CHILDREN'S STATUS ACT
GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT
The Children’s Status Act 6 of 2006 was passed by Parliament in 2006 and came into force in December 2008.
Prior to the new law mothers had sole custody and guardianship of children born outside marriage and fathers had no clear rights – not even a right to access. This position was clearly unfair to both parents and children.
In terms of the new law, one parent must be the primary custodian. If the parents cannot agree on who will do this, then the court must decide. The guiding principle is the best interests of the child.
The custodian is also the guardian. The guardian must consult the other parent on certain major decisions –giving the child up for adoption or taking the child out of Namibia for longer than one year.
Children born outside of marriage have a right to maintain contact with both parents. The parent without custody has an automatic right of reasonable access to the child unless a court decides that such access would be contrary to the child's best interests. There are a range of safeguards to ensure that this right is not abused.
GR&AP has been involved with research and advocacy pertaining to this law for many years now. Here are some of its most recent actions:
2003-2006: Lobbying on this Bill was one of GR&AP's key activities. GR&AP kept in regular contact with a wide range of NGOs to preapre group submissions to the parliamentary committees dealing with the Bill in both the National Assembly and the National Council. Several demonstrations were organised at Parliament to highlight NGO concerns and some of the amendments proposed by civil society were incorporated into the final law.
Read articles published during this time:
2007: GR&AP hosted a 1.5 day workshop on the Children’s Status Act for participants including representatives of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Ministry of Health and Social Services, Law Reform and Development Commission and the Master’s Office plus a range of NGOs.
This workshop was very successful. The Act was explained in detail, and participants suggested strategies for making its implementation successful, such as matters which should be carefully covered in the regulations.
Recommendations from the workshop were compiled and sent to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, the Master of the High Court and the technical legal drafters at the Ministry of Justice.
GR&AP also prepared a memorandum for the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare on the forthcoming regulations, based on the input received at the workshop.
2008: The new Children’s Status Act came into force on 3 November 2008. Some of the input made by GR&AP was incorporated into the regulations issued under the new law.
2009: The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare launched a nationwide consultation on the Child Care and Protection Bill with GR&AP as its technical advisers. The process was supported by UNICEF. As part of this consultation, GR&AP consulted magistrates from all across the country on their experience with the Children’s Status Act. A key recommendation emerging from this exercise was to incorporate the Children’s Status Act into the forthcoming Child Care and Protection Act so that the two laws could be harmonised and so that technical problems which had emerged in connection with the Children’s Status Act could be addressed. At the end of 2009 a revised draft of the Child Care and Protection Bill, including a proposed re-enactment of the Children’s Status Act, was being reviewed by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare and the Ministry of Justice.
2010: In light of the uncertainty as to whether the Children’s Status Act will remain separate to or become part of the Child Care and Protection Act, GR&AP has been providing information and training about the Children’s Status Act but has not yet produced materials on this law.