Bid to amend Children's Act to ensure the arrest of people who fail to report child abuse

Teddy bear. (PHOTO: Getty Images)
Teddy bear. (PHOTO: Getty Images)

Non-profit organisation Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) is fighting for the amendment of the Children's Act to ensure the arrest of any adult who does not report incidents of child abuse they know of.

"Women and Men Against Child Abuse recommend that Section 110 (2) of the Children's Act No 38 be amended to make it mandatory for anyone with reasonable suspicion of child abuse [to] report it," advocacy Manager Murombedzi Ngaa told News24 on Friday.

"Currently, the obligation to report is voluntary for non-professionals, meaning any citizen or persons, and only mandatory in the professions listed in subsection 1 of Section 110," she added.

Section 110 of the Children's Act states that any professional in a "centre or child and youth care centre who on reasonable grounds concludes that a child has been abused in a manner causing physical injury, sexually abused, or deliberately neglected, if it is in the best interest of the child concerned, must report that conclusion to a designated child protection organisation or the provincial department of social development".

However, WMACA wants this legislation to be amended so that it holds any adult responsible for the safety of children - not just professionals.

"The responsibility to ensure children are protected, by virtue of abuse or suspicion thereof being reported, cannot be placed only on professional persons.

"The responsibility should be on anyone who comes into contact with a child to make sure that child is protected," Ngaa said.

The case of Baby Daniel motivated the organisation to fight for the amendment.

Baby Daniel died in June 2016. He suffered a broken elbow, broken femur, injured ribs and second-degree burns to 60% of his body.

READ | Baby Daniel's killer gets life in prison, mother handed 20 years for neglect

His killer claimed that he was injured when he fell into a bathtub of hot water, and that he was found dead the next day, News24 reported.

Timothy Naidoo, was sentenced to life imprisonment after he was convicted of abusing and murdering his former girlfriend's son. The child's mother, Maryke Cloete* was sentenced to 20 years behind bars in April, News24 reported.

Ngaa believes that if this amendment was in place, it could have saved the life of Baby Daniel and many other victims of child abuse.

"Both the professionals and his family members who are not mandated to report failed him.

"We are of the opinion that had there been a legal requirement on family members and non-professionals to report reasonable suspicion of abuse, [and] he had many injuries prior to his death, intervention could have been provided," Ngaa said.

The proposed amendment is subject to a formal process through the Department of Social Development and Department of Justice.

"The process to amend has steps that we are still to follow as it has to go to the governing bodies of the Children's Act and any amendments we would want would have to go via the Department of Social Development and the Minister of Social Development all the way to the Minister of Justice.

"Currently, there are amendments that were proposed prior to our call to have Section 110 Amended. It's an ongoing process," she said.

*Maryke Cloete is not the woman's real name. Her identity has been concealed to protect the identities of her three other children.

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