Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Police, Ms MM Sotyu (MP) on the Child Protection Debate in Parliament of RSA: Working Together to put an end to Child Exploitation and Trafficking
29 May 2012
Chairperson of the NCOP,
Ministers and Deputy Ministers present,
Members of Parliament,
Civil Society present here,
Members of the General Public;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The establishment of the many progressive legal frameworks and policies that protect children and guarantee their rights to social services is a key national achievement by this ANC-led Government, since 1994.
These legislative reforms indeed give true meaning to our former President Nelson Mandela’s wise words when he said: “there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”.
Our President, His Excellency Jacob Zuma, endorsed this notion during the launch of Child Protection Week campaign, last Sunday in Northern Cape, when he called upon all South Africans to “unite behind the noble goal of protecting our children, the nation’s most important resource, and to invest in the future of our country”.
I am reminiscing over our Presidents’ visionary words because they correctly stress that, both the State and Society have a key role in providing protection and social services in order to strengthen the capacity of families and communities to care for and protect children.
For instance, through the Children’s Act of 2005, the democratic South African Government has strived to make a real difference to the lives of children. The Children’s Act is very comprehensive and strongly focuses on the protection and development of the family as first line of protection and development of children.
It is in the family sphere where the vast majority of children in South Africa faces and experiences severe social ills such as high levels of domestic violence; substance abuse; sexual abuse, violence, murder and neglect.
Children and young people find themselves isolated and trapped in extreme poverty due to being orphaned, neglected, and abandoned. And, in-turn they become prone to being victims of prostitution; human trafficking and substance abuse.
Therefore, Chairperson, it should come as no surprise when the lead Department of the Child Protection Week Campaign – which is Social Development – closes the campaign on 3rd June 2012, with the special focus on child protection within families.
When parents face challenges it often has a direct impact on the well-being of the child. Challenges such as unemployment, family conflict, substance abuse contribute to child abuse. Particularly, the substance abuse is wreaking havoc our children’s future.
That is why as the SAPS Leadership we support the call by the Minister of Social Development, Minister Bathabile Dlamini, to increase the legal drinking age from 18 years to 21 years. As part of the inter-ministerial committee on substance abuse, the Department of Police will commit to all the processes leading towards the development of this legislation.
The Minister of Police had also emphasised the critical role of family, when he re-introduced the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) Units across all nine provinces already in 2010.
Also, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development has recently announced that he has commissioned a report to look into whether to re-introduce special sexual offences courts. Already, 62 of these courts are operating on a pilot basis, and has so far proven to be every effective in dealing with sexual offences.
Then, there is of course, the Sexual Offences Act which codifies criminal sexual acts against children; and this Act has strong provisions against child prostitution; sexual violence and abuse.
All of the above-mentioned legislation and units are a vivid resolve by our Government that, South Africa is no longer a State that would only intervene after the child has already suffered abuse, neglect or exploitation.
We believe that prevention (Children’s Act in this case) is always better than cure when it comes to child protection. And, with preventative care it is critical that families are involved in the process.
But I would like to pose a question to my colleagues and fellow Members of Parliament present in this house: in the midst of very progressive legislations to protect our children; why do we still hear about cases such as that of a 9 year old found in a refrigerator in Pretoria, and whose stepfather has since been arrested as a suspect?
Yes, skeptics and doomsayers will be quick to respond to this question, and say that there is more speak and little attention paid to implementation of child protection legislation by our Government, or a lack of political will as they allege.
Nothing could be far from the truth than this false assertion. There are indeed major gains on the protection of children’s rights in South Africa.
Having said this, I would like to draw our attention as Members of Parliament to the recent judgement by the Western Cape High Court which upheld a decision by the Riversdale Magistrate’s Court that a respondent, Mr Arnold Prins, charged with forcibly fondled a woman, cannot be sentenced because the behaviour has no penalty under the Sexual Offences Act.
Notwithstanding, we must appreciate that the NPA in the Western Cape has already been granted leave to appeal this judgement that Mr Prins cannot be sentenced because of a flaw in the Sexual Offences Act. We are also pleased to hear that the Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development is already busy drafting amendments to the Sexual Offences Act.
But as we are busy amending the Act, we as Members of Parliament must take the following probing questions into cognisance. First, we must ask: will the amended legislation afford adequate provisions for relevant Departments to work together?
For example; the Sexual Offences Act, the Children’s Act and the Domestic Violence Act, all contain provisions for registers of offenders who commit offences against children and women.
Perhaps, as JCPS Departments together with the Department of Social Development, Basic Education, and Women, Children and People with Disabilities, we might consider synthesising the many almost identical registers, and save resources in the process.
The envisaged amended Sexual Offences Act must strive to give true meaning to the Inter-Governmental Relations Framework Act for effective co-ordination and integration of activities of affected Departments, especially the Departments of Police, Education, Justice, Social Development and Women, Children, and People with Disabilities.
Secondly, will there be a provision in the amended Sexual Offences Act that adequately advises the relevant Departments as above-mentioned, on the apparent link that exists between the social problems such as unemployment, poverty, inequity, weakened family bonds; and the attempt by young people to escape these harsh realities into the world of substance abuse, prostitution, and human trafficking?
It is also a reality that children and young people who are forcefully and illegally removed from where they were residing, forced into prostitution, and coerced into indecent sexual activities, could be victims of organised criminal syndicates.
For instance, just last week I met with civil society organisations, called SWEAT and SISONKE, who wish to kick-start earnest engagements with Government to discuss the best way to decriminalise sex work in South Africa, so that their exploitation and victimisation can stop.
