A validation workshop on the draft of the Children's Bill opened this morning at the Hennessy Park Hotel in Ebene, in the presence of the Minister of Gender Equality Child Development and Family Welfare, Mrs. Roubina Jadoo-Jaunbocus and the Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to the Republic of Mauritius, Mrs. Marjaana Sall.
Participants of the one-day workshop which is a joint collaboration of the Ministry of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare and the EU, include representatives of the public sector as well as Non-Governmental Organisations. The draft of the Children's Bill was done in a participatory approach with all stakeholders from the Government, civil society and private sector in Mauritius and Rodrigues.
In her address, Minister Jadoo-Jaunbocus highlighted that children constitute the most vulnerable people of the society and that children issues are everybody's concern. Ensuring their protection and promoting their rights are certainly one of Government's key priorities, and various endeavours are being spearheaded to this end, she said.
She pointed out that some 6,000 cases of children who are victims of different types of abuse are reported to the Ministry each year. This alarming situation, she emphasised, calls for urgent actions to curtail and eliminate these both sexual and physical forms of abuse. It is critical to establish solid partnerships between government, and stakeholders as well as the society to address this challenge on several fronts.
According to the Minister, the Children's Bill, once implemented, will significantly help to tackle child-related challenges. She underlined that Government's determination to promote the rights of children underpins the relentless efforts being undertaken to finalise the Children's Bill, adding that every element is being closely looked into to serve the best interest of children.
She expressed gratitude to the EU's technical assistance in the finalisation of the Children's Bill and pointed out that various issues were considered during consultative meetings including: institutional mechanism for a better child protection service; age of marriage and age of consent; age of criminal responsibility and child abuse and neglect.
As for Ambassador Marjaana Sall, she recalled that the rights of a child are essentially human rights. She highlighted that children's rights are certainly one of the key concerns of the EU and its treaty denotes an explicit commitment to promote the protection and rights of the child through internal and external action. Subsequently, she said, the EU has produced guidelines to put into practice this commitment in its member states, with the objective to ensure that international standards of the rights of children are respected in the country's system.
On that score, the Ambassador underlined that the EU has provided the Ministry with foreign expertise for capacity building in various areas pertaining to gender issues as well as for drafting and finalising the Gender Equality Bill, the Adoption Bill and the Children's Bill. The Children's Bill, she said, is particularly important as it is focused on the promotion and protection of rights of children. It is a legislation that when approved and implemented will have significant bearing on the future of the next generation, she added.