Pretoria – The Department of Social Development on Thursday encouraged parents, caregivers, civil society organisations, and South Africans “from all walks of life” to protect children against harmful practices.
The department said the plea to protect children was in commemoration of International Children’s Day, which is being held under the theme “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children“.
The commemoration of International Children’s Day today, (1 June 2023), serves as a reminder that every child has a right not to be subjected to social, cultural, and religious practices which are detrimental to his or her wellbeing.
Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said: “Harmful practices rob children, especially in most cases the girl child, of her childhood, deny them a fair chance to determine their future and threaten the wellbeing of individuals, families and society”.
This year, the day focuses more on elimination of harmful practices which affect children.
The department explained that “a harmful practice” is a collective term for many different forms of abuse, which all share a similar characteristic, that they are seen as acceptable practices within sections of society.
Harmful practices include child marriage, forced marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), breast flattening, hate crimes, child labour, child abuse linked to faith or belief and so-called honour-based abuse.
“These practices must be discouraged as they negatively affect children and perpetuate physical and emotional abuse,” Zulu said.
“All these forms of harmful practices are likely to cause harm and suffering for children as it amongst other things, limit children’s capacity to participate fully in society or develop and reach their full potential.”
Guided by the Constitution of South Africa, the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 and other international instruments that include the AU Charter on the Rights of Children, the department called upon society and organisations working with children “to not only commemorate this day, but also protect children against harmful practices”.
In addition, section 12 (1) of the Children’s Act 38 of 2005 indicates that every child has a right not to be subjected to social, cultural, and religious practices, which are detrimental to his or her wellbeing.
Subsection 2 (a) of the Act outlines the minimum age of marriage.
In Subsection 3, the Act prohibits genital mutilation or the circumcision of female children.
The Act further in subsection 4 prohibits virginity testing of children under the age of 18.
The department said the escalation of protection measures toward children forms part of the country’s Child Protection Week campaign, which is underway and observed under the theme: “Let us Protect Children during Covid-19 and Beyond”.
The department, its partners, and stakeholders will be commemorating this International Day of Children on the 3rd of June 2023 at De Aar in the Northern Cape.