through being infected them­selves. Poor access to social wel­fare, such as child sup­port and fos­ter care sup­port grants, is a for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge to the well-being of these chil­dren. In a num­ber of cases, these dif­fi­cul­ties are a direct result of the fact that the grow­ing real­ity of child-headed house­holds is not catered for in the cur­rent sys­tem. In addi­tion, sys­tems are unable to respond timeously to the urgency of their cir­cum­stances.

Such chil­dren are also prone to dis­crim­i­na­tion, social exclu­sion, rejec­tion and iso­la­tion. They have increased nutri­tional demands and are more likely to be sub­jected to sex­ual exploita­tion, traf­fick­ing, haz­ardous labour and dis­in­her­i­tance. The LRC con­tin­ues to take on cases with the poten­tial to improve the cir­cum­stances that these chil­dren face.

The LRC has taken up issues deal­ing with the fos­ter care place­ment, safety fees for chil­dren that are put in places of safety, cus­tody and adop­tion of orphans.

Undoc­u­mented (refugee) minors and street chil­dren:

The Children’s Char­ter of South Africa, 1996, explic­itly rec­om­mends that “chil­dren who are orphaned, aban­doned, home­less, exiled or refugees have a right to be placed in safe and secure fam­i­lies”. Refugees’ access to the Children’s Court in order to for­mal­ize their sta­tus as chil­dren in need of care is marred with obsta­cles and delays. The result is that these chil­dren are left for an indef­i­nite period of time within infor­mal fos­ter place­ments that are not able to access fos­ter care grants.

The LRC has already iden­ti­fied a lacu­nae in the law, whereby unreg­is­tered chil­dren and for­eign chil­dren are unable to access social wel­fare grants as they do not have an iden­tity num­ber that is recog­nis­able through the required 13-digit bar­code. We have suc­cess­fully chal­lenged the Min­is­ter of Social Devel­op­ment to remove the reser­va­tion of child-support grants and care-dependency grants to South African cit­i­zens only.

Vio­lence and sex­ual abuse expe­ri­enced by chil­dren:

Within South Africa, the num­ber of crimes reported against chil­dren has reached alarm­ing pro­por­tion. Unac­cept­ably high lev­els of vio­lence, par­tic­u­larly sex­ual vio­lence, has an espe­cially dis­pro­por­tion­ate impact on girl-children. Rape is among the most preva­lent crimes against chil­dren. Vio­lence against chil­dren and their sex­ual exploita­tion were the most com­mon forms of abuse cited.

Social devel­op­ment objec­tives of gov­ern­ment are not only meant to be addressed through the pay­ment of social grants to advance the rights of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, but also through a range of inter­ven­tions where chil­dren are vic­tim to or at risk of abuse, neglect or exploita­tion. These include the Children’s Court ser­vices. How­ever, there is con­cern about the qual­ity of rep­re­sen­ta­tion of minors in such mat­ters as well as the qual­ity of reports gen­er­ated by social work­ers that are piv­otal in such cases, which the CRP has had to con­front.

Inef­fi­ciency in pro­vid­ing the nec­es­sary pro­tec­tion and sup­port to chil­dren in terms of pre­ven­tion of abuse, together with a lack of access to recourse and resti­tu­tion after the abuse had been per­pe­trated, con­tribute sig­nif­i­cantly to the absence of per­sonal secu­rity for chil­dren.

Chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties:

The imple­men­ta­tion of poli­cies con­cern­ing chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties are not always inter­preted and applied uni­formly or in the best inter­ests of the child. The LRC con­tin­ues to take on mat­ters to pro­tect the rights of chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties.

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National Offices

Tel: +27 11 836 9831
Email: info@lrc.org.za

Address: 15th and 16th Floor, Bram Fis­cher Tow­ers,
20 Albert Street, Mar­shall­town, Johan­nes­burg
PO Box 9495, Johan­nes­burg 2000

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