Submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child

 

3.         Child Labour

The 1999 Namibia Child Activities Survey (NCAS) reveals shocking statistics of child labour in Namibia, contrary to the Constitution, Labour Act and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The survey recorded about 445 007 children between the ages 6-18 years and out of that total, 72 405 children were found to be working. More than half of the working children were males (37 609), while 34 797 were females. Out of the total of 72 405 working children, 69 050 (95,4%) are in rural areas, implying that the phenomenon of working children is overwhelmingly rural. Furthermore, out of the total of 72 405 working children, 79,9% are still attending school, 6,9% never attended school and 13% had left school.

As signatory to the Convention on the Right of the Child and the four ILO’s Conventions, the Ombudsman calls on Government to:

  • take immediate and effective action to eliminate child labour. Such action means more than just writing new laws;
  • conduct regular child activity surveys to monitor trends regarding child labour;
  • immediately promulgate the new Labour Act and inform employers and the public of its provisions;
  • implement poverty alleviation programmes in rural areas where 90% of the working children are found;
  • embark on a public education programme in rural areas to encourage parents to release their children to fully participate in the education system;
  • strengthen its policy of free basic education and enforce monitoring mechanisms to see its actual implementation; and
  • criminalize child labour;

the long overdue Labour Act 2007 (no 11 of 2007) was promulgated on 31 December 2007 which inter alia criminalizes child labour.

4.         Access to Information

Freedom of speech and expressing under Article 21 (1) of the Namibian Constitution specifically includes freedom of the press and media, but excludes freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas. Although freedom of information is an extension of freedom of speech, last-mentioned right does not confer a right of access to information per se and does not compel public authorities to disclose information against their will. The Namibian Constitution does not expressly provide for a right of access to information, but under its international treaty obligations, Namibia is compelled to enact national legislation to give effect to the right of access to information. The Ombudsman calls on Government to first create an environment conducive for the implementation of a freedom of information law, to put mechanisms in place to guarantee the implementation of the law and then to enact the law.

5.         Legislative Challenges

A welcome development in the promotion and protection of children’s rights, is the Draft Child Care and Protection Bill which will eventually replace the outdated Children’s  Act of 1960. The Bill embodies all the existing international commitments, it makes provision for a children’s advocate in the office of the Ombudsman and criminalizes trafficking of children. It goes without saying that the children’s advocate will strengthen the capacity of the Ombudsman to monitor, promote, protect and advocate children’s rights. The Ombudsman calls on government to move swiftly to enactment of this Bill as well as the long outstanding Child Justice Bill, the Divorce Bill, the Draft Bill on the Recognition of Customary Marriages and the Draft Bill on Interstate Succession.

6.         National Human Rights Action Plan

The Ombudsman has initiated the development of a national human rights action plan, so as to rationally establish human rights goals and link human rights to the national planning and development agenda. The next step is the base line study for which resources have been procured and which will be conducted during the second quarter of 2012. Government should be encourage to take ownership of the process and make the necessary resources available for the successful development and implementation of the plan.

7.         Independence of the Ombudsman

The independence of the Ombudsman is guaranteed in the Namibian Constitution. At present the Ombudsman is dependent on the Ministry of Justice for all its support services. The Permanent Secretary decides for and on behalf of the Ombudsman on matters concerning his office. The “power of the purse” therefore has considerable influence on the management of this office. The Ombudsman appreciate the concern of the government about the independence of the Ombudsman, which is compromised by the linkage of the office to the Ministry of Justice. The Ombudsman therefore calls on government to take the necessary administrative and legislative measures to delink the Ombudsman from the Ministry of Justice and to allow the Ombudsman to control and manage his own budget and to appoint his own staff as required by the Paris Principles.

CONCLUSION

As a young democracy, Namibia has made enormous strides in addressing the inequities of the past, achieved national reconciliation, fostered peace and unity and a common loyalty to a single state. However, there always have been and will continue to be challenges for the Government in regard to promotion, protection and advocacy of children’s rights. A concerted effort by government, the Ombudsman, civil society and the private sector will assist in addressing these challenges.

See Concluding Observations here