- The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) takes this opportunity to commend the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACERWC) for their decision to commemorate this years’ Day of the Africa Child by shining a spotlight on “Access to Child-Friendly Justice in Africa”. According to the ACERWC, a child friendly justice system “refers to all procedures of judicial or administrative nature, whether formal or informal, where children are brought into contact with, or are involved in, civil, criminal or administrative law matters.”
- For the history conscious and perhaps politically aware; the date June 16 resonates with memories of youthful resentment and images of young Hector Peterson carried in the hands of an unidentified man during the 1976 student uprising in Soweto, South Africa.
- In that context, the ACERWC has since its operation in 2002 consistently identified themes for commemoration every year which have effectively influenced policy in many of the countries on the African continent. These have ranged from “Popularizing the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child”, “Birth Registration”, “Combatting child trafficking” to “Child participation” and “leaving no child behind for Africa’s development”, among others.
- It is against the backdrop of these continent wide milestones that BONELA would like to acknowledge positive strides made in our own country in the form of the 2009 Botswana Children’ Act and other areas, which involve major initiatives in empowering both the boy and the girl children as well as advocacy for the promotion, protection and fulfilment of children’s rights in light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development for Children in Africa.
- With specific regard to the issue of “Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa” which is this year’s theme, BONELA posits that although the Children’s Act has in a big way impacted the manner of handling children’s issues by both the authorities and society in general, more still need be done to improve the level of awareness among the public as in policy making domains regarding the fuller meaning of access to justice for children.
The Botswana Network On Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA)
- For example, there is so far compelling evidence that despite the existence of robust laws to address issues of violations against children – including children with disabilities – conviction rates remain undesirably low due to a number of factors, including limited resources to facilitate access to justice for children.
- As such, BONELA recommends to government of Botswana in line with propositions and observations made by the ACERWC, do the following;
Strengthen and empower units and departments dealing with child justice through awareness and specialization development, upskilling and increased funding to enhance implementation capacity.
Ensure that efforts to raise awareness on the rights of children and young people, particularly concerning access to justice are systematically stepped up through deliberate incorporation into a broad reaching stake holder linkage
Ensure that witnessing or giving evidence by children is less intimidating and improving the questioning of children in court.
Review infrastructure and amenities at all justice administration related facilities such as police service centers, courtrooms and rehabilitation centers to ensure they are child friendly.
Exploring the feasibility of establishing an autonomous juvenile justice system, customized rehabilitation and psycho social support facilities for children and young people, particularly those in conflict with the law
Expediting the handling of child related cases at all levels of the justice system
For more information, contact BONELA on: Cindy Kelemi at email@example.com or +267 73007782 | Tebogo Gareitsanye at firstname.lastname@example.org or +267 73297509