Realising the right to birth registration to prevent statelessness in Africa: in the context of the General Comment on Article 6 of the African Children’s Charter

ayalew_getachew_assefaAuthor: Ayalew Getachew Assefa
Legal researcher, Secretariat of the ACERWC

As is the case with other human rights, the right to birth registration and nationality are interrelated, and the realization of these rights plays a great role in preventing statelessness. Birth registration, as an act of recording a birth of a child by a governmental authority with the effect of granting the child a legal personality, establishes the existence in law of a child. It is through birth registration and acquisition of a birth certificate that the parentage of children, their age, and their place of birth can be recorded. These elements play a significant role in according nationality for children, and hence prevent statelessness.

It is in consideration of this fact that Article 6 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC/the African Children’s Charter) recognizes three interlinked rights and imposes an obligation on State Parties to take legislative measures to prevent statelessness among children. In order to clearly spell out and explain the obligations of State Parties in implementing the provision, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), in April 2013, adopted a General Comment (the General Comment) on this particular Article. This article briefly explains the reasons why the Committee decided to develop the General Comment and the major principles included in the General Comment.

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The myth of inclusive education in Botswana

Tejan DeenAuthor: Tejan Deen
Barrister, Republic of Sierra Leone; LLM Candidate at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa

It is now eighteen years since the National Policy on the Care for Persons with Disabilities was adopted in Botswana and to date people with disabilities have only this policy that speaks to their issues. Children with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable groups of children in Botswana, are still being handled in a ‘medicalised’ manner. These children are segregated especially in the educational system which lacks any form of inclusive education. They have an opportunity to gain formal education only in special schools, most of which are owned by non-governmental organisations such as Cheshire Foundation and Camphill Community Trust. This is completely contrary to the right to inclusive education as guaranteed in international human rights instruments particularly the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Inclusive education is a method of education that gives equal opportunity to children with disabilities by guaranteeing their rights to education and creating an amiable environment to realise that right on an equally basis with other children.

Botswana currently has a Draft Reviewed National Policy on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which has remained a draft since it was drafted in 2010. There is also the Inclusive Education Policy of 2011 which has not had any positive impact on the lives of these children as they are still completely ‘out of the picture’ of mainstream schools, and very little provisional mechanisms have been instituted to address their needs. Camphill Community Trust, for example, is located out of the city of Gaborone, which is an indication of how children with disabilities are treated in Botswana: Not fit for mainstream schools. The policy currently in force is the 1996 National Policy on Care for People with Disabilities. This is a policy with a purely medical approach that focuses on the ‘disability’ as in need of cure and rehabilitation instead of providing the necessary conditions in the society to enable children with disabilities to realise their full potentials. The word “care” implies people who should be taken care of; a social encumbrance which should be remedied through social welfare initiatives and goodwill. This situation is made worse by the fact that Botswana does not have a National Human Rights Institution which could have championed the course of the rights of these children.

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Realising the right to health for children with HIV/AIDS in Botswana: Policy based approach v rights based approach

Rashid DumbuyaAuthor: Rashid Dumbuya
LLM (Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa) candidate, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa; Barrister and Solicitor, Sierra Leone

Botswana faces significant challenges on the HIV/AIDS epidemic. According to the third Botswana AIDS Impact Survey (BAIS III) which took place in 2008, 17.6% of Batswana were living with HIV/AIDS. The survey revealed that about 18 000 children below the age of 19 were HIV positive.

Strong political commitment at national level has however resulted in impressive scale up in HIV treatment for children under the Prevention of Mother-to-child Transmission programme. Children are currently treated in about 33 centres issuing antiretroviral drugs. However, Baylor Children’s Clinical Centre of Excellence provides a more in-depth pediatric content. There are also community-based non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Child Line, Mpule Kwelagobe Centre, SOS Children’s Home and Paolo Zanichelli Children’s Centre that are currently providing specialised services to vulnerable children. It is however important to point out that, in Botswana, the needs of HIV/AIDS affected children are not provided for in a comprehensive National legal framework. Care and treatment for children with HIV is currently addressed in overall HIV policy guidelines.

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