DURBAN - THE first of four public hearings on the Children’s Amendment Bill was heard in Jozini in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday.
The hearings are part of a nationwide process to garner the views of the public on the proposed amendment. The Portfolio Committee on Social Development said it was informed by Jozini residents that the Bill was a necessary law that would see an end to child marriages in rural areas.
The chairperson of the portfolio committee, Nonkosi Mvana, said a number of participants underscored the persisting challenge of child marriages, which often happened as a result of teenage pregnancy.
Mvana said there was strong support for the amendment that prohibited marriage to children below the age of 18. Participants also supported the removal of the clause in the principal act that authorised guardians to grant permission for underage children to get married.
Mvana said there was a strong view that the judicial system had to be strengthened to protect children against rape.
“Regarding parental responsibility, participants highlighted their support to entrench equal parental rights for both parents, with many residents calling for a stronger legal framework compelling fathers to care for their children not only through financial support, but also by offering emotional care.”
The issue of undocumented South African children and children born to foreign nationals was raised as a major challenge. Mvana said it was reported that these children were not documented for various reasons, including difficulty in tracing the whereabouts of one or both parents, long queues and inefficiencies at the Department of Home Affairs, or if one or both parents were deceased.
“Participants welcomed the assurance given by the Department of Social Development, following the recent Constitutional Court judgement, that unmarried fathers can now register their children with the Department of Home Affairs.”
Mvana said there was a strong view that effective implementation of the bill would ensure that its objectives were achieved. The department was urged to strengthen monitoring and evaluation through its social workers in the use of the foster care and disability grants to eliminate cases of misuse of these funds.
“Participants also called for municipalities to take a proactive role in supporting early childhood development centres, primarily because of their strategic importance in the holistic development of a child.”
Mvana said the committee appreciated the input given during the hearings, and committed to consider it when finalising the bill.
The committee will conduct the next hearing in Vryheid. On Sunday, the committee was in Abaqulusi in KZN.
To comment on this story, send a WhatsApp message to our BackChat column at 071 485 7995