…as SADC child model law takes form

Lesotho Times - - News -

to find the fine bal­anc­ing line be­tween pro­tect­ing girls (which seems to re­quire an in­flex­i­ble ap­proach) and recog­nis­ing their grow­ing au­ton­omy and right to de­velop re­la­tion­ships (which re­quires a flex­i­ble ap­proach),” Skel­ton said in an in­ter­view.

She stressed that this ten­sion was not uniquely found in the child mar­riage ques­tion, but was very acute in this de­bate.

“I am very happy that the ex­pert group was clear about not crim­i­nal­is­ing chil­dren. It also ap­pre­ci­ated the care taken to dis­tin­guish be­tween pre-ex­ist­ing mar­riages (which it is pro­posed will be void­able at the in­stance of a party), and those that may oc­cur af­ter a pro­hi­bi­tion of mar­riage law is passed (which will be au­to­mat­i­cally void).”

Mrs Ron­al­dah Ler­ato Karabo Ozah, an At­tor­ney who also works at the Cen­tre for Child Law at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, said she was grate­ful to have been part of ex­perts who had the op­por­tu­nity to in­put on a doc­u­ment that is aimed at pro­tect­ing girl chil­dren and to­wards the re­al­i­sa­tion of the rights to which they are en­ti­tled.

“I am mind­ful of the fact that the law, on its own, will not erad­i­cate child mar­riage but will re­mind us all of our obli­ga­tions to pro­tect girl chil­dren and this is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of all -com­mu­ni­ties, lawyers as well re­li­gious and tra­di­tional lead­ers,” she said.

Ozah said the meet­ing was im­por­tant as it en­abled par­tic­i­pants to in­put not only on the draft SADC Model Law on Child Mar­riage, but also the strate­gic way for­ward that will en­sure that rel­e­vant in­di­vid­u­als and groups are lob­bied to garner sup­port for the model law.

“Even if this takes a bit longer, it is cru­cial that we con­sult as widely as pos­si­ble and get as much sup­port for the model Law,” she said.

Ms Nyasha Chin­gore, a hu­man rights lawyer who works at the South­ern Africa Lit­i­ga­tion Cen­tre (SALC) said be­ing part of the ex­perts’ meet­ing was an “in­trigu­ing” ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It was in­ter­est­ing to see how Ex­pert Team mem­bers from vary­ing back­grounds tried to ne­go­ti­ate the ten­sions that will in­evitably arise in at­tempt­ing to leg­is­late in this area. While one would ex­pect that con­sid­er­a­tions of ‘cus­tom and re­li­gion’ and the im­pact of pro­hi­bi­tion with sanc­tions would present chal­lenges which are not easy to nav­i­gate, for me the stick­i­est point was fig­ur­ing out how the Model law could rec­og­nize the evolv­ing ca­pac­i­ties of chil­dren with­out com­pro­mis­ing the very essence of what the Model Law seeks to do - erad­i­cate child mar­riage in any and all its forms,” she said.

Chin­gore cited the ex­am­ple of the dis­cus­sion around whether the model law should leave room for any “loop­holes” at all, in­clud­ing close in age con­sid­er­a­tions.

“The de­bate in the Ex­perts Team is of course just a pre-cur­sor to the de­bates that

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