Shocking revelations made in KZN during talks on the Children’s Amendment Bill
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DURBAN - THE KwaZulu-Natal portfolio committee on social development held public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill from Saturday to Tuesday.
The hearings, chaired by Nonkosi Mvana, were held in four districts as part of a nationwide process to gather public views on the proposed legislation, to ensure the bill would be responsive to practical occurrences on the ground.
The four areas were Jozini, Vryheid, Dundee and KwaXimba, in Msinga.
As the bill is aimed at protecting the rights and lives of children, the committee resolved to undertake public consultations to improve child foster-care services, resolve the parental responsibilities of unmarried fathers, and improve services provided to children born to foreign parents and unaccompanied migrant children.
Mvana said the hearings started at rural Jozini, where they heard about issues of parental guidance and equal rights for single-parent homes being key factors contributing to the perpetuation of child marriages.
“Regarding parental responsibility, participants highlighted their support to entrench equal parental rights for both parents, with many residents calling for a stronger legal framework to compel fathers to care for their children – not only through financial support but also by offering emotional care,” Mvana said.
The committee was alarmed by some of the issues communities raised, especially the scourge of abuse of underage girls. She said many who contributed to the conversation also raised the issue of undocumented children.
“The documentation problems of both South African children and children born from foreign nationals was raised as a major challenge. Again, this is linked to equal parenting rights, where the inclusion of both parents is not possible, resulting in the children not having an identity and stable environment to grow in.
“We have noted this, and will further deliberate on it with the help of the recent Constitutional Court judgment that ruled that unmarried fathers can now register their children with the Department of Home Affairs.”
At Vryheid’s sitting, the committee heard concerns from non-profit organisations dealing with children’s rights about the lack of infrastructure.
“Despite the overwhelming support for the bill, the committee was nonetheless met with critical concerns about the lack of adequate infrastructure for early childhood development centres, leading to a poor and unfavourable environment for teaching and learning. Also, there was a concern that infrastructure remains inaccessible to children with disabilities, which undermines their rights,” Mvana said.
She said all four communities visited spoke greatly about the need to promote a healthy relationship between them and the police, especially in matters of human trafficking.
The committee will now deliberate on its findings and present them to a parliamentary sitting.