KEETMANSHOOP, 11 December 2014 – The community of Keetmanshoop on Monday made its input on the Child Care and Protection Bill, including a suggestion to raise the age of consent to 17.
The Bill is currently a subject of public discussion across the country. People from the community and different sectors took part in the public hearing on the Bill, which aims to change some stipulations in the outdated Children’s Act 33 of 1960, which Namibia inherited from South Africa at independence.
Some of the Bill’s objectives are to uphold children’s rights, promote the protection of families, promote the best interest of children, and strengthen and develop structures that provide care and protection for children.
Other objectives are protecting children from discrimination, exploitation and other forms of harm.
The public’s response to the Bill was positive, with a few people making recommendations and others raising concern.
One of the recommendations was that the age of consent be raised to 17 and that grandparents be given the right to adopt their grandchildren who they take care of, as it is in the best interest of the children. Currently the age of consent is 16.
A social worker at the town was concerned about the shelters at the town, which she said are fully equipped but not in use as there are no guardians to run the facility.
She explained that the food kept there had to be distributed to people and some of it has expired.
Member of Parliament Rosalia Shilenga responded that the case has already been taken up as it’s just a minor problem. “I took up this case myself and I thought it has already been solved,” she said.
Another MP Margaret Mensah-Williams added that it’s disturbing that a facility is not up and running because there is no one to work there. She said the facility was not built in one day so there should have been plenty of time to get the human resources in place.
Clauses under the new Child and Protection Bill include adoption which states the rules, procedures and safeguard for adoptions of children; and consent for medical procedure which focuses on what age children should be given a voice without parent’s consent to have access to contraceptives, or have an HIV test.
Child trafficking deals with measures to protect children who are moved from one place to another for purposes of exploitation, while foster care focuses on the procedures for putting children in the care of persons who act in the place of parents for a certain period.
The Bill also stipulates the formation of children’s courts, which aims to make court proceedings more comfortable for children and ensure children’s participation in matters that affect them.
The Bill also deals with a children’s ombudsman whose responsibility will be to investigate and act on complaints about abuse of children’s rights.
By Matheus Hamutenya
Source: NEW ERA (www.allAfrica.com)