“25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”.
Today, the 16th of June, the African Continent commemorates the Day of the African Child. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) joins the Government of Zimbabwe, International Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, and Communities to commemorate this day. Since 1991, the Day of the African Child has been commemorated on 16th June by Member States of the African Union (AU), and its partners in accordance withResolution CM/Res.1290 (XL) adopted by the AU in 1990.
The Day of the African Child is firstly a commemoration to recall the 1976 uprising by children in Soweto, during which scores of school children lost their lives following shootings by the Police during Apartheid South Africa. The Commemorations present opportunity to focus on the work of all actors on the African continent committed to the rights of children and to remind them to consolidate their efforts in addressing the challenges still being faced towards realisation of children’s rights. In that regard, the Day of the African Child provides an occasion for Government and all other actors to renew their commitment towards improving the plight of children.
Each year, a theme is identified by the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) and adopted by the Executive Council of the African Union. For this year, 2015, the theme is; “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”. As the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI) with a Constitutional mandate to protect, promote and enforce all human rights in Zimbabwe, the Commission notes significant progress Zimbabwe has made towards the goal of advancing the rights of children in conformity with Regional and International standards as provided for in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC).
The Declaration of Rights in the Constitution of Zimbabwe outlaws child marriages. Section 78 of the Constitution clearly stipulates that the right to marry and found a family only applies to persons who have attained 18 years and no person may be forced to enter a marriage against their will. The rights of children are elaborated in Section 81 of the Constitution and among other rights, boys and girls have the right to be protected from economic and sexual exploitation, from child labour, and from maltreatment, neglect or any form of abuse. The Constitution also guarantees children’s rights to education, health care services, nutrition and shelter.
As we celebrate the Day of the African Child, the ZHRC notes with concern, that “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter there are still many cases of children being married off at tender age in Zimbabwe. The continued prevalence of child marriages is confirmed in the findings of the Baseline Survey on Perceptions, Attitudes and Understanding of Human Rights in Zimbabwe, which the ZHRC conducted between 2013 – 2014 and was adopted in Harare on 22 May, 2015.
The Baseline Survey Report also revealed other enduring infringements of the rights of children, such as, widespread child labour practices particularly in formal and informal mining sectors and exclusion from preventive vaccines/medicine programmes and health related services to children by certain groups on grounds of religious belief who instead administer water which may be unsafe for drinking as holy medicine. The Baseline Survey Report further revealed acute shortage of paediatric Anti-retroviral Treatment (ART) formula for Children Living with HIV; low numbers of children taking Anti-Retroviral Drugs (ARVs) partly due to the non-decentralisation of testing centres for HIV in children; and late disclosure of HIV positive status of children by parents and guardians often resulting in cases of suicide.
In light of these findings, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission urges the Government of Zimbabwe, relevant International Organisations, Civil Society Organisations, Communities and other players to accelerate efforts to promote, protect and enforce all children’s rights. The Commission particularly continues to call upon the Government through the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to fully domesticate the African Children’s Charter and other Regional and International instruments that uphold the rights of children; expedite the alignment of all pieces of legislation concerning children, for example, the Children’s Act (Chapter 5:06) to the Constitution and finalise the process of harmonising marriages in Zimbabwe under one Act.
For more information please contact:
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission
3 Elcombe Rd
Tel: +263 4 4 700705/ 700705/ 700533
144 Samora Machel Avenue
Tel: +263 4 251077/ 251085/ 701811
127 Fife St