Overview: Child Protection
Providing care and support to millions of orphaned and vulnerable children and reducing the high levels of violence against children and women are among South Africa’s most daunting tasks. Even with the country’s progressive child protection laws and policies, preventing and addressing violence remains a major challenge.
Many families in South Africa face severe challenges in protecting and caring for their children. On one hand, the country has inherited a legacy of violence, extreme inequality and social dislocation. On the other hand, the country’s huge HIV burden has resulted in high levels of orphaning. Childhoods are stolen as children take on adult roles as caregivers of ill parents; or of siblings in child-headed households.
A key national achievement has been the establishment of a progressive legal framework and the elaboration of policies that protect children and guarantee their rights to social services. The Children’s Act brings South African law in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child . The Child Justice Act establishes a separate criminal justice system for children in conflict with the law, and the Sexual Offences Act includes a wide range of crimes that commonly occur against children. Together, these laws form the foundation of a comprehensive child protection framework.
UNICEF is supporting the implementation of laws, policies, regulations and services that protect children from violence, exploitation and abuse, and that respond to and support victims. UNICEF is also supporting the training of social services professionals and is working with partners to roll out services for child and women victims of sexual violence to the whole country.
Community childcare forums are on the frontline of the response to the challenges of childcare in the context of HIV and AIDS. Childcare forums operate within local communities and are made up of members of the community itself. UNICEF is supporting efforts to scale up these childcare forums for widespread national coverage, and help them provide quality, comprehensive services.
The government is responsible for ensuring an adequate coverage of services to reach the most vulnerable children, and UNICEF is helping with the development and implementation of national strategies to fulfil this role. Key priorities are assistance in accessing birth registration and social grants, ensuring an adequate spread of prevention and early intervention services, and strengthening alternative care systems for children deprived of family care.