• Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

Statement by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission on June 16

ByChad J. Johnson

Jun 16, 2022

1. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) is one of the five (5) Independent Chapter 12 Commissions established under Sections 232(b) and 242 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and made operational by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Act. [Chapter 10:30].

2. In its capacity as the National Human Rights and Administrative Justice Institution of Zimbabwe as well as the current Chairperson of the Network of African National Human Rights Institutions (NANHRI), the ZHRC joins to the rest of the African continent to commemorate this annual Day of the African Child (DAC) under the theme “Eliminating Harmful Practices Affecting Children: Progress in Policy and Practice since 2013”

3. The DAC is commemorated annually on June 16 to remember and reflect on the Soweto Uprisings of 1976 when students in South Africa protested against apartheid-inspired education, resulting in the public murder of some of the young un armed by law enforcement officers.

4. Since the introduction of the DAC in 1991, the commemorations have been organized under different themes which aim to promote the rights of the child. The 2022 DAC theme emphasizes the elimination of harmful cultural practices affecting children. Harmful cultural practices include, but are not limited to, child promise, early and forced marriage, child trafficking, female genital mutilation, virginity testing, sexual violence, torture and other punishments or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

5. The prevalence of harmful social and cultural practices prevent children from enjoying their fundamental rights and freedoms as set out in the international instruments to which Zimbabwe is a state party. These include the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of Children (ACRWC). More specifically, Article 19 of the UNCRC imposes on the State the obligation to protect children against all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, ill-treatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse. Article 1(3) of the ACRWC calls upon State Parties to “take all appropriate measures to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices affecting the well-being, dignity, normal growth and development of the child”.

6. The ZHRC recalls the theme of the 2013 DAC which was “Eliminating harmful social and cultural practices affecting children: our collective responsibility” whose objective was to take stock and raise awareness on harmful practices against children and to consider effective strategies for the prevention of harmful practices against children, among others. The logic of the DAC 2022 theme is therefore to assess and take stock of what has been done in terms of the adoption of policies and practices and to reflect on what remains to be done to effectively eliminate harmful practices. affecting children in Africa since 2013.

7. In accordance with the law, Zimbabwe has incorporated best practices in child protection through the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act 2013 (No. 20) and other pieces of legislation and policies which protect and defend the rights of children. Article 81 (1) (e) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe protects children against economic and sexual exploitation, against child labor and against ill-treatment, neglect or any form of abuse. Sub-paragraph (f) provides for empowerment and equal opportunity for children with respect to the right to education, health care services, nutrition and housing. The practices listed in subparagraph (e) and the violation of the rights mentioned in subparagraph (f) can be qualified as practices harmful to children and their specific mention shows the commitment of the Government to eliminate cultural practices harmful to children.

8. ZHRC further commends the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe for outlawing child marriages. The Government of Zimbabwe has also enacted the Marriages Act [Chapter 5:15] in May 2022, which prohibits this harmful practice. The Education Amendment Act Number 15 of 2020 prohibits corporal punishment of children in schools, which was previously considered a positive practice to inculcate discipline in learners, but it amounts to inhuman treatment and punishment, degrading and cruel.

9. Notwithstanding these achievements which are acknowledged, the Commission reiterates the Concluding Observation (CRC/C/15/Add.55, para.22) (January 2016) on Zimbabwe and recommends that the Inter-Ministerial Working Group on Alignment laws the alignment of the Child Act and other child protection laws with the Constitution to rectify all discrepancies to ensure maximum protection of children from practices that perpetuate harmful cultural practices.

10. The Commission also calls on the Government to adopt the draft child rights policy aimed at strengthening the coordination mechanisms and measures for the protection and promotion of the rights of the child which has been discussed for a long time. while practices that perpetuate harmful cultural practices against children continue unabated. This is in line with UNCRC 2016 Concluding Observations for Zimbabwe No. 10.

11. In view of the above, ZHRC recommends that the Government of Zimbabwe:

11.1. Finalize child rights policy to clarify roles and responsibilities of ministries and departments involved in child protection and welfare.

11.2. Through the Department of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, raise awareness of the new marriage law and age of consent. It should also ensure that the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act [Chapter 9:23] as well as the Children’s Act [Chapter 9:06] that provide for sexual consent are aligned with the Constitution, as provided for in the landmark cases mentioned above.

11.3. The government adequately funds its policy instruments to ensure effective implementation.

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