PROTECTING CHILDREN, STANDING WITH FAMILIES(JULY 2021)
A SHORT OVERVIEW OF CAUSE FOR JUSTICE’S WORK DURING THE FIRST HALF OF 2021
A stable family unit is the cornerstone of healthy, well-functioning (i.e. flourishing) communities – and of society at large. For this reason, Cause For Justice (CFJ/) identifies and pursues causes with a view to protecting the family unit from destructive inside and outside forces.
We further believe that society is collectively responsible for the social welfare and security of all people, especially the most vulnerable in our society. Children are one such vulnerable group. The South African Constitution provides that “[a]child’s best interests are of paramount importance in every matter concerning the child”. 
During the first half of 2021, CFJ engaged in a variety of causes focusing on protecting and promoting the constitutional rights, freedoms and best interests of families, parents and children.
CHILDREN’S AMENDMENT BILL
The Children’s Act is South Africa’s premier legislative child protection instrument. Its purpose includes giving “effect to certain rights of children as contained in the Constitution” and setting out “principles relating to the care and protection of children”. 
The Children’s Act is being reviewed – which provides an opportunity to ensure it affords the best and most effective legal protection to safeguard children against the harmful impact of exposure to explicit sexual and violent content.
During May 2021, Cause For Justice made oral representations to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Social Development, imploring the Committee to insert legislative provisions in the Children’s Act that will introduce a legal duty to protect children from harmful content.
The harmful impact of exposure to sexual and violent content on children, especially pornography, is well-researched and documented. For this reason, CFJ regards the inclusion of a legislative provision which creates a positive obligation – i.e. sets out what people are legally required to do to “protect children from exposure to potentially disturbing or harmful materials and from premature exposure to adult experiences” – as a necessity if children’s best interests are to be given paramount importance in this context. 
The Portfolio Committee is required to consider all public comments received in order to determine which amendments need to be affected (if any) to the Children’s Act. More opportunities for public engagement – in the form of provincial consultations – is expected to follow during the second half of 2021.
To learn about this important cause – read our latest Children’s Amendment Bill blog.
COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION (CSE)
The national Department of Basic Education has confirmed that it acknowledges public schools’ right to use alternative learning content and/or programmatic material – i.e. other than the controversial Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) scripted lesson plans (SLPs) – to teach the sexuality component of the Life Skills and Life Orientation (LS/LO) subjects. As long as alternative learning content/materials meet the learning outcomes of the LS/LO Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) for each learning phase and grade, schools are within their rights to choose to use such other programmatic content instead of the CSE SLPs.
To learn more about CSE and why this is such an important issue, read our CSE blog here.
Since learning about CSE, and confirming that parents, schools, and educators have a choice of which learning content to use to teach sexuality education and life skills in the classroom, we have engaged various owners of family-values based programmes and materials that can be used as alternatives to the Department’s CSE lesson plans. We are pleased to report that there are a number of suitable alternatives available, some of which are already successfully being used as alternative CAPS compliant teaching materials and others that offer great supplementary material to strengthen existing learning content.
Contact us for more information about these alternative programmes.
We look forward to addressing the Drakenstein Child Protection Forum at the end of July 2021 on CSE and alternative programmes. During the month of September, we will also be hosting a ‘Values-based Sexuality Education Expo’ to give parents, schools and educators a closer look at the content of alternative learning programmes.
To learn more about why many South African parents, schools and educators have serious and valid concerns with the Department’s CSE lesson plans, watch the following informative short videos:
- What is the CSE issue about? (1:41)
- Is there cause for concern? (4:33)
- Is CSE effective at addressing social ills associated with sexual behaviour? (2:57)
- Are the CSE scripted lesson plans compulsory for schools? (6:54)
- What can we do? (10:02)
Cause For Justice maintains close working relationships with various child protection stakeholders, and we prioritise engaging on important issues. During the first half of 2021, we continued tour focus of promoting child protection and preventing child abuse and exploitation, to keep up the momentum from 2020.
The abuse and exploitation of children is an unacceptable injustice, especially because of children’s particular vulnerability. The magnitude of the problem is such that it cannot be successfully addressed by any one individual or organisation. For this reason, establishing and maintaining strategic relationships in the child protection/anti-child exploitation sector, is of vital importance.
Over the course of the past six months:
- We developed, produced and launched an invaluable new resource in the form of an online course that is aimed at educating and empowering parents, educators and other caregivers of children to protect children in their care from the harmful impact of pornography.
The online training course includes 4 core modules consisting of 90 minutes of video interviews with local practitioners in the field of online child safety, covering topics such as:
- The prevalence and harms of pornography exposure
- The impact of pornography on the developing brain
- Empowering parents and caregivers to protect children and prepare them for exposure
- Safeguarding children with the use of technology resources
We celebrated Child Protection Week (30 May to 6 June) with the launch of #ParentTalk on the Unspoken Epidemic of Children and Pornography.
- We encourage all parents and other caregivers to sign up for the online course, which allows you to work through the training material at your own pace as your schedule allows.
- We are currently running a “Level 4 Lockdown Sign-on Special” until 25 July 2021, which means that lifetime membership access costs a low R50 (as opposed to the normal R150) for all sign-ups between now and the 25th.
Government delays impacting negatively on alternative care for children
- We’ve taken up the cause of a major South African child protection stakeholder regarding unacceptable delays in obtaining official government approval of applications for screenings against the Child Protection Register, which has a direct impact on vulnerable children in need of alternative care and other social services. We are currently engaging the national Department of Social Development (DSD) on this issue, and prepared a briefing document setting out child protection organisations’ concerns to the South African National Child Rights Coalition for inclusion in a submission to the United Nations concerning issues in relation to alternative care.
Participating in child protection and child rights forums and training
- We also continue to contribute to and participate in various forums of which we are a member, including the:
- Helderberg Child Protection Forum;
- National Child Care and Protection Forum; and
- South African National Child Rights Coalition.
- We constantly prioritise continuous further development to equip ourselves with knowledge important for our child protection-related work. Most recently, we attended:
- An online course on protecting children against child online sexual abuse and exploitation, hosted by the DSD and UNICEF.
- The launch of the research results of the Disrupting Harms Study (South Africa), hosted by the Youth Research Unit at the Bureau of Market Research in partnership with the DSD and UNICEF.
Hosting and organising vital training interventions
- We are currently participating in discussions with DSD, the City of Cape Town and two local child protection forums with a view to providing invaluable training workshops on the Trafficking in Persons Act and the Guidelines the Prevention of and Response to Child Exploitation to child protection stakeholders. In 2019, we co-hosted the first training workshop of this kind with DSD and the City of Cape Town. Our current efforts are in response to repeated requests by practitioners in the field for more training on these challenging realities.
 Section 28(2) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996.
 Preamble of the Children’s Act, 2005.
 CFJ Oral Submissions on Children’s Amendment Bill, 2021 (13 May 2021).
The wellbeing of families and children are important to us. We believe both are worthy of protection. CFJ will continue taking up causes and taking a stand to defend and advance the interests of families and children in South Africa.
If you are passionate about protecting families and children, we invite you to support our work by way of regular or ad-hoc donations. Without your contributions, we will not be able to continue taking up worthy causes such as these.
Cause for Justice is a registered public benefit organisation for South African income tax purposes and may issue section 18A receipts, which entitle donors to claim tax deductions in respect of donations made to Cause for Justice.