Children’s Amendment Bill Write-Shop Held

The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare (MoPSLSW) with the technical and financial support of the IMT recently conducted a Write-Shop for the draft Children’s Amendment Bill. The purpose of the Write-Shop was to subject the draft Children’s Amendment Bill to a peer review process, and to ensure that it is consistent with the Memorandum of Principles that were approved by Cabinet.

The Principles, amongst other things proposed the creation of a separate piece of legislation on Child Justice which is to be administered by the MoJLPA. The Write-Shop further sought to solicit the views of the MoJLPA with regards to those aspects of the Principles that were approved by Cabinet that relate to Children in Conflict with the Law; and to ensure that they are separated from Child Welfare and Protection matters.

Some of the keys issues that the Children’s Amendment Bill seeks to provide for are the ‘definition of a child’ as a boy or girl under the age of eighteen years in line with Section 81(1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, 2013; the ‘prohibition and criminalisation of Child Marriage’ in line with Section 78 of the Constitution; ‘the right of a child to birth registration’ in line with Section 81(1)( c); the removal of all reference to children on the basis of parental status; the mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse by professionals working with children; the criminalisation of child exploitation and abuse through the use of Information and Communication Technologies as well as ensuring that children’s opinions are considered (with due regard to their evolving capacities) in relation to their adoption.
By the end of the Write-Shop, a further revised draft of the Children’s Amendment Bill was produced. The draft Bill is expected to be submitted to the Attorney General’s Office by the 30th of June 2017.

A draft Memorandum of Principles for the Child Justice Bill was also developed during the Write-Shop. Some of the key issues that are likely to be provided for by the Child Justice Bill are the ‘Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility’, the non-discrimination of Children in Conflict with the Law, the Best Interests of the Child, the avoidance of Judicial Proceedings (otherwise known as Pre-Trial Diversion) and the establishment of Child Justice Courts.

Participants who took part in this Write-Shop included representatives from the Legislative Drafting Division in the Attorney General’s Office, Law Officers and Provincial Welfare Officers from the MoPSLSW, Law Officers from the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (MoJLPA), Law Officers from the IMT Technical Committee which is composed of MoJLPA Department of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, MoJLPA Policy and Research Unit, MoJLPA Law Development Commission and Centre for Applied Legal Research; as well as a representative from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).