Government has noted with concern various incidents of child abuse, which have been reported on the media. These include kidnapping, bullying of children at schools and on the internet, as well as food poisoning of children, amongst others. These acts against children are unacceptable. Government calls on all South Africans to commemorate the National Child Protection Week, 29 May – 5 June 2022, to raise awareness about the rights of children as articulated in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and in the Children’s Act.
Minister in the Presidency, Mondli Gungubele, said: “We thank the media, as a partner of government, for their role in raising awareness of these criminal acts committed against children. We are confident that law enforcement agencies will deal swiftly with cases involving children. It is particularly important that as a country we rally behind the Department of Social Development (DSD) in commemorating Child Protection Week under the theme, Let us Protect Children during COVID-19 and beyond.”
This year’s National Child Protection Week comes amid reports that the number of children born to teenage mothers increased to 60% during the National State of Disaster under the COVID-19 lockdown period. The South African Constitution has the highest regard for children, their protection and non-violation of their rights. Protecting children from violence, exploitation and abuse is not only a basic value but also an obligation clearly set out in Article 28 of the South African Constitution.
The government has put in place various early intervention programmes that focus on sexual and reproductive health, and rights, such as an Integrated Programme of Action that responds to teenage pregnancy by coordinating the work of all stakeholders. It ensures that resources are directed to the hardest hit areas with a focus on prevention and early intervention. The National Integrated School Health Programme strengthens key interventions towards dealing with teenage pregnancy. The policy on the Prevention and Management of Learner Pregnancy in Schools is grounded in supporting learners who fall pregnant and is aimed at reducing the increasing number of learner pregnancies at schools. The DSD Sinovuyo parenting programme is one of the programmes that help build capacity of teenage parents to care for their children, and Life skills programmes such as Yolo, ChommY, Boys and Men Championing Change and Ezabasha are helping develop young people.
In addition, Minister Gungubele said, “We all have a duty to care for the children in our society. Campaigns such as the National Child Protection Week are heightened periods to raise awareness about the need for everyone in society to protect the rights of children. It shines the spotlight on children’s issues; highlights successes and identifies what still needs to be done to create a safe and secure environment for them. We appeal to communities to come on board because government alone cannot eradicate the scourge of child abuse as it often occurs in homes where children should feel safe, nurtured and cared for. Government calls on all South Africans to support Child Protection Week by ensuring that the most vulnerable in society do not suffer abuse.”
Teenage pregnancies also stem from gender-based violence and sexual abuse. Government calls on all South Africans to work with police, prosecutors and courts to ensure that perpetrators of Gender-Based Violence and Femicide are brought to book. It is up to all sectors of society to partner with government to create safer communities and protect victims of abuse. It is illegal for any person under the age of 16 to consent or be involved in any sexual act, and this will be prosecuted as statutory rape.
The Department of Social Development has a 24-hour call centre dedicated to provide support and counselling to victims of gender-based violence. You can also call the toll-free number on 0800 428 428 (0800 GBV GBV) to speak to a social worker for assistance and counselling. Callers can also request a social worker from the Command Centre to contact them by dialling *120*7867# (free) from any cell phone or Childline South Africa: 0800 055 555.
Enquiries: Phumla Williams – 0835010139