Best Interest of the Child
One of our core values focus on protecting vulnerable groups, especially children, from harm. Here follows a quick update on two of our causes (amongst others) focussing on children.
Cause Update : Children’s Amendment Bill
In our December 2018 newsletter, we reported that we had delivered written submissions on both the draft Children’s Third Amendment Bill and the final Children’s Amendment Bill. Our submissions focused on three areas:
- Placing an enforceable positive duty to protect children from exposure to harmful and disturbing materials, and premature exposure to adult experiences, on responsible persons such as the media, parents, guardians and caregivers.
- Protecting parental authority and responsibility by opposing the removal of the defence of “reasonable corporal discipline” to a criminal charge of assault against a child.
- Preserving the genetic link between at least one of the so-called commissioning parents and a child to be born from surrogacy.
On 22 February 2019, the Department of Social Development (“the DSD”) published its final version of the Children’s Amendment Bill [X-2019] (“the Bill”) in the Government Gazette. The Bill will probably be tabled before Parliament soon after the general elections.
On a positive note, the Bill no longer seeks to remove the common law defence of “reasonable corporal discipline”. On the other hand, the welcome and necessary inclusion of a positive duty on responsible persons to protect children from exposure to harmful and disturbing materials, and premature exposure to adult experiences, is not included in the final version of the Bill.
CFJ is engaging DSD on a regular basis to clarify why this positive duty, which would strengthen the Children’s Act, has been omitted.
Cause Update : FPB Classification Guidelines
During the course of 2018, the Film and Publication Board (“FPB”) reviewed the FPB Classification Guidelines (“the Guidelines”). The FPB must ensure that the Guidelines remain aligned to and reflect the norms and values of South African society.
The purpose of the Guidelines is to provide the public with consumer advice regarding the content of publications, films and games. It is crucially important that parents, guardians and care-givers know whether content is harmful and/or inappropriate for their own children or children in their care. In its own discussion document, the FPB noted that both parents and children find age restrictions to be too lenient.
During March 2018 and again during October 2018, CFJ commented on the FPB Classification Guidelines (“the Guidelines”) and proposed more appropriate (stricter) age restrictions for especially sexual and violent content.
On 19 March 2019, Parliament voted against the legalisation of vile and dehumanising pornography (“so-called “XX” material”). These legislative changes to the Films and Publications Act (“the Act)” have a direct impact on the Classification Guidelines. CFJ has written to the FPB about the definition of “XX” Restricted Distribution material and how the Guidelines can be improved to better align to the Act.
The FPB published the finalised updated Guidelines in the Government Gazette on 5 April 2019. CFJ is currently conducting an internal review of the updated Guidelines and will take op areas of concern, such as the unexpected removal of “blasphemy” (voluntary consumer advice under the previous version of the Guidelines), with the FPB.