Cabinet okays Child Justice Bill

Cabinet has approved the review of child criminal responsibility from 7 years to 12 years.

The announcement was made by Minister of Defence and War Veterans Affairs, Opah Muchinguri-Kashiri, in her capacity as the Chairperson of the Ad-Hoc Inter-Ministerial Task Force.

“The Cabinet has considered and approved the Child Justice Bill, 2020, which was presented by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, as Chairperson of the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. The nation is informed that the Bill will establish a Child Justice System for children in conflict with the law, in accordance with the values and principles underpinning the Constitution and the international obligations of Zimbabwe,” Muchinguri-Kashiri said.

“The Bill seeks to entrench the principles of rehabilitation and restorative justice as an integral part of the child justice system, and to establish procedures for the screening of children to create special rules for a Child Justice Court. Furthermore, the Bill will provide for legal representation for children; and the sentencing options available for children. The age of criminal responsibility of a child is being reviewed upwards from 7 to 12 years.”

The Amendment Bill in 2021, Muchinguri-Kashiri noted provides for the establishment of child justice committees at national, provincial and district levels that will be mandated with monitoring child justice.

“The Cabinet was informed that the Children’s Amendment Bill will be amended to align it with the 2013 Constitution and incorporate provisions of International Conventions and treaties that Zimbabwe has ratified,” she said.

“The Bill widens and criminalises instances of child abuse to include allowing a child to reside in or to frequent a brothel; causing the seduction, abduction or commercial sexual exploitation of a child; and causing a child to participate in the propagation of child sexual abuse material. The denial of medical treatment or access to medical treatment to a child without reasonable cause will also be criminalised.”

Muchinguri-Kashiri said the bill places an obligation on any professional person who becomes aware or suspects, on reasonable grounds, that a child is being abused, to report that person to a Police Officer or a Child Protection Officer.

“The Bill will criminalise parents or guardians who enable the commission of an offence by a child or fail to take reasonable steps to ensure that the child does not commit an offence. The abused children will be removed to a place of custody or detention in the best interest of the child,” she said.

“It is highlighted that institutions that receive children must accommodate them in a family-type environment. A new clause has been incorporated that empowers probation officers to obtain birth certificates for children without parental care.”

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