Children's rights in South Africa

Children’s rights are entrenched in Section 28 in the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of South Africa.

It’s not easy being young and getting people to take you rights seriously. Keep reading to find out more about your rights and how we can help you.

What are human rights?

Human rights are standards that recognize and protect the dignity of all human beings. Human rights govern how individual human beings live in society and with each other, as well as their relationship with the State and the obligations that the State have towards them.

Human rights law obliges governments to do some things, and prevents them from doing others. Individuals also have responsibilities: in using their human rights, they must respect the rights of others. No government, group or individual person has the right to do anything that violates another’s rights.

Do children have rights?

Children and young people have the same general human rights as adults and also specific rights that recognize their needs. Children are human beings who have their own individual rights that must be protected.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child set out the rights that must be realised for children to develop to their full potential. These two documents explain the rights that all children in the world and in Africa have.

Learn more about UNICEF’s Convention on the Rights of the Child

How do we guarantee rights for children in South Africa?

The South African Constitution:

Human Rights for people in South Africa are contained in a very important document called the South African Constitution. This document is important as it lists all the rights that people, and especially children, are entitled to. It also shows people what they could do if they feel that these rights are not respected.

The Constitution specifically provides for certain special rights for children, over and above the other rights available to people in South Africa.

One of the most important rights for children in the Constitution, is the right to have their best interests taken into account in every matter that concerns that child. This means that in every matter where a child is involved, adults must consider the circumstances of children and make sure that their actions and choices are in the child’s best interests.

For more on the rights of children in the Constitution, click on section 28 in the following link: The South African Constitution.

The Children’s Act:

South Africa also provides for all of these rights and more, in the Children’s Act.

The Children’s Act was written after the government accepted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

The aim of the Act is to make sure that children are able to grow up safely and develop well, and where they are abused or neglected, that they will be helped to recover.

The Act also says that children are allowed to have their say and participate in decisions that affect their lives.

The Act values families and tries to ensure that they are protected and supported. Sometimes parents are unable to look after their children properly, then the Act will try and help them through programmes that show them how to become better parents. When parents are not able to look after their children properly, even after they attended a programme, then the Act will help children to find another family or adults with which to stay. The Act also provides for rules to ensure proper and safe after-care, crèches, drop-in centres, and child and youth care centres; and for children to consent to their own adoption.

Other Legislation:

Children living in South Africa receive protection from other pieces of legislation:

  • The Child Justice Act applies to children who are alleged to or have committed crimes.
  • The Sexual Offences Act applies to children who are victims of sexual offences.
  • The Schools Act is the law applicable to children when they are in the school environment or want to get into school.

Fun Corner

Learn about your human rights while having fun. Why not invite your friends to learn with you…

Activity Book

Learn about your human rights while having fun with this activity book.

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Memory Card Game

Play the memory card game with friends and teach them about their rights.

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Convention on the Rights of the Child

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is an important agreement by countries who have promised to protect children’s rights.

The Convention explains who children are, all their rights, and the responsibilities of governments. All the rights are connected, they are all equally important and they cannot be taken away from children.

Click on the cards below and learn more about your rights.

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Get Help

Where to go for help

The Centre For Child Law carries out impact litigation work in the children’s rights sector. This means that the Centre takes cases to court to protect children’s rights. The Centre has done a lot of casing, some of these cases dealt with:

  • access to education;
  • access to birth registration;
  • protection of identities of child victims;
  • witnesses and offenders involved in criminal trials;
  • providing children with grants;
  • and many more.

Please contact us if you have any questions, or require more assistance.

Centre for Child Law
Tel: +27 12 420 4502

Your details will not be shared with anyone outside of the Centre, unless we feel you are in danger or need urgent help. In that case, we will contact you first.

Get immediate help

If you are in immediate danger or find yourself in a difficult situation please make use of one the numbers below.

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