The Child Protection Protocol, which is in its final draft, is said to be the solution to the problem of growing crimes against children, which attract low conviction rates.
The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development (MLGRD) in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) presented the final draft yesterday.
Speaking at the official launch yesterday, the deputy permanent secretary in the Ministry of Local Government, Halakangwa Mbulai says, “Botswana and its partners continue to observe the incidence of issues that affect children, and on which immediate action needs to be taken”.
“Such issues include orphanhood, increasing incidents of child abuse, exploitation, neglect, juvenile delinquency as well as children who are forced to take up parenting roles, engage in employment to support families as well as survive on the streets,” says Mbulai.
She also stated that the draft Protocol is largely derived from the current challenges related to facilitating access to justice for children.
“In spite of increased volumes of offences against children, we still get very low conviction rates and worse still very few cases reaching trial stage. This may be largely attributed to the unclear process and roles of service providers throughout the child protection continuum,” she explains.
A UNICEF assessment conducted in 2013 dubbed Botswana Youth Risk Behavioural Surveillance Survey on 10- to 19-year-old students indicated that physical and sexual violence was rampant in schools.
The survey also revealed that 12.8 percent of sexually experienced students were forced to have sexual intercourse during the 12 months prior to the survey whilst 13 percent of sexually experienced students had been raped the first time they had sexual intercourse.
Child protection specialist, Ben Semommung said, “40 percent of students were reported to have been picked on or bullied during the 30 days prior to the survey, whilst 25.1 percent of students were threatened or injured with a weapon”.
The draft also addresses issues ranging from interviewing a child in a case of sexual or physical abuse, discipline that violates the child’s dignity, actions of social worker upon receipt of allegations to when the child does and does not need protection.
“A child protection service or provider or agency must intervene to protect a child who might actually suffer cruel or inconsiderable discipline, harmful discipline is correcting or disciplining a child in a cruel or inconsiderable way not matching the child’s age or condition or that whose purpose the child does not understand,” reads the draft.
The Protocol will also challenge the issue of child negligence. It states, “Child negligence is failure to provide the child or young person with an adequate standard of nutrition, medical care, clothing shelter or supervision to the extent where the health development of the child is significantly impaired or placed under serious risk”.
It (Protocol) aims to define respective roles and responsibilities for child protection in Botswana so that all children in the country are protected.