Source: New law to beef up child rights | The Herald May 22, 2017
Daniel Nemukuyu recently in Nyanga
The first draft of the Children’s Amendment Bill is now complete and will this week be forwarded to the Attorney-General’s Office, a member of the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce technical committee has said.
Speaking at the end of a four-day workshop convened to fine-tune the first draft in Nyanga last week, Director for Constitutional Affairs in the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mr Tapuwa Godzi said the first draft of the Children’s Amendment Bill was now ready and the responsible ministry was expected to instruct the AG’s Office to start working on it.
The workshop was funded by the Centre for Applied Legal Research as part of the organisation’s efforts to assist in the speedy alignment of the laws with the country’s Constitution.
Mr Godzi said the Nyanga workshop yielded positive results.
“We were able to come up with the first draft of the Bill. It is now complete. The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is expected to instruct the AG’s Legislative Drafting Division to start working on it,” Mr Godzi said.
The same workshop, Mr Godzi said, saw the polishing of the proposed principles to be used in the crafting of the Child Justice Bill.
The proposed principles are expected to be sent to Cabinet for approval before the crafting of the draft Bill.
“We have also managed to come up with principles for the Child Justice Bill. The Child Justice Bill provides the criminal justice system for children who are found on the wrong side of the law.
“The principles will also be forwarded to Cabinet for approval by the Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare,” Mr Godzi said.
The first draft of the Child Amendment Bill seeks, among other things, to criminalise child marriage and it proposes a penalty of up to 15 years for those convicted of marrying children below 18 years.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe (2013) provides a Children’s Bill of Rights which, among others, defines a child as someone below the age of 18 unlike the current law which defines a child as someone under 16 years of age.
Although the Constitutional Court outlawed child marriages, there is no law criminalising the breach.
The same supreme law also makes it an obligation for parents to acquire birth certificates for their children but some children end up suffering identity crisis and being deprived a right to sit for public examinations.
To that end, the relevant ministry has initiated the process of amending the laws to criminalise certain breaches of the children’s rights.
The Bill also seeks to criminalise failure to acquire birth certificates for children as a form of neglect.
Sex grooming and other religious and cultural practices that harm children will also be criminalised if the Bill sails through.
A High Court judgment by Justice Hlekani Mwayera which abolished the distinction of children born out of wedlock and those born in wedlock will also be reduced into law in line with the supreme law of the country.
The process also seeks to amend the age of criminal responsibility from seven years to 12 years.
The principles of the Child Justice Bill propose the setting up of stand-alone children’s courts to deal with civil and criminal cases.
Children who are found on the wrong side of the law, according to the principles, will be subjected to the criminal law process.
The criminal justice system for the children, among others, should be more inclined to issuing non-custodial penalties.