These two organisations also highlighted the plight of girls, young as 11 years old, who are constantly being trafficked from one Province to another by organised syndicates, and forced into prostitutions and drug addiction, due to their vulnerable state of socio-economy.
These organisations argue that if sex work is decriminalised, sexual exploitation of under-age children will stop, as there would be legal regulations on sex work.
As we amend the Sexual Offences Act, we must therefore make sure that there are adequate provisions to synergise the Immigration Act, the Films and Publications Act, and the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
My third question to us as Members of Parliament is: will there be an appropriate budget to implement the Amended Sexual Offences Act in its whole?
As we might all know, the budget system is the single most important ingredient of public service delivery. Simply put, proper budgeting is the most important tool for translating government priorities and strategic plans into public services.
Without being rhetoric, we must say that, it will be the oversight role of this Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Constitutional Development to see to it that the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development identifies correct priorities for the Amended Sexual Offences Act.
Indeed, it is the responsibility of both the Ministry of Justice and the relevant Parliamentary Committees to oversee that the budget design and allocation will translate identified priorities of the amended legislation into resource allocations that will further the realisation of those identified priorities.
Lastly, Chairperson, as Parliament, we can never undermine the role of civil society in Government processes. Through Parliamentary Public Hearings of the proposed amendments of the Sexual Offences Act, Parliament must continue to enhance and facilitate the objective of participatory democracy so that all those progressive Non-Governmental-, Community-, and Non-Profit Organisations continue to provide meaningful contributions to Parliament’s objective of realising a better quality life for all the children and youth of South Africa.
Not only is the partnership with civil society critical to the efficient delivery of child protection services; NGOs remain a powerful force in shaping and communicating new legislations for the protection and care of our children.
As Members of Parliament we must make sure that funding provision for relevant and progressive civil society is inserted to the newly amended Sexual Offences Act.
Chairperson, I have raised these questions to us as Members of Parliament to remind ourselves that Parliament is not only an oversight body, but it is also an advocacy arm of Government that makes sure that all legislations amended or developed always advance and protect persons that are vulnerable and also disadvantaged by unfair discrimination.
We are thus quite sure that as the Sexual Offences Act is being amended, the legislation will divert greater resources to the majority of disadvantaged communities with high rates of child sexual abuse, molestation, and substance abuse.
We will ensure as Members of Parliament to detect in advance, deficiencies and shortcomings, and to identify alternative developmental needs of our young citizens, should the need arise.
In the meantime, Chairperson, this ANC-led Government and its Departments will continue to make sure that Government programmes include and prioritise the needs of the vast numbers of children, who were, during apartheid, marginalised to the point of near invisibility.
We must be proud as Government that the aspirations, needs and conditions of children and youth of South Africa are formally recognised and continued to be articulated through some major national policy initiatives, institutions and through international instruments.
As the Department of Police, our programmes are channelled at prevention measures, because prevention is always better than cure when it comes to Child Protection. As the Police Leadership, we are aware that one of the most important spheres to work with to curb child abuse is the school environment.
Since educators spend a great deal of time with abused children who are their learners, it becomes important that educators know how to manage these children in the school yard and in the school classroom. That is why the Ministry of Police continues with the resolve of inter-departmental approach to fight and prevent crime.
In this instance, the Minister of Police and the Minister of Basic Education signed a Protocol Implementation Agreement last year April 2011, to partner for the promotion of safer schools and to prevent the involvement of young people in crime.
The Adopt a Cop Programme and the Safer Schools Programme are already gearing at building resistance and resilience amongst learners and youth to offending behaviour and from victimisation. For the Child Protection Week campaign, the SAPS will also be running the Teacher Supplement by the Mail and Guardian this coming Friday.
Most importantly, the Department of Police is also beefing up the police officers’ training courses for prioritised and vulnerable groups such as children and women.
For the FY2011/2012, more than 18000 police officers across the country have been trained in Victim Empowerment, Child Justice, Human Rights, Domestic Violence, and Sexual Offences Act. We are happy to say that these topics are also covered in the newly introduced Basic Police Development Learning Programme and some managerial courses.
They are also featured as cross-cutting topics in all operational courses dealing with victims, complainants, suspects, colleagues, arrestees, use of force, etc. For this FY2012/2013, R1.7billion has been budgeted for all forms of training interventions.
Indeed, the integrated facilitation of all learning areas at Academy Phase allows both trainees and trainers to be able to link the academic theories with the tactical training for a better understanding of effective and efficient Policing.
The two-year course is a shift from the former academic approach to a more practical hands-on approach to Policing, and is easily manageable to force mentors/relief commanders/Field Police Development Officers to train the trainees.
Furthermore, the Minister of Police had announced in his Budget Vote Speech earlier this month, that the Department of Police’s Financial Year 2012/2013 is the Year of the Detective. That is why as the Department, we are prioritising specialised training for investigators of sexual offences to ensure arrest is closely followed by harsher convictions.
As the Department of Police, we are no longer interested to satisfy quantity or volume-based arrests of child rapists, molesters, exploiters and murderers. We are focused at efficient investigations, which include improved accurate statement-taking of these cases; and impactful convictions, which involve prolonged sentences of these heinous criminals.
As I conclude, Chairperson, we reiterate the message conveyed by the President at the launch of Child Protection Week Campaign, that every one of us has a role to play to protect our children from harm and poverty. We must assist our children and youth to acquire quality life-skills so that South Africa could one-day be counted as of one of the best places in the world for a child to enjoy his/her childhood, and a young person to enjoy being youth.
I thank you all.
Issued by: South African Police Service
29 May 2012
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