Addressing violence against children in South Africa

Type Working Paper
Title Addressing violence against children in South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Efforts to enact specific laws to protect and promote the rights and welfare of children at the
international level dates back to the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child by
the League of Nations in 1924.
This Declaration was succeeded by the 1959 Declaration on
the Rights of the Child which eventually gave birth to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of
the Child (CRC).
Subsequently the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
(ACRWC) also came into being in 1990 under the auspices of the African Commission on
Human and Peoples Rights (ACHPR).
3 Article 19 of the CRC obligates all State Parties to the
convention to protect children from harm violence, abuse, maltreatment, negligence or
exploitation by taking the necessary administrative, legislative and educational measures.
As a complementary to the CRC the ACRWC is more contextual and relevant to the African
environment. One critical aspect of the ACRWC is the notion of the best interest of the child
as posited in Article 4 that actions taken on behalf of the child should take into consideration
the best interest of the child particularly his or her well-being and developmental needs.5
Article 16 of the ACRWC obligates state parties to protect children against all forms of
abuse, torture and degrading behaviour through the use of appropriate mechanisms such as
education, legislation and administrative policies.6 Despite all these provisions, violence
against children prevails under the auspices of culture and traditions in many African
countries. Therefore, article 21 of the ACRWC dedicatedly makes provisions for the
protection of children from all harmful cultural practices.
South Africa being a state party to these international instruments has also passed legislations
that protect children from violence. Yet violence against children exists and is the leading
cause of mortality and injury among children.
8 More than 1 018 children were murdered in
2009 with 45 per cent of these occurring in the context of physical abuse.
9 Most children
under the age of five are more likely to be killed in the context of child abuse and the
perpetrator is usually someone close to the child particularly the caregiver. Conversely, most
murders amongst children occur in the context of youth and school violence outside the
home. Other studies reveal that between 35 – 45 per cent of children have witnessed violence
against their mothers10 which affects the mental development of these children. Therefore this
study analyses the effectiveness of the existing mechanisms in addressing violence againstchildren in South Africa and attempts to answer questions such as - is the existing legal
regime effective in addressing violence against children in South Africa? What are the
successes and challenges in addressing violence against children? How can the existing
mechanisms become effective in addressing violence against children in South Africa? It
adopts a desk study approach through critical content analysis to find answers to these
questions. This paper starts by outlining the common forms of violence against children in
South Africa and continues by highlighting the successes and the challenges and concludes
by offering recommendations.

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