A child is anyone under the age of 18 years. Our constitution has made children’s rights a priority and has recorded that the best interests of a child is paramount when it comes to any matter affecting a child. Not only does the constitution guard children’s rights, but so does:
1. The Child Care Act 38 of 2005, which makes it a criminal offence if a person who has to maintain a child does not provide a child with food, clothes, housing and medical care;
2. The Basic Conditions of Employment Act, which makes it illegal to employ a child under the age of 18;
3. The Domestic Violence Act of 1988, which defines different forms of Domestic Violence and explains how a child can get a Protection Order against the abuser; and
4. The Films and Publications Act of 1996, which protects children from exploitation in child pornography.
I am a retired woman living in Soweto and foster on an average approximately 30 children. In our community, there are many other children who do not have access to adequate housing and there are many children living in appalling circumstances in an informal settlement close to where I live. What rights do these children have?
Section 26 of the Constitution affords children the right to shelter and obliges the State to act positively to help children in deplorable conditions to provide housing, health care, sufficient food and water and social security to those unable to support themselves. The State has a duty to give effect to these rights progressively and to put in place reasonable measures to meet children’s rights. If the State fails to meet its obligations, it could be faced with a court order to provide relief for those desperate children who have not been catered for.