Ex­perts grap­ple with tough ques­tions

Lesotho Times - - News -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — A group of ex­perts rep­re­sent­ing key in­sti­tu­tions work­ing on pol­icy and le­gal is­sues re­lated to Sex­ual and Re­pro­duc­tive Health and Rights (SRHR), chil­dren’s rights, women’s rights and HIV and AIDS met in Jo­han­nes­burg, South Africa last week to re­view a draft South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity (SADC) Model Law on Child Mar­riage.

The meet­ing, held from 10-11 Au­gust, was the first in a se­ries planned to en­able stake­hold­ers to com­ment on the SADC model Law on Child Mar­riage whose de­vel­op­ment the SADC Par­lia­men­tary Fo­rum is spear­head­ing.

Dur­ing the meet­ing, the ap­prox­i­mately 10 ex­perts pored over the draft model law as well as a re­lated po­si­tion pa­per line by line and made ex­ten­sive com­ments and rec­om­men­da­tions which will be in­cor­po­rated. The aim is to en­sure that once the SADC Model Law on Child Mar­riage has been fully de­vel­oped, it can be used to ef­fec­tively pro­hibit, pre­vent and re­spond to all forms of child mar­riage, which cur­rently af­fects mil­lions of girls in south­ern Africa and be­yond.

Af­ter the meet­ing, the ex­perts were up­beat. Pro­fes­sor Ann Skel­ton, the Di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Child Law at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, said the meet­ing was nec­es­sary to re­move grey ar­eas, en­sure that the pro­posed model law is con­sis­tent with re­gional and in­ter­na­tional in­stru­ments re­lated to child mar­riage and to make it serve the nest in­ter­ests of the chil­dren it seeks to pro­tect.

“I thought the meet­ing grap­pled with some tough ques­tions, the cen­tral one be­ing where will en­sure in par­lia­ments across the re­gion. The Ex­perts Team is gen­er­ally a group of like­minded peo­ple who agree on the prin­ci­pals. How­ever, the en­gag­ing de­bate that en­sued re­minded me that while we agree on the prob­lem and in­deed the end goal, it is im­por­tant to crit­i­cally as­sess the nu­ances and to re­mem­ber that there are no easy an­swers.”

Dr Aquinaldo Ce­lio Mond­late, a re­searcher spe­cial­is­ing in Chil­dren’s rights said the meet­ing was a great plat­form to re­flect about the prob­lems that af­fect chil­dren in­volved child mar­riage and its neg­a­tive con­se­quences.

“It was in­ter­est­ing to learn about the sen­si­tiv­i­ties around the is­sues re­lat­ing to child mar­riage, mainly the chal­lenges in en­sur­ing that the sit­u­a­tion of chil­dren who are cur­rently in­volved in child mar­riage is not wors­ened when SADC Mem­ber States in­cor­po­rate pro­vi­sions of the model law in their na­tional laws. Con­cerns raised also in­cluded the fact that there is a need to safe­guard the rights of chil­dren who are in­volved or af­fected by child mar­riage in­clud­ing the chil­dren born out of child mar­riage,” Mond­late said.

Dr Asha Mo­hamud, UNFPA East and South­ern Africa Ado­les­cent Sex­ual and Re­pro­duc­tive Health Pol­icy Ad­vi­sor with the United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tion Fund (UNFPA) which is one of the in­sti­tu­tions sup­port­ing SADC PF in the de­vel­op­ment of the model law, sounded ex­cited and op­ti­mistic.

She stressed the im­por­tance for all in­ter­ested par­ties to main­tain the mo­men­tum to en­sure that the draft model law is shared widely and fi­nalised soon. — Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

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