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SOCIAL SERVICES SELECT COMMITTEE
20 August 2002
HAGUE CONVENTION ON PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND COOPERATION IN RESPECT OF INTER COUNTRY ADOPTION; OPTIONAL PROTOCOL ON CHILD RIGHTS: BRIEFING
Documents Handed out:
Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in respect of Inter-country Adoption
Optional Protocol on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.
Committee was briefed by a Department of social development official and a Foreign Affairs official on Hague Convention on protection of children moving across states and the optional protocol on the rights of the child, the sale of children, child prostitution and pornography.
Chair, Ms Jacobus (ANC)- stated the presentation would be in two parts;Hague Convention and Optional Protocol on Rights of children.
Briefing by Mr Theron
Mr Theron, an official from the department of Social Development said that the purpose of the presentation was to get parliamentary approval for South Africa to accede to the convention to be ratified and considered in terms of section 231(2) of the constitution.
On 15 May 2002, cabinet supported the ratification of the above mentioned instrument as it guaranteed protection of the fundamental rights of children. Regarding the convention on inter-country adoptions, he noted that this might offer the advantage of a permanent family for the child.
Objects of convention includes Article 1 which establishes safeguards to ensure that inter-country adoptions take place in the best interests of the child. The convention also seeks to establish a system of co-operation amongst contracting states.
Article 2 notes that the convention applies where a child habitually resident in one contracting state (the state of Origin) has been or is being moved to another contracting state.
Article 4 which deals with the responsibilities of state organs, notes that the state has to establish that the child is adoptable and also ensure that the consenting parties receive counselling and ensure that consent was given freely. It also has to ensure that the involvement of the child is subject to their counselling and information about the effects of the adoption.
Article 5 deals with the responsibilities of the receiving state which include that it should determine that the prospective adoptive parents are eligible and suitable for adoption and also that the child will or is authorised to enter and reside in the receiving state.
Article 6 deals with the issue of central authorities and accredited bodies and points out that a contracting state shall designate a central authority to discharge the duties which are imposed by the convention upon such authorities.
Articles 7,8,9, 10 concern the roles and responsibilities of the central authorities and these concern in the main, the accreditation of bodies, monitoring, proper financial management, etc
Mr Theron stated that the text of the Hague convention was not in conflict with domestic laws and policies in the case of South Africa. The recommendation was that the parliamentary committees support the ratification of the Hague convention on protection of children and co-operation in respect of inter-country adoptions.
The Chair, Ms Jacobus (ANC) asked what happened if a child moved to a country which had not signed the ratification and therefore have no central authority?
Mr Theron pointed out that this is currently operating in a void where the one country had not signed . But they had the support of the international body which most countries are members of.
Mr Tlhagale (UCDP) asked if there would be a periodic allowance for an adopted child to another country to visit his or her relatives in the country of origin?
On the issue of visits between the states to relatives for the child, he pointed out that this would no longer be the case since the child now belonged to new parents. However, on their permission this could be granted.
The Chair also asked if the accreditation bodies were already existing or if they were yet to be established?
Regarding ratification, he pointed out that there was a body which served this purpose.
Secondly, she noted that the convention originally took place in 1993. Why did it take so long for the ratification process to commence?
On the last question, he pointed out that it is true that it had taken a while for the process to be ratified and noted that there was a need to move forward decisively.
Briefing on Optional Protocol on Rights of the Child
The second presentation concerned the optional protocol to the convention on the rights of the child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Background includes support by cabinet on 15 May 2002 for the ratification of the above-mentioned instrument.
Article 21 ensures that states parties that permit the system of adoption shall provide for the best interest of the child.
Article 32(a), (b) and (c), provide for a minimum age or minimum ages for admission to employment. It also provides for the appropriate regulation of the hours and conditions of employment.
Article 33 states that children have to be protected from the illicit use of drugs and from their production and distribution.
Optional protocol guarantees that state parties extend the measures of the CRC in order to guarantee the protection of children from the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
He added that particular groups of children are especially vulnerable in this regard, these include the girl child.
There is also growing concern about the availability of child pornography on the Internet and other evolving technologies.
Obligations on state parties include the protection of the privacy and identity of child victims and taking measures in accordance with national laws.
Recommendation here is that the parliamentary committees support the ratification in this regard.
Mr Sogoni (UDM) asked if the protocol covered cases where customary law allowed the marriage of children? Has this resulted in abuse at times?
Mr Theron said that regarding this issue, the protocol does apply, but it was a case of how it applied. The department wanted to consult traditional leaders on a way to solve the problem.
Mr Tolo (ANC) asked why this protocol was optional?
Ms Nojozi, an official from Foreign Affairs, pointed out that this is an optional protocol because it is an inter-state arrangement and sets a foundation for further engagement on the issue with relation to issues like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Meeting was adjourned.
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