The rights of children have been included in the Bill of Rights of a special section on the rights of the child.

Children are among the most vulnerable members of society because they are dependent on others like parents, families and other care givers and when these people fail, on the State,
for protection and care.
Therefor our Constitution, Act 108 of 1996 have made children’s rights a priority and have entrenched the best interest of the child principle in legislation such as the Children’s Act 38 of 2005, which sets this out as the overriding principle when dealing with any matter affecting children.
SECTION 28 OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS, ENTITILED “CHILDREN”:
1.Every child has the right to –

a. name and a nationality from birth;

b. family care or parental care, or to appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment;

c. basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services;

d. be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation;

e. be protected from exploitative labour practices.

f. not be required or permitted to perform work or provide services that;

i. are inappropriate for a person of that child’s age; or

ii. place at risk the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health or spiritual, moral or social development;
g . not be detained except as a measure of last resort, in which case, in addition to the rights a child enjoys under sections 12 and 35, the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate period of time, and has the right to be –

i. kept separately from detained persons over the age of 18years;

ii. and is treated in a manner, and kept in conditions, that take account of the child’s age.

h. have a legal practitioner assigned to the child by the state, and at state expense, in civil proceedings affecting the child, if substantial injustice would otherwise result; and

I. not be used directly in armed conflict, and to be protected in times of armed conflict.

2. A child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child.

3. In this section ‘child’ means a person under the age of 18 year.
This section gives children the right to a name, citizenship and some form of care. Children need food and shelter, and should be protected from abuse, neglect and degradation. No child should work when under-age, or do work that would interfere with his or her education or development.

Children should be jailed only as a last resort and should not have to share a cell with adults. They should not take part in wars and should be protected during conflict.
The second sub-section, a very important clause, says a child’s interests are the most important consideration in any matter concerning the child.

That the Bill of Rights has a section devoted to children does not mean that the rights in the others sections do not apply to them too. The sections that deal with equality, human dignity, religion and health – as well as many others – are especially relevant and also apply to children.
Every child that is of such an age, maturity and stage of development as to be able to participate in any matter concerning that child has the right to participate
in an appropriate way and views expressed by the child must be given due consideration.
- The Children’s Act, 38 of 2005
- The Basic Conditions of Employment Act of 1997, which makes it illegal to employ a child under 18;
- The Domestic Violence Act of 1998, which defines different
forms of domestic violence and explains how a child can get a protection order against the abuser; and
- The Films and Publications Act of 1996, which protects children from exploitation in child pornography.

 

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