NAMIBIA: Child law under revision

Namibia has launched a public consultation on the revision of its Child Care and Protection Bill, which will be amended to better protect the rights of children.

The Bill, first drafted in 1994 and revised a number of times, is intended to replace the outdated Children’s Act 33 of 196o.

The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is revising the piece of legislation, with technical support from the Legal Assistance Centre. The technical working group includes the ministry, LAC, Ministry of Health and Social Services and the Ministry of Justice.

The LAC said last week law reform in the area is needed for children in Namibia to receive the care and protection they deserve.

The Bill addresses children’s courts, early intervention services, procedures for removing endangered children from the home, foster care, adoption, child trafficking and child headed households, which are critical areas that are needed to ensure that the rights of children in Namibia are protected and upheld.

The ministry will start a series of consultations with stakeholders and the public on the content of the bill towards the end of April. The Bill is expected to be tabled in the National Assembly at the end of this year.

South African experts headed by Dean of the Law Faculty at the University of Western Cape Professor Julia Sloth-Nielson will lead an international contingent of consultants who will provide expert guidance to the project due to lack of local expertise in the area of children’s rights.

The objectives of the consultative process are to refine the Bill to ensure it is appropriate to the Namibian situation, draw on experience from other African countries with recent law reform on similar issues, to raise awareness of the forthcoming law and provide the public an opportunity for input and also to consult service providers on topics covered in the draft law.

Sloth-Nielson told the press last week the public consultations were meant to solicit the views of the communities on the legislation.

“We want to hear what people’s views are. The law in its current form does not serve the interests of the children. So we want to know what people are saying,” she said.

She said Namibia at present relies on legislation that dates back to the 1960s and is not relevant locally with regard to what happens to children. Additionally, she said the law was not known among practitioners.

She noted that the legislation was also an important budgeting tool in planning for implementation and monitoring the effectiveness of activities.

LAC Gender Research and Advocacy Project Coordinator, Dianne Hubbard, said the abuse of children and the increasing number of orphans is an urgent situation that is not being effectively responded to through the existing legislation. She said a third of all abuse cases that are reported to the police were among children under 18 years. Apart from improving the law, the consultations will also raise awareness on children’s rights.

She noted that due to some misunderstandings, certain quarters in Namibia have a feeling that children are unruly because of the rights they have.

The revision process will include summarising the Bill into fact sheets in English, Oshiwambo and Afrikaans, which will be placed in the three daily newspapers, a media campaign to inform the public about the revision process using print, radio and television, five regional workshops to discuss key aspects of the bill, five national workshops to consult with key stakeholders and international child law experts and colleting and collating written input.

To make it as inclusive as possible, feedback will also be received via SMS and Face Book. According to Hubbard, Namibia will be the first country in Africa to have an SMS feedback on legislation.

Feedback can be sent via SMS to 0814241591 or e-mail to [email protected], Fax: 088613715 or it can be posted to P.O Box 604, Windhoek.

Further information

pdf: New Era, Namibia


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