Pretoria: Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini says it is important for healthcare workers and court officials to be sensitive to child victims of forced marriages and provide them with skills and training to communicate with children.
Speaking at the commemoration of the Day of the African Child 2015, held in Soweto on Monday, Minister Dlamini emphasised that while the prevention of child marriages is of paramount importance, it is also critical for a continent to work on its support services for children who have been rescued from forced marriages.
“The studies report that the attitude of healthcare workers and justice and court officials are crucial to reducing secondary trauma for the child. Health care providers must be supportive and give informal psycho-social support,” said Minister Dlamini.
Where cases have been brought before the courts of law, the Minister added, support workers in courts also need to be helpful.
The South African government, represented by the Department of Social Development, together with the African Union’s Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, hosted an event to commemorate the Day of the African Child.
The 2015 Day of the African Child was observed under the theme “25 Years after the Adoption of the African Children’s Charter: Accelerating our Collective Efforts to End Child Marriage in Africa”.
During the event, which was attended by children from across the African continent, the problem of child marriages came under the spotlight.
Minister Dlamini said despite the best efforts of African Governments and civil society to protect children from forced marriages, many children still remain vulnerable to this despicable practice.
The Minister reiterated a call for community involvement in reversing the trend of child marriage and sexual exploitation.
In South Africa, child marriages are often effected through the practice of ‘ukuthwala’ – the wrongful, and usually forcible, carrying off or removal of girl children from their homes for the purpose of being married to older men against their will.
The practice is prevalent largely in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape provinces.
“Partnerships between Governments, the non-governmental sector, faith-based institutions, institutions of traditional leadership, the media, organised labour and civil society, are essential for preventing child abuse, neglect and exploitation.
“All of us have a role to play; let us work together to protect our children because, as Nelson Mandela once said, there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children,” Minister Dlamini said.
SOURCE: South African Official News