Let us all protect children during Covid-19, beyond
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Pretoria - As the country observed Child Protection Week over the past week, amid the ongoing pandemic, organisations championing children's rights have called on the national government to invest in protecting and preserving the rights of children as well as adequately capacitating places of safety.
Commemorated under the theme, Let us all protect children during Covid-19 and beyond, stakeholders such as the Commission for Gender Equality said it was important for the government to ensure that Thuthuzela Care Centres and other shelters were sufficiently equipped to receive survivors of domestic violence and their children.
This as the commission said their 2020 report on the state of shelters in the country found that many of the shelters did not have enough facilities to accommodate abused women and their children.
Commission chairperson Tamara Mathebula said they found that many shelters did not receive sufficient funding from the government to cover all their interventions.
This, she said, was something concerning, given that abused women needed to take their children with them when they wanted to escape from environments of domestic violence.
"While women are the main victims of gender-based violence, their children are secondary victims for obvious reasons."
Mathebula said it was also equally important for the government to address the findings contained in a report by the UN committee to eliminate discrimination against women.
The UN said infectious diseases such as Covid-19 had the propensity to disrupt the environments in which children grew and developed, and disruptions to families, friendships, daily routines and the wider community could have negative consequences for their well-being, development and protection.
The report said: “Covid-19 can expose children to protection risks. Home-based, facility-based and zonal-based quarantine and isolation measures can all negatively impact children and their families.”
In the report, findings revealed that South Africa had committed grave violations under the convention, by failing to protect a significant number of girl children and women from domestic violence, and to provide them with protection and adequate access to justice.
Even though the commission welcomed the adoption by the portfolio committee on justice and correctional services of the Domestic Violence Amendment Bill, Criminal Law Amendment Bill and Criminal and Related Matters Amendment Bill, they stressed the need for much more efforts from all stakeholders.
“The adoption of these bills will go a long way in protecting the rights of children and safeguarding them from abuse, neglect, and maltreatment, in line with the Constitution, as the new provisions were meant to provide more protection to victims of domestic violence.”
Civil rights organisation Action Society reiterated their continued commitment to the safeguarding and protection of children by implementing a three-point plan.
The plan includes a bid to firstly get public access to the National Register for Sex Offenders, and secondly to call for the police Forensic Unit data system to be fixed, and the immediate dismissal of Police Minister Bheki Cele.
“We are concerned that government lacks the will to enforce safety and security in South Africa, and as a result, civil society and citizens are therefore obliged to take a stand against the current justice system, which is failing to protect children against sex offenders, paedophiles, and abusers," said the organisation's spokesperson, Dr Rinee Pretorius.
Pretorius said through their #unmaskthemonsters campaign, Action Society would be demanding that the National Register for Sex Offenders be made available to the public.