MASERU – The Minister of Social Development, ‘Matebatso Doti, has voiced concern over the escalation of cases of abuse of children during the national COVID-19 lockdown.
In her address this week in commemoration of the continental ‘Day of the African Child’, themed ‘Access to child friendly justice system in Lesotho’, the minister called for legal protection for children.
She said like most countries of the world, Lesotho has made strides to protect children’s rights and ensure their access to justice, noting that the country has in place the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act of 2011 which directs courts of law on how to handle children’s issues where justice and children’s rights are concerned.
She noted that for children to have access to justice, the country needed to ensure that the courts were child friendly so that children can feel free to access justice services.
“We must all be aware that it does remain the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Law and Justice to ensure that children get access to justice, the Ministry of Social Development also has role to play with social and psychological assistance to affected children and those that are involved in ensuring that justice is availed for children,” she said.
Doti said it is her ministry’s wish to set up a children’s court in all the country’s 10 districts to ensure that children get access to justice, and on time.
“I call upon all the stakeholders to work together to ensure that children get access to justice in the right way. We also have to teach children about the laws touch on their lives and protect them against all kinds of abuse,” she continued.
“I conclude by reminding all that it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that children’s rights are protected,” Doti said.
In November last year, Commonwealth Minister of Law met in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to thrash out and make plans for member states to enact laws and develop infrastructure that eases access to justice for all vulnerable groups of their people – the ministers agreed that based on the conclusions a study on the subject, guidance on good practices related to the issue and in restorative justice within members’ judiciaries should be developed.
They recognised and committed to battle against the various obstacles and challenges encountered by the peoples of the Commonwealth to the attainment of access to justice as envisaged by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, including cost, the effect of poverty, access to legal aid, complex legal language, limited legal capability, corruption, geographic inaccessibility and the lack of confidence in the justice system.
This would be achieved, the ministers noted in a statement following the conference, by building on the SDG pledge of leaving no one behind on the journey to a just, equitable, tolerant, open and socially inclusive world in which the needs of the most vulnerable were met.
This, they added, would again be achieved through provision of collective leadership to ensure that in the last decade of Agenda 2030, access to justice and rule of law as encapsulated in SDG 16 was delivered.
The ministers further agreed to utilise the fact that member countries shared the common law and a common language, system of governance and values, inter alia, to build consensus and share experiences and best practices on rule of law issues and enhance access to justice for the peoples of the Commonwealth.
Each year, June 16 is celebrated as the Day of the African Child, since the first time it was observed in 1991, the day has been an opportunity to focus on the challenges facing the continent’s children and young people – and also a chance to recognise how children and young people themselves are working to address these challenges and how they contribute to peace, growth and development.