We have failed our children: Judge Edwin Cameron
Suthentira Govender | 2017-06-10 12:41:00.0
Justice Edwin Cameron at the Constitutional Court in Johannesburg
Image by: THYS DULLAART
Constitutional Court judge Edwin Cameron has accused South Africa – from government to the courts and ordinary citizens – of failing to protect its children.
He was addressing the 9th annual Child Trauma Conference at Durban’s International Convention Centre on Saturday.
In his critical address‚ Cameron said despite South Africa’s “wonderful” laws‚ constitutional rights and policies‚ children continued to be murdered and abused – physically as well as sexually.
“The grim reality is that we have wonderful rights‚ policies and laws but in implementation we are grossly lacking.”
Cameron‚ who has been living with HIV for 20 years‚ said while South Africa had made strides in fighting the virus with treatment and research‚ when it came to protecting it’s children against abuse it was failing.
“We have to confess to ourselves that we have not made much headway when it comes to child protection. Children continue to be exposed to trauma and abuse in schools and their own homes.”
He questioned the reasons behind South Africa “failing its next generation”.
“It could be that too few of us were valued as children. It could be that government lacks the will to take child protection seriously. It could be that South Africans are numb and that there is a collective trauma.”
Cameron added that if there was less corruption and misappropriation of state funds there would be enough to channel towards protecting the vulnerable.
Child rights advocate Joan van Niekerk‚ who also spoke at the conference‚ echoed Cameron’s concerns.
“Despite our progressive laws and policies we are at crisis point in relation to the care and protection of children. Three children are murdered every day in South Africa. What kind of country are we?
“Our child protection system has gotten to a point where it is a child trauma system.”
She said the system‚ when it came to reporting and prosecuting sexual crimes against children‚ was disconnected.
“In the middle you have a confused child and a traumatised parent.”
Van Niekerk hit out at politicians‚ some of whom she accused of being poor role models especially for young boys. “There’s political disinterest. We lack a political champion for children. We have poor role models at the centre of government.
“Where are children in the political manifestos for the 2019 elections?”