A new child justice system is on the cards while the country will soon have a new law incorporating provisions of Zimbabwe’s international obligations following the approval of two Bills by Cabinet on Tuesday.
The two are the Child Justice Bill and the Children Amendment Bill.
Presenting the post-Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the Child Justice Bill and the Children Amendment Bill were presented to Cabinet by Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi.
The Child Justice Bill establish a justice system for children in conflict with the law, in accordance with the values and principles underpinning the Constitution and the international obligations of Zimbabwe.
“The Bill seeks to entrench the principles of rehabilitation and restorative justice as an integral part of the child justice system, and to establish procedures for the screening of children to create special rules for a Child Justice Court,” Minister Mutsvangwa said.
The Bill will provide for legal representation for children; and the sentencing options available for children while the age of criminal responsibility of a child is being reviewed upwards from 7 to 12 years.
Child Justice Committees will also be established at national, provincial and district levels that will be mandated with monitoring child justice.
The Children’s Amendment Bill will amend the Children’s Act to align it with the 2013 Constitution and incorporate provisions of International Conventions and treaties that Zimbabwe has ratified.
The Bill widens and criminalises instances of child abuse to include allowing a child to reside in or to frequent a brothel; causing the seduction, abduction or commercial sexual exploitation of a child; and causing a child to participate in the propagation of child sexual abuse material.
The denial of medical treatment or access to medical treatment to a child without reasonable cause will also be criminalised.
The Bill also places an obligation on any professional person who becomes aware or suspects, on reasonable grounds, that a child is being abused, to report that person to a police officer or a child protection officer.
Furthermore, the Bill will criminalise parents or guardians who enable the commission of an offence by a child or fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that the child does not commit an offence.
Abused children will be removed to a place of custody or detention in the best interest of the child and institutions that receive children must accommodate them in a family-type environment.
A new clause has been incorporated that empowers probation officers to obtain birth certificates for children without parental care.