SOCIAL Development minister ‘Matebatso Doti says her ministry has initiated steps to amend the sections of the Child Protection Act of 2011 to eliminate injustices against children including violence, early child marriages, sexual abuse and child labour.
Ms Doti yesterday told the Sunday Express that her ministry was working closely with the Ministry of Law to come up with amendments that would ensure greater protection for the rights of children after research showed that such rights were not fully protected under the current law.
Ms Doti said the research they conducted last month helped them to discover that children’s rights were violated mostly in the rural areas because of poverty, ignorance and the illiteracy of rural communities.
“Through the research we discovered that children’s rights are violated mostly in the rural areas because the local communities are still practicing traditions that prescribe that a girl should be married off the very moment she starts showing signs of puberty,” Ms Doti said.
“These practices have continued due to illiteracy, ignorance, poverty and other social factors. Most people who struggle to raise their own children or orphans are quick to consider marrying them off as a way of easing the burden on themselves. Even where teenage pregnancies result from boys impregnating girls, families are quick to marry these young people off but this only strains the government which assumes the responsibility of helping. The government has to step in and help because the young couples have no means of providing for themselves.
“There are several other issues including sexual abuse and child labour that we are looking to eliminate. We are therefore working closely with the Ministry of Law to come up with amendments to the Child Protection Act of 2011 that expressly forbid people from violating children’s rights. The exercise is almost complete and we will soon table the amendments before parliament.”
The minister further mentioned that she is working closely with Princess Senate Mohato Seeiso on a national outreach programme to create awareness on children’s rights and encourage young married mothers to go back to school.
“We have very high rates of maternal and child mortalities because girls are having babies when their bodies have not fully matured.
“We made Princess Senate the champion in the fight against early child marriages and during the school holidays we visit the rural areas so that she can address her peers about the issue.
“The Social Development Ministry’s mandate is to eradicate poverty so we are trying by all means to address the factors that lead to poverty by ensuring that children go to school. A child who does not get an education is likely to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. So, we provide bursaries to send back to school those who are married off early and those who are employed, for example as herd boys.
“I spent the whole of last week in rural Butha-Buthe hosting community gatherings to sensitise people about the rights of children and the outreach programme continues this week,” Ms Doti said.