In 2009, the government with assistance from other stakeholders came up with Botswana Children’s Act (2009) to protect children’s rights.
However, 10 years after the formulation of the legislation, it is evident that there are challenges in the implementation of that Act.
Speaking at the ongoing Botswana Civil Society Child Rights Convention in Gaborone earlier, social worker Moffat Nkgari pointed out that the Act contradicts some of the provisions of the country’s Constitution.
“We have realised that this law contradicts other laws such as Adoption, Employment, Marriage, Domestic and Human Trafficking Acts. Other challenges that we face in implementing Children’s Act (2009) is that parents and communities are of the view that most of their rights have been taken and given to children.
Despite our efforts to empower such stakeholders with knowledge regarding the Act, there has been ignorance about it. Most claim not to be aware of it,” Nkgari said.
He also observed that some NGOs dealing with children built structures, collected children and left them there as long as they had funds and employees therefore neglecting them.
Poor legal representation, according to Nkgari, finding volunteer lawyers to represent children in courts are yet other challenges. In some instances, there were cases instances where children’s cases were not tried for years.
Furthermore, the Act also makes it difficult for international or countries adoption. He said people from international countries couldn’t adopt disadvantaged children from this country as much as it is hard for Batswana to adopt children outside the country.
For her part, chief social welfare community officer Kehumile Mabote explained that even though the Act was meant to protect and care for children, its establishment remained a challenge because some of the social workers were trained at diploma level yet expected to provide services that they are not qualified for.
She added that some offices were not conducive for counselling because they were small and shared by officers therefore compromising a client’s privacy.
“Most of the social workers are not appointed as probation officers and it is hard to take our cases to court as they specifically want to work with probation officers. The other issue is we do not have children’s courts in Botswana. This makes it hard for their cases to be tried,” she said.
She added that children born out of wedlock were culturally disadvantaged as it was believed that they belong to their mother therefore being denied rights to be given their father’s love and care. She also said communities are still reluctant to report defilement cases even though they happen right in their eyes.
The panel said that even though the Act had been installed for a decade now, both the community and government officials lacked knowledge about its objectives. They pointed out that there was lack of harmonisation of laws saying that access to justice was a big issue.
They said cases there where social workers were afraid to report cases defilement cases where elder men impregnated underage children because their baby daddies support their children.