|© UNICEF Tanzania/2009/Pudlowski|
|Tanzania's new Law of the Child says that all children have the right to a name and nationality. Currently less than 10 per cent of the country's children have birth certificates.|
By Sara Cameron
In the run-up to 20 November 2009, the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, UNICEF is featuring a series of stories about this landmark international agreement on the basic human rights of all children – including progress made and challenges that remain. Here is one of those stories.
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, 6 November 2009 – On Wednesday, Tanzania’s Parliament, the Bunge, passed a bill known as the Law of the Child Act 2009. This landmark legislation effectively domesticates the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and provides the legal framework through which the rights of the country’s children can be protected and realized.
Nineteen years ago, the Government of Tanzania signed the CRC, which it ratified in 1991. Yet legal protections for children were scattered among many statutes, and many laws were outdated, having been derived from the colonial era. These inadequate laws provided scarcely any protection for children at risk.
“This is a huge step forward,” said UNICEF Representative in Tanzania Heimo Laakkonen, after witnessing the passage of the bill through Parliament following two days of deliberation. “With the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child just around the corner, this gives us, and Tanzania’s children, two monumental achievements to celebrate!”
Broad range of protections
The Law of the Child reflects many of the most serious challenges facing children in Tanzania today. It addresses such issues as non-discrimination, the right to a name and nationality, the rights and duties of parents, the right to opinion and the right to protection from torture and degrading treatment.
The law lays out the system for ensuring justice for children, whether they come into contact with the legal system as offenders, witnesses or victims. And it defines processes to ensure protection for children without families, including international adoption.
Mr. Laakkonen noted that the new law still has some shortcomings. For example, it does not address discrimination regarding the legal age of marriage, which remains at 15 years for girls and 18 years for boys, and it does not abolish corporal punishment.
Along with many civil society organizations, legal experts, academics and children themselves, UNICEF advocated for these and other amendments to the Act during public hearings that took place in September and October.
Mr. Laakkonen pointed out that even with these gaps the new law can make an enormous difference for children in Tanzania: “The good news is the tremendous solidarity among all the partners who have come forward during the legislative process. We all have a stake in bringing the Law of the Child to life.”
UNICEF’s assists government team
UNICEF was the only external agency invited to assist the government team responsible for writing the first draft of the Act – which was first read in the Parliament in July.
|© UNICEF Tanzania/2009/Pudlowski|
|The right to protection: The new Law of the Child in Tanzania provides a framework for protection of children who are at greatest risk due to loss of parents, abandonment, abuse and other causes.|
When introducing the bill for its final reading in Parliament, the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children, the Hon. Margaret Sitta, personally thanked UNICEF for providing both technical and financial support.
“We are delighted that the decision was made earlier this year to pursue a unified Law of the Child – and we admire the pace, commitment and fervor that has brought that law into force,” said Mr. Laakkonen.
“We are all are committed to working with the government and the host of individuals – the judges, police, wardens, teachers, health workers, social workers and many others – whose task it will be to implement the law, so that it may fulfill its promise to many future generations of Tanzania’s children,” he added. “Now the real work begins.”
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