Document to protect children rights goes missing

Document to protect children rights goes missing
Aya Benjamin Warile, Minister of Gender Child and Social Welfare (photo credit: file/The City Review)

The Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare has revealed that the final ratified document meant to cushion children from forced early marriages, human trafficking, and child labor has gone missing.

According to the ministry, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) document has gone missing between the Parliament and the Office of the president.

This was revealed during a one-day multi-partners consultative workshop in Juba on Wednesday to lobby for the final ratification of the document by the president.

Speaking at the event, the Director for Child Welfare in the Ministry Celina Grace Peter said the document was presented to the parliament in 2013 and passed in 2014.

“This is the moment that we would like to unpack what had [been lying] low for so long since the time the parliament passed this African Charter in 2014 October,” she said.

Grace said the ministry did not receive any communication from the African committee of experts on the rights of the welfare of the child based in Addis.

“So this is the time that we would now want to say let’s unpack where the African charter has [been] so that at the end of the day, wherever it is; it must go to the office of the president and must be signed and dispatched,” she said.

“It [is] that [which] will show that South Sudan as a member of the African Union is concerned about the regional instrument,” Grace added.

The official said it was important for the country to ratify the charter because it contributes to the country’s positive reputation as part of the signatories to the UN Charter.

“This is a regional instrument. And, South Sudan being a member of the African Union [means] it is upon South Sudan to also ratify this instrument so that we will go a step further.”

A Member of Parliament Mary Puru Michael also affirmed the parliament’s commitment to assisting the Ministry of Gender to locate the charter immediately.

“Each and everyone is looking at the parliament like the one letting the country down but we are saying we will work with you as your representatives and try our level best,” Puru assured. 

However, according to another Member of Parliament, Simon Malual, MPs are still in the dark about the whereabouts of the charter.

He added that they did not know whether it is in the office of the speaker or the office of the president.

“We had ratified the document and it was supposed to be sent to the office of the president to assent,” Malual said, adding: “He pledged to check the document with the previous speakers to locate it and in the absence of the document, Malual said any institution should not be blamed for the missing of the charter’’.

“All the responsible offices will be searched [and we will] get it in the office of the former speaker as well. [If we do not get it, then] someone can blame [us] for why we kept the document for long. Also, the office of the president is big, maybe someone is delaying it somewhere and it has not reached the table of the president,” he said.

The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) was adopted by the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1990 before the OAU legally became the African Union (AU) and was entered into force in 1999. The Children’s Charter is a comprehensive instrument that sets out rights and defines universal principles and norms for the status of children. 

ACRWC content

The ACRWC defines a “child” as a human being below the age of 18 years. It acknowledges that children are entitled to the enjoyment of freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly, thought, religion, and conscience. 

It aims to protect the private life of the child and safeguard the child against all forms of economic exploitation and hazardous work that interferes with the child’s education or compromises his or her health or physical, social, mental, spiritual, and moral development.

It calls for protection against abuse and bad treatment, negative social and cultural practices, all forms of exploitation or sexual abuse, including commercial sexual exploitation, and illegal drug use. It aims to prevent the sale and trafficking of children, kidnapping, and begging of children.