Children's Bill: Departmental Response to submissions

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Meeting Summary

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Meeting report

25 October 2005

Chairperson: Ms JM Masilo (ANC)

Documents handed out:
B70B-2003 as passed by Portfolio Committee on 14 June 2005: Part1
B70B-2003 as passed by Portfolio Committee on 14 June 2005: Part2
Recommendations by the inter-department steering committee
Summary of submissions
Children’s Institute Summary of Oral Submission

The inter-department steering committee on the Children's Bill made recommendations to the Committee in response to issues raised during the public hearings held on 11 October 2005.

Decisions on these recommendations would be made by the Committee during the clause by clause deliberations of the Children’s Bill likely to commence in two weeks' time.

The Department presented the recommendations made by the inter-department steering committee on the Children's Bill. These recommendations are summarised below, with brief notes of the comments made by committee members.

Recommendations and Comments

Virginity testing

Virginity testing to be permitted for children over 16 years, under the following conditions:
Child must give consent;
Results not publicised;
The regulations will contain provisions to ensure that the tests are:
Conducted in private;
Performed hygienically.

Committee members approved of the recommendation and the drafter was asked to propose revised text.

Option 1
If the procedure is done purely for cultural reasons, there needs to be an age limit of 18 years.
Option 2
To maintain consistency in the Bill, with regard to age, 16 years is recommended.

Mr Les Govender (ANC; KZN) noted that there would be protest from religious communities.

Female Circumcision
Bill should not be changed.

Mr B Tolo (ANC; Mpumalanga) said that women mature faster circumcision can be performed on girls at 16, female circumcision is not the same as female genital mutilation, enhancement of genitalia in South Africa. Female circumcision is a cultural practice and should be regulated not prohibited.
Adv S Nawa (Department of Education, Deputy Director: Legal Services) said that Sepedi and Ndebele cultures practice female circumcision it should not be banned.
Ms R van Zyl (Drafter) said that it is not the equivalent to male circumcision as it is removal of an organ not skin.
Ms M Mbere (Dept of Social Development) said that this practice was not in the best interest of the child and asked what message did it give to children.
Ms M Mabetoa (Dept of Social Development) said that the Bill is about restricting cultural practices that are harmful to the child, not all cultural practice is harmful, but genital mutilation is one such practice.

Alternative recommendation:
Either allow members of affected communities to present along with Commission of Gender Equality ; or have the Law Reform Commission research this and in the meantime pass the Bill and propose amendments when research is complete (which would be a minimum six months).

Forced marriages
New provision will accommodate request for criminal offence.

It was suggested that boys should be protected as well as girls.

National Child Protection Register
Add a provision in the Bill to ensure that all government department staff dealing with children be screened against the National Child Protection Register.
Other recommendations made by Childline SA and Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation
(CSVR) to be considered for inclusion in the regulations.

It was suggested that offenders waiting for appeal should be put onto the register, but not those awaiting trial.

Age of consent
Consent to medical treatment to be kept at 14 as per current Child Care Act.
Access to contraception -
Option 1 change to 14;
Option 2 change to 16.

Ms M Mabetoa (Dept of Social Development): No reasons put forward for reducing the age of consent to medical treatment to 12.

Consent to Adoption
Keep current clause.

Department of Social Development arguments in favour:
- Court can rule that the consent of the parent or guardian is not necessary, or if there is a dispute the court can find that consent has been withheld unreasonably.
- Adoption is a process that cannot be fast-tracked.
- Current clause will prevent trafficking.

Mr Hendricks (UIF) asked what happened when a young girl wants to keep the child and her parents want the child to be adopted?
Ms M Mabetoa replied that in this scenario the child would usually be placed in foster care and no permanent placement would be made.

Unaccompanied Foreign Minors
Process agreed on by Department of Social Development, SAPS and Home Affairs to be put in the regulations.
- Do not change the definition of a "child",
- Do not add anti-discrimination clause.

Mr Tolo asked how did one combat discrimination and ensure that all children were protected.

Ms Musa (Dept of Social Development) replied that all children should be treated as children and treated as in need of care and protection, the answer lay in training.

Adv Nawa (Dept of Education) said that the Children's Bill was based on the Constitution's Section 28 definition which must be in line with it.

Ms van Zyl (Drafter) noted that discrimination had been addressed by including foreign children in Section 150. In international legislation changes to Children's Bill not necessary, only requirement is to train staff dealing with children.

Ms Mabetoa explained that it would be too expensive to extend all services to all children. Foreign children were only entitled to health and basic education.

Legal Representation
Decision made fully by the Portfolio Committee - should the debate be re-opened?


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