- The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has hailed the first-ever law recognising children’s rights launched today in Southern Sudan, extolling the government for its efforts to create a society in which children can grow and develop to their full potential.
The Child Act, inaugurated today by President Salva Kiir of Southern Sudan, defines a child as any person under the age of 18 and requires the government to recognise, respect and ensure the rights of children enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, according the a report released by UNICEF today.
“This legislation is a major milestone in creating a protective environment in which children can enjoy their rights to health, education and other basic services, to access information, to express their views, and to be protected from abuse, neglect, exploitation and harm,” said Peter Crowley, Director of Operations for UNICEF’s Southern Sudan Area Programme.
Under the new law, any community member who suspects that a child’s rights have been violated or are at risk must report the case to local authorities.
Additionally, parents must register their children’s births; protect them from neglect, discrimination, violence and abuse; provide them with good care and guidance; and ensure they receive a full-time education.
The Act explicitly bans acts such as the recruitment and use of children by armed forces and groups, torture and cruel treatment, including the use of corporal punishment in schools, jails and public institutions. It also criminalises early marriage and the use of children for prostitution and pornography.
No child under the age of 12 can be held accountable for criminal acts and further cannot be arrested and imprisoned, states the new law, which also sets up a restorative justice system for children above age 12 accused of crimes.
Discrimination against children on the basis of gender, race, age, religion, language, opinion, disability and HIV or other health status, among others, is outlawed by the Act.
For children living without their parents - either temporarily or permanently - the law requires that they are provided with alternative family care in their community.
The new legislation also establishes an independent Children’s Commission, which must investigate reported violations and make recommendations on how to promote children’s rights.
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