The Minister of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, Mrs Kalpana Devi Koonjoo-Shah, held a press conference, today, at the seat of her Ministry in Port Louis, to outline, among others, the main provisions of the Children’s Act 2020.
At the outset, Minister Koonjoo-Shah recalled that the Children’s Act 2020, the Children’s Court Act 2020 and the Child Sex Offender Register Act 2020 have all been promulgated on 24 January 2022. Government, she remarked, has at heart the interest of children and the support of each and every citizen is required so as to ensure the protection of our children. She highlighted that these three Acts cover a whole range of measures put in place so as to ensure the good development, well-being and protection of children in the Republic of Mauritius.
For instance, pointed out the Minister, the Children’s Act 2020 provides for the setting-up of a Child Services Coordinating Panel which will be responsible for the coordination of all activities relating to: the implementation of this Act; the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. She underscored that under this Act, “child” refers to a person under the age of 18 and as such, no person shall cause or force a child to marry civilly or religiously.
Minister Koonjoo-Shah stressed that, for year 2021, some 40 marriages of minors were registered. She nonetheless conceded that that the law will not be retroactive, adding that officers of her Ministry will still provide assistance and support to these minors.
Furthermore, she underlined that the Children’s Act 2020 also makes provision to address, among others, revenge pornography, sexual abuse on children, bullying and cybercrimes on children, while no child under the age of 14 shall be prosecuted for any criminal offence. She added that since almost every child can easily access the internet, more severe sanctions have been devised against cyberbullying or any other online crime that may occur.
Speaking about the Child Sex Offender Register, the Minister emphasised that the Register will be kept and managed by the Commissioner of Police. It will contain details such as the personal information of the registrable offender and the offence of which the offender has been convicted. These details, she indicated, may be shared with international institutions and collaborators.
As for the Children’s Court Act 2020, the Gender Equality Minister stated that it provides for a Children’s Court, which is already operational since last Monday 24 January 2022. It is recalled that the Children’s Court consists of a Protection Division as well as a Criminal Division, and aims at providing the best environment for a child to depone.
She seized this opportunity to commend Non-Governmental Organisations and activists who constantly fight for children’s rights and observed that sensitisation campaigns are ongoing so that the public at large is informed of the provisions of these three Acts.