Pretoria - As the portfolio committee on social development continues with the nationwide public consultations on legalising the “safe relinquishment” of unwanted babies, some local NGOs have urged for accountability not to be wavered in seeking to address the problem.
The committee announced that it had met the communities in Soshanguve on Friday to solicit their input on the draft bill, which seeks to introduce improvements to the child care and child protection legal systems.
According to the committee, one of the proposals raised in Soshanguve was the possibility of enacting laws to allow parents of unwanted babies to drop their babies at safe places, such as hospitals, police stations or fire stations without risking prosecution.
They added that the backers of this suggestion argued that the move could see a decline in the number of abandoned babies who die after being dumped in dustbins and bushes.
Also, that undocumented foreign nationals were unable to give away their babies for adoption.
Fathers who spoke during the public hearings also allegedly welcomed the bill, saying it would bring an end to the unequal treatment of fathers in the law as this bias currently denied men the right to spend time with their children sometimes.
“It is a fortunate coincidence that these public hearings happened during the start of the 16 Days of Activism for no violence against women and children,” said committee chairperson Nonkosi Mvana.
Meanwhile, supervisor of the Adoptions Unit at Child Welfare Tshwane, Nina de Caires, said that while they supported efforts to legalise the safe relinquishment of unwanted babies, there still had to be consequences in place to prevent reckless abandonment of children.
De Caires said even though pushing for changes in the bill may result in fewer babies being grossly abandoned in unsafe places, the most important part should be to provide people with the necessary education on preventative measures to avoid pregnancies and of the services available when all else fails.
“We need to create awareness programmes to give people information of the services we offer to mothers unable to care for their children. We know things have been hard especially with the pandemic hence it will always be better for a baby to be left at a hospital or clinic rather than in a bush somewhere.
“The truth is that it’s not right to abandon a child and we know there are various circumstances that lead a parent to make such a decision but there should always be some consequence."
De Caires said just this month two children were abandoned in Tshwane, a 5-year old boy and a 2-year old abandoned last Sunday at Sunnypark.