KEETMANSHOOP – The implementation of amended laws remains Namibia’s Achilles heel. As a means of providing stronger protection and assisting children, the government, in cooperation with the Legal Assistance Centre enacted the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA) (Act no. 3 of 2015) at the beginning of 2019.
Yolandé Engelbrecht, a paralegal for the gender research and advocacy project at the LAC, however, during a training session on the Act last week in Keetmanshoop explained the key part of any new law as its proper implementation.
“The Act covers many different topics relating to children that will require all stakeholders to provide their crucial inputs,’’ Engelbrecht emphasised. She also said parents have an important duty to act in their children’s best interest which has become a paramount concern in Namibia.
“Their (parents) main duty should be to guide and direct children in consistence with their (children) evolving capacities,” she said. She added parents should always be there to protect children from neglect, discrimination, violence, abuse and harm. Engelbrecht then underlined the necessity of children to receive proper care, whereby a competent person should fulfil this role in cases where parents are temporarily absent.
“It is also the duty of parents to provide basic living conditions necessary for a child’s development,” she said. One main aspect contained in the Act is that of the age of majority (adulthood) ,which has been decreased from 21 to 18 years. “As childhood marriages are still heavily protected in Namibia, a person will however still need parental consent if wanting to get married between the ages of 18 and 21 years,’’ she clarified.
Another new aspect is that a child may give independent consent to HIV testing in respect of him or herself provided the child reached the age of 14 years. “If the child is under the age of 14 years then the person who conducts the pre-test counselling must be satisfied that the child is of sufficient maturity to understand the benefits, risks and social implications of an HIV test,” said Engelbrecht.
In terms of parenting plans, the Act explains it as the manner in how parents intend to exercise their rights and duties towards their children. Parents can make a parenting plan if both of them want to do this, whether they are married or unmarried.
The purposes of a parenting plan, according to the CCPA is to reduce conflict between the parents, especially where the parents do not live together which inter alia includes the child’s residence, sharing of maintenance and contact with the parent not staying with the child.
Kinship care is also a new concept under the Act, which covers situations where families make their own arrangements for children to live with someone other than their parents, such as extended family members or a close friend.
Such guardians can then by law apply for social grants. Josephine Haman, acting head girl of P.K. De Villiers Secondary School, who also attended the training described the importance of the CCPA as that of dealing properly with children’s human rights, thus protecting them from abuse. “
I also learned and thankful that our government constantly aims at making laws in the best interest of us (children),’’ she said.