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Govt Commended For Spearheading Children’s Bill

Shamwari Yemwanasikana (SYS)- a local community based, non-governmental organization that promotes the rights of girls has commended the government for giving the nod to the Child Justice and Children’s Amendment Bills as the move will strengthen child protection and ensure that best interests of children are preserved.

Addressing the Post Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Minister of Information Publicity and Broadcasting Monica Mutsvangwa said the Children’s Amendment Bill will be amended to align it with the 2013 Constitution and incorporate provisions of International Conventions and treaties that Zimbabwe has ratified.

“We believe this is a great move in strengthening child protection and ensuring that the best interests of children are of paramount importance. We also hope that both bills are assented into law within reasonable time such that children are fully protected by law,” said SYS in a statement.

The organization hopes that, as the Bill is being debated before being passed onto law, it will include the right to access sexual and reproductive health services and information to adolescents. 

“We hope the government and lawmakers heed to our call for adolescents to access sexual and reproductive health information and services in our bid to curb teenage pregnancies,” read the statement.

 The Bill widens and criminalizes instances of child abuse to include allowing a child to reside in or to frequent a brothel; causing the seduction, abduction or commercial sexual exploitation of a child; and causing a child to participate in the propagation of child sexual abuse material.

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The denial of medical treatment or access to medical treatment to a child without reasonable cause will also be criminalized. 

Mutsvangwa said the Bill places an obligation on any professional person who becomes aware or suspects, on reasonable grounds, that a child is being abused, to report that person to a Police Officer or a Child Protection Officer.

“Furthermore, the Bill will criminalize parents or guardians who enable the commission of an offence by a child or fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that the child does not commit an offence. The abused children will be removed to a place of custody or detention in the best interest of the child. It is highlighted that institutions that receive children must accommodate them in a family-type environment.  A new clause has been incorporated that empowers probation officers to obtain birth certificates for children without parental care,” she added.

The approval of the Children’s Amendment Bill by cabinet comes at a time when there has been a notable increase in cases of children being denied medical attention and dying in the hands of men of faith or “ana madzibaba”.

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