AS Namibians are celebrating the day of the Namibian Child to reflect on the challenges faced by children who find themselves in conflict with the law in order to pave a way to ensure access to a child-friendly justice system in Namibia.
The Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication, and Social Welfare, 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 that are specific to children by African governments and the considerable investment into their protection, for several reasons, scores of children are still unable to access or benefit from child-friendly justice systems in a meaningful way.
Global reports indicate that more than 1 million children worldwide are lawfully detained by law enforcement agencies. 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. (Act No. 3 of 2015) that recognizes the fundamental principles of a child-friendly justice system.
The Act is in line with the Convention of the Rights on the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children, has resulted in various capacity development exercises of all key government official to ensure that the fundamental principles of a child-friendly justice system contained in the Act, and 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 Rachel Odede, the UNICEF Representative to Namibia.
“Following the principles established by the Convention on the Rights of a Child, they need to treat children with care, sensitivity, and respect throughout any procedure or case, with special attention for their well being 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 COVID-19 pandemic,” she reiterated.