Lesotho enacts Children's Protection and Welfare Act
On 8 June 2011 the Parliament of Lesotho passed the country’s Children’s Protection and Welfare Bill into law. This is a remarkable achievement in light of the fact that this Act will now replace the outdated Children’s Protection Act of 1980. Approximately five years of process took place in order to see the realisation of this key piece of legislation to advance the rights of children in Lesotho. This Act in itself now contains key provisions on orphaned and vulnerable children; residential care for children and justice for children.
UNICEF released the following media statement:
Maseru, 8 June 2011- The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), today congratulated the government of Lesotho for the historic enactment of the Children’s Protection and Welfare (CPW) Act (2011) and called for its swift enforcement to translate it into concrete actions that improve the care and protection of children in Lesotho.
The new piece of legislation, which replaces the outdated Children’s Protection Act of 1980, comes in the wake of a marked increase in reported cases of child abuse, recognises emerging child protection and welfare challenges brought by Lesotho’s HIV/AIDS epidemic- the third highest HIV prevalence in the world at 23%, and importantly domesticates international instruments on children’s rights for Lesotho.
“This Act is vital for Lesotho’s children, who are now increasingly made vulnerable by an unrelenting HIV/AIDS epidemic and deepening poverty,” said UNICEF Country Representative to Lesotho, Dr. Ahmed Magan. “But beyond this historic law, the country needs to act decisively and swiftly and put in place structures to ensure that children get the benefits of this important law,” he added.
Current anecdotal evidence from the Child and Gender Protection Unit (CGPU) shows that out of every three cases on sexual abuse, two of them involve children. In addition the Office of the Master of the High Court reports huge numbers of orphaned children that lose the property of deceased parents to relatives.
The Act, a culmination of over five years of extensive consultations, advocacy, lobbying, technical and financial support on the part of UNICEF and other partners, is a comprehensive statute that brings together all policies and regulation on children’s protection and welfare. The statute unambiguously emphasizes the State’s role in the provision of social services and strengthening the capacity of families and communities to care for and protect children. Specifically, the new law has key provisions on the following:
- Orphaned and Vulnerable Children- the Act makes specific provisions for the protection of orphaned children’s estate. The new law criminalizes child labour, child abduction, child trafficking, child sexual abuse, and harmful cultural practices. It also raises the age of marriage consent to 18 years.
- Regulation of Residential Care- the Law provides for legal placement of children living outside parental care and has provisions on adoption, parentage and guardianship. Further, it provides for the registration and stringent monitoring of any institution providing residential care to children.
- Justice for Children - This is holistic approach for dealing with children as victims, witnesses or offenders in crime. Key to this approach is a preference of diverting matters involving children away from the criminal justice system. In addition the age of criminal responsibility is raised from 7 years to 10 years.
Further, the new Act is aligned to international and regional instruments on children’s rights such as the Convention on the Rights of Child (CRC) and the Africa Charter on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). UNICEF is already working with the Government of Lesotho to strengthen the CGPU unit, Office of the Master of the High Court and the Probation Unit to ensure enforcement of the Act. Emphasis in the coming months for UNICEF will be on working with the Government to accelerate the process of writing subsidiary regulations, developing a costed implementation plan and sensitization with all concerned partners on the new law.
For media enquiries please contact:
UNICEF: Tsitsi Singizi
UNICEF Lesotho Communication Officer,