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03 June 2005

Factsheet 3 : Legal and policy responses

Press Release

Policy and law: Many laws and policies are in place in South Africa to protect children?s rights and to improve child protection and services to abused children. A draft national strategy on child abuse and neglect has been formulated. It remains to be implemented. Existing policy documents, protocols and guidelines that govern the management of child victims of sexual abuse and the prosecution of offenders need to be more effectively implemented and monitored. The Children?s Bill, currently under discussion, originally contained a number of protective provisions for children. However, many of these provisions have been removed.

  • Child protection and the justice system: A large number of child advocates strongly believe that the child protection and justice systems are not functioning well despite the best efforts of policy makers, social welfare officers, court officials and the police. For example, the book points to the poor treatment received by two girls from a remote rural community in KwaZulu-Natal who were raped on their way home from school in 1998. In this case, it took four years to secure a conviction and a sentence, despite strong evidence against the attacker.
  • Child protection and welfare services: Non-governmental organisations, and not the state, provide the bulk of victim care services. Contributors to the volume argue that government does not allocate sufficient financial and other resources to support these services.
  • Child protection and the police: Even though there has been progress on this front, child protection units in the South African Police Services remain under considerable strain and require more resources.
  • Child protection, mandatory reporting and sexual offender registers: A major challenge is designing a child protection system that is appropriate to the South African context. Some policies applied in developed countries may not be applicable in southern Africa, or we may lack the resources for them to be properly implemented. For example, while mandatory reporting and sexual offender registers may seem to be a positive development, their efficient and effective operation requires considerable resources. Without these resources, such systems will not deliver as expected and may detract effort from locally effective systems.
  • A need for co-ordination in the child protection system: Currently steps are being taken to improve the integration of various services, including the South African Police Services, the National Prosecuting Authority, social welfare services, medico-legal services, and civil society to improve services to children. These initiatives are welcomed and should be strengthened.

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