6 July 2006

South Africa: Calls for Speedy Implementation of 'Lost' Child Bills

Johannesburg — DELEGATES attending a child labour conference have called for speedy resolution of two bills delayed in Parliament that could help combat the country's scourge of child labour.

The portfolio committee on justice and constitutional development held public hearings on the Child Justice Bill and the Sexual Offences Bill in 2003, with the latter undergoing many changes. The silence has led some interest groups to argue that the bills have been "lost in Parliament".

Jacqui Gallinetti, the co-ordinator of the Community Law Centre at the University of the Western Cape, said government departments were committed to the Child Justice Bill.

"We just don't know where it is. It's somewhere in Parliament."

The bill provides for a legal framework to keep children from being incarcerated or dealt with along with adults in the country's justice system.

Gallinetti said there were instances of diverting children away from the justice system, but this was happening through the goodwill of nongovernmental bodies and the National Prosecuting Authority.

Horror stories have been reported of children being abused in jails and prisons while awaiting trial.

Joan van Niekerk, national co-ordinator for Childline SA, attacked the Sexual Offences Bill, saying it had been stripped of all protection for children.

Justice ministry spokesman Zolile Nqayi said the bills had been delayed because government wanted them to be effective when implemented.

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