Parliament, Sunday, 21 November 2021 – The Portfolio Committee on Social Development was informed by Jozini residents that the Children’s Amendment Bill is a necessary law that will end child marriages in rural areas. Jozini was the first of four public hearings in KwaZulu-Natal. Residents showed overwhelming support for the Bill.

A number of participants underscored the persisting challenge of child marriages, which often happens as a result of teenage pregnancy. There was strong support for the amendment that prohibits marriage to children below the age of 18. Participants also supported the removal of the clause in the principal Act that authorised guardians to grant permission for underage children to get married. Also, there was a strong view that the judicial system had to be strengthened to protect children against rape.

Regarding parental responsibility, participants highlighted their support to entrench equal parental rights for both parents with many residents calling for a stronger legal framework compelling fathers to care for their children not only through financial support but also offering emotional care.

Also, the issue of undocumented South African children and children born from foreign nationals was raised as a major challenge. It was reported that these children were not documented due to various reasons including difficulty in tracing the whereabouts of one or both parents, long queues and inefficiencies at the Department of Home Affairs and when one or both parents are deceased. Participants welcomed the assurance given by the Department of Social Development, following the recent Constitutional Court judgement, that unmarried fathers can now register their children with the Department of Home Affairs.

There was a strong view that effective implementation of the Bill will ensure that the objectives of the Bill are achieved. The Department of Social Development was urged to strengthen monitoring and evaluation through their social workers of the use of the foster care grant as well as the disability grant to eliminate cases of misuse of these grants.

Participants also called for municipalities to take a proactive role in supporting Early Childhood Development centres primarily because of the strategic importance of early childhood development in the holistic development of a child.

The committee appreciated the inputs made during the hearings and committed to consider the inputs when finalising the Bill. “Your contributions here today were valuable and has empowered us to deliver a final product that is responsive to the needs of the people,” said Nonkosi Mvana, the Chairperson of the committee.

The committee will conduct the next hearing in Vryheid.


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