Children’s Rights In South Africa – Do You Know Them?

Children’s Rights In South Africa – Do You Know Them?

Children’s Rights in South Africa 

Do you know children’s rights in South Africa? Children know what they want as soon as they are born – attention, love and food from the people close to them. These basic needs include shelter, protection and many other human rights that adults expect.  

Children’s rights include: 

  • A name and a nationality from birth. 
  • Family care or parental care, or appropriate alternative care when removed from the family environment. 
  • Basic nutrition, shelter, basic health care services and social services. 
  • Be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation.


Unfortunately, sometimes these needs are neglected, and children don’t get what they need for various reasons. 

Children are vulnerable, and because of this, they require special rights. Being vulnerable, children need the ones who love them to work hard to ensure they don’t get hurt or forget their rights. 


Children’s Rights in South Africa

South Africa has its own Constitution and Bill of Rights (Section 28) that states what children’s rights are:

A Right to a Name and Nationality

  • A child should be given a name and nationality when born, looked after and be part of a family. 

Family and Parental Care / Protection from Maltreatment and Abuse

  • They have a right to parental or family care. A child is to be moved from inappropriate family or parental care and be protected from maltreatment, neglect, abuse or degradation. 

Basic Nutrition, Shelter and Health

  • A child has a right to essential nutrition, shelter, primary health care services and social services.
  • You must have shelter, which is considered a dry and comfortable place to sleep. 
  • If you fall sick, you have the right to see a doctor and get medicine to improve your health. 
  • You should not feel hungry. Food needs to be provided for you to eat. 

Not Be Required to Work

  • As a child, you should not have to work because you are small – and this can result in you feeling tired and sick. This applies to children who beg on the side of the road. 
  • A child must be protected from exploitative labour practices and not be permitted to work or provide inappropriate services for their age or that places risk on the child’s well-being, education, physical or mental health, spiritual, moral or social development. 

Not Be Detained

  • If you have committed a crime as a child and the police need to arrest you, you shouldn’t be put in jail. If you are put in jail, it is for a short period. 
  • A child cannot be detained unless it is the last resort. This right coincides with the rights that a child enjoys under sections 12 and 35 – the child may be detained only for the shortest appropriate time. the child also has the right to be kept separately from detained people over the age of 18 years (a child is a person under the age of 18). The child is treated in a manner and kept in conditions that take their age into account.

Not Be Used in Armed Conflict 

  • A child, if detained, can have an assigned legal practitioner by the state and at the state’s expense – in civil proceedings affecting the child or if substantial injustice results otherwise and not to be used in direct armed conflict, but protected at all times, especially where armed conflict is concerned. 

Children’s Rights In South Africa: Their Best Interests

A child’s best interest comes first and is of paramount importance when it comes to their needs and what matters to them. Additional research has also been done and answered by children, highlighting other necessary rights they feel they should have:

  • The children from the study want the right to be consulted, listened to, and respected by adults and other people in authority, especially if decisions are made that may affect children.
  • Children do not wish to make decisions that are seen as ‘adult decisions’ – an example shared was not to make decisions such as whether they want to go to school.
  • The right to be treated fairly and not be discriminated against because of the institutions that they live in (e.g. some children are denied access to the school matric dances if their parents can’t pay fees).
  • As foster children, they want the right to decide on their future placement – a place they feel most comfortable and safe. 
  • Children wish for the right to choose their own friends.
  • The right to say no to adults. 
  • Children in this specific research ask for the right to knowledge (to have access to information, particularly about their rights and the distinction between what is right and wrong).

Trust In Your Children

Children are more intelligent than you and others may think. As an adult, you can think you know what is best for your child or the child you are caring for, but they may have opinions, too – opinions that adults should be open to hearing out.

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