Child-friendly justice in the spotlight

29 September 2020 | Justice

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



The Day of the Namibian Child was celebrated yesterday and reflected on challenges faced by children who find themselves in conflict with the law.

It aimed to ensure access to a child-friendly justice system in Namibia. The theme of the day was 'Access to Child-friendly Justice in Namibia During Coronavirus Pandemic'.

Gender equality minister Doreen Sioka said a child-friendly justice system should ensure that the best interests of the child are given primary consideration.

“It should be a system that better serves and protects all children, irrespective of their socio-economic or cultural backgrounds.” Despite the adoption of laws specific to children by African governments and the considerable investment in their protection, many children still do not benefit from child-friendly justice systems in a meaningful way. Global reports indicate that more than a million children worldwide are lawfully detained. In many prisons and institutions, children and young persons are often denied the right to medical care, education, safety and protection and individual development. The Namibian government's commitment to building a child-friendly justice system is evident through the enactment of the Child Care and Protection Act that recognises fundamental principles of a child-friendly justice system. The Act is in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children, and has resulted in various capacity development exercises of all key government officials to ensure that the fundamental principles of a child-friendly justice system contained in the Act are adhered to. “When a child is believed to have committed a crime, the way the justice system responds can have a lifelong impact - positive or negative,” said the Unicef representative to Namibia, Rachel Odede. “Following the principles established by the Convention on the Rights of a Child, we need to treat children with care, sensitivity and respect throughout any procedure or case, with special attention for their wellbeing and needs, and with full respect for their physical and psychological integrity, irrespective of their capacity or legal status. This calls for our individual and collective effort, especially during emergencies such as the current coronavirus pandemic,” she said. To address some of these challenges, in line with the implementation of the Child Care and Protection Act, the police in partnership with the justice ministry and the gender equality ministry in June embarked on a training for law enforcement officials. The training, supported by Unicef, was aimed at equipping them in their response to child protection issues, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic.

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