February 16, 2012 (JUBA) — South Sudan’s ministry of gender, child and social welfare in collaboration with United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday resolved to develop a framework for strategic plans on child protection in the country.
- Priscilla Nyanyang, South Sudan’s deputy gender, child and social welfare minister closing the workshop, February 16, 2012 (ST)
The initiative was the outcome of a three-day consultative workshop held in Juba, the South Sudan capital, as a follow-up of a 2009 assessment conducted by UNICEF on the Juvenile systems in the world’s newest nation.
Findings of the assessment, carried out in at least six of the 10 South Sudan states, unearthed the poor state of the current juvenile justice system, which reportedly lacked key protective systems, while those present did not function properly.
“There is no standardised juvenile justice system operating across Southern Sudan. Neither are there any community sentence schemes, or diversion initiatives in operation. There appears to be a dislocation between the law (both national and international) and its practical implementation in Southern Sudan,” the UNICEF report reads in part.
The 2009 assessment also cited lack of implementation of the international human rights principles and South Sudan’s Child Act 2008, which sadly, remain widely unknown across the states as major setbacks to the juvenile justice sector.
In her remarks during at the workshop closure, Priscilla Nyanyang, the deputy minister for gender, child and social welfare described the move to develop a strategic plan as another vital step in efforts to ensure justice for children in the country.
“The decision you have made to come up with a framework for a strategic plan for child protection is commendable and extensive follow-up should be made to ensure its implementation,” said Nyanyang.
She further assured attendees that her ministry was prepared to include the strategic plan on child protection into that of the gender ministry, adding that access to justice is an important strategy for protecting the rights of vulnerable groups including boys, girls and young people.
In recent years, it has emerged, large numbers of boys and girls in contact with the law in South Sudan are reportedly socio-economic victims, denied their rights to education, health, shelter, care, and protection.
Many of them have had little or no access to education; many are working children while some of them have left their homes and taken to the streets to escape from violence and abuse at the hands of their families.
Hellen Murshale Boro, the gender and social development minister in South Sudan’s Central state decried the absence of coordination mechanism to discuss juvenile cases, and advocated for a lead institution on child protection.
“The Judiciary component on child protection is not active. There are no children prisons or court, no specialists on child protection and no institution for social workers in the country. Unless something is done, we may not achieve or plans on child protection,” she said.
Juba prison alone, according to Boro, has about 49 minors (children from 6-18 years old at the age of the crime), adding that the ministry of justice has not yet established a specialized service for children in conflict with the law, contrary to South Sudan legislation, which reportedly says children below 14 are not legally responsible for their acts.
She further advocated for wider dissemination of the Convention on Rights of the Children as well the provisions of South Sudan Child Act, 2008. The latter, she said, should be translated from English to Arabic and other local languages in South Sudan.