Parliament Passes Amendment Bill Which Seeks to Strengthen Child Protection
A Children’s Amendment Bill which aims to strengthen child protection by aligning the Children’s Act with the Constitution and international conventions was recently passed by Parliament.
The Bill proposes significant changes to the Act’s definitions, including scrapping the distinction between children and young persons and calling everyone under the age of 18 a child.
It also alters the designation of “child in need of care” to include children at risk of being unlawfully married or pledged in marriage, pregnant children, and unaccompanied children. Furthermore, the definition of “parent” will be expanded to include biological parents, whether they are married or not.
The Bill establishes the Child Protection and Welfare Council, which will have additional functions, including preparing a national action plan every five years to protect vulnerable children and promoting children’s rights. The Council will also seek the views of children and ensure their full participation.
The Bill introduces new criminal offences, such as causing a child to participate in child sexual abuse material and denying medical treatment to a child.
It also obliges professionals who interact with children in their professional or vocational capacity to report any instance of child abuse they reasonably suspect has occurred or is likely to occur.
The Bill imposes stricter requirements for registering institutions housing children and provides for Early Intervention and Family Preservation Programs designed to preserve family structures, develop parenting skills, rehabilitate children, and prevent their neglect or abuse.