Two more Bills Approved

Cabinet has approved the Children’s Amendment Bill and the Child Justice Bill, the Minister of Information Hon. Monica Mutsvangwa announced during the 25th Post Cabinet briefing on Tuesday 27 July 2021.

The two Bills form part of the laws that are being supported by the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on the alignment of Legislation with the Constitution (IMT).

The IMT is an institutional structure set up by Cabinet in 2015 to facilitate the alignment of legislation with the constitution legislation.  The IMT supported the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (MoJLPA) and the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare by providing financial and technical support to hold nationwide grassroots consultations, stakeholder consultations and drafting workshops (writeshops) for both Bills.

What is the Child Justice Bill about?

The Child Justice Bill was primarily established to create a separate juvenile justice system centered on principles of restoration and rehabilitation of the child offender. The Bill when passed into law, will also repeal sections 6 and 7 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23] that perpetuate the discrimination of child offenders below 14 years of age and those above 14 years. The Bill also adopts a modern and universal standard with regards to criminal capacity as required by Article 40(3) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children and increases the minimum criminal age of responsibility from 7 to 12 years.

The Bill is also intended to give effect to section 81 of the Constitution by ensuring the best interest of the child is prioritized through the prohibition of automatic detention; necessitating exhaustion of the option of pre-trial diversion; and placing a duty on the probation officer to disclose psychological, welfare and other relevant background information that may have led the child to juvenile delinquency. Two key and important features of the Bill are; the establishment of a specialized Child Justice Court with trained judicial officers and establishment of child justice committees at the district, provincial and national levels to monitor, safeguard, and promote access to justice for young offenders.

What are the key features of the Children’s Amendment Bill?

The Children’s Amendment Bill principally focuses on ensuring compliance with section 19, as read with section 81 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which grants every child the right to be protected from economic, sexual exploitation, from child labour, maltreatment, neglect or any form of abuse.

The Bill is primarily hinged on the principle of the best interest of the child which finds its basis in Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of Children. The Bill will address some of the following critical issues:

  1. The criminalisation of adults who facilitates indulgence of children in pornography-related activities,
  2. It prohibits child trafficking
  3. Providing protection to children who may grow up without their biological parents.

When passed into law, the Children’s Amendment Act will be administered by the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare while the Child Justice Act will be administered by the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.

The IMT is supported by the Delegation of the European Union (EU) and the Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR), CALR offers technical support and the EU provides financial support.