Gaborone — The plight of children denied maintenance and inheritance rights by their parents' unmarried status remains a burning issue in the country, says Botswana Society chairperson.
Professor Bojosi Otlhogile said many still felt only children born within wedlock were entitled to inheritance resulting in most children being denied their rights.
Speaking during an event themed: Does culture contribute to the discrimination of children born out of wedlock, in Gaborone recently, he said children born out of wedlock were labelled and discriminated.
Kgosi Fanuel Mokalake of Modipane also expressed concern over greedy families who still excluded children born out of wedlock from inheriting from their fathers.
He said his office was inundated with inheritance cases involving children born out of wedlock who were usually denied the right to inherit from their fathers and called derogatory names like children of concubines.
Kgosi Mokalake called on parents to ensure the protection of children's rights in customary inheritance cases and also encouraged them to legally adopt their children and write wills.
On mental health, Ms Charity Kennedy of Botswana Network for Mental Health said challenges affecting children born out of wedlock deprived them of their human rights.
Ms Kennedy stated that the challenges might lead to identity crisis, low self-esteem, worthlessness and isolation.
She said if socio-economic and psychological problems were not well handled, they might affect the ability for the children to realise their purpose, potential and how to cope with normal stresses of life, to a point where it could lead to health problems such as suicide, anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
She emphasised reassessing how boy children were raised as it could contribute to the type of man the child grows into.
Broken parents were raising broken, fearful children, whose quality of decision making was very poor, Ms Kennedy said and called on the nation to consider the importance of counseling in healing emotions.
Ms Kennedy said the damage of an absent parent or an emotionally unavailable one affected the man or the woman one became hence fostering parent/child communication was very important.
She appealed to society to take into account the dynamics surrounding children born out of wedlock as some may be from parents who were victims of rape, incest and such parents were also fragile and their experiences could also determine how they treated their children.
She advised parents to invest in counselling as it enhanced closure for mother and child as well as to advocate against labelling, parent/child communication, improve on the raising of the boy child, early mental health screening and family courts.
Source : BOPA