WINDHOEK- A woman who brings her unwanted baby at place of safety such as a police station or hospital instead of dumping or killing the infant will not face criminal charges, states a new provision in the landmark revised Child Care and Protection Act that was unveiled yesterday.
The Act also make provision for new measures such as the age of majority which has been lowered from 21 years to 18, children from the age of 14 can test for HIV and make decision on medical treatment for themselves unless it is a surgical operation. The Act also makes provision for vetting procedures for professional working with children, kinship cares as well as inter-country adoptions.
While speaking off the cuff at different ministerial event yesterday morning, executive director in the ministry of gender equality and child welfare Wilhencia Uiras stated there are various reasons especially young mothers dump their babies.
“We would not lay criminal charges provided the baby is brought to place of safety, police station or hospital. If a mother delivers a baby and is convinced she doesn’t want the baby, bring it to the police station, hospital or children’s home and we won’t lay criminal charges,” said Uiras.
Government will take responsibility for that instead of killing or dumping children in unsafe places.
But Uiras said, criminal charges will be laid if the mother leaves a child at an unsecured place or tries to kill the ‘unwanted’ child. “This is a way of trying to ease the burden of mothers who are not capable of taking care of children for whatever reasons,” she stated.
Similarly, the ministry of gender equality and child protection held an event at a local hotel yesterday where it launched the Child Care and protection Act (Act 3 of 2015).
Complementing Uiras’ views the coordinator Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) for Gender Research and Advocacy project Dianne Hubbard who said no one is protecting baby dumping but the Act is protecting babies.
“So, there is a new provision that make a small exception to the crime that you would otherwise be committing if you dumped the baby and that is if you leave the baby unharmed at place of safety and you will not be prosecuted for anything. Hubbard added that there is a 60-day period before the baby is put up for adoption or cared in anyway.
“The idea is to discourage baby dumping but it will be illegal to leave your child at a place that endanger them in anywhere. She added that of one the issued Namibia is not dealing with is post-natal depression. She said it is not well known or understood and there aren’t good services in place. “It is one of the initiatives we need to put in place to solve the issue of baby dumping,” said Hubbard.
The Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka added that in the new law, the age of majority has been lowered to 18 years to bring Namibian in line with international law and reflects the fact that this age young Namibians are expected to engage in adult activities such as voting and making their own decisions.
“In spite of this provision a person below the age of 21 still requires consent from their parents or guardian in order to marry. Hubbard explained that this is because there have been concerns of people being exploited in bad faith marriages or foreigners who come here and want residence. “It is a big decision that has property consequences,” she stated.
Furthermore, Sioka added the Act provides for children from the age of 14 to consent to medical procedure relating to themselves as well as HIV testing. These provisions are necessary as they enhance access to critical services for adolescents.
Hubbard added fourteen year olds are sexually active and it is much better to know if they are HIV positive to take action and not to spread the disease than to live with it without any alternative
“As a country we have entered a new era in the child protection sector with the enforcement of the child care and protection Act. We have worked for over 20 years on the enactment of this legislation and we are all indeed honored to be here to celebrate the enforcement of this important piece of legislation,” said Sioka.
The event was presided over by Grade 6 learners from Tobias Hainyeko primary school Alina Negumbo and Jeremiah Shivolo an eighth grader from Hage Geingob High school