Source: Lawyers for Human Rights (South Africa)
Yesterday the Department of Home Affairs finally registered an 18 month old baby under pressure of a Children’s Court order.
Baby Senelile* was found in a field in Pretoria soon after birth. There were no clues about who her parents were. Despite being a clearly abandoned and vulnerable foundling child, the Department of Home Affairs refused the social worker’s request for a birth certificate for 18 months at various offices.
The effect was that Senelile was not able to be adopted by her safe care parents who had been caring for her since soon after her abandonment. She had also been in need of emergency health care which her safe care parents were fortunately able to provide even though their medical aid rejected the claim, because she was undocumented.
Senelile was ultimately refused access to her Constitutional right to a name and a nationality from birth (section 28) which is unacceptable.
If reports from different social workers are correct the Department has taken the decision not to register foundling abandoned babies and we as a society should be very concerned for vulnerable children. These reports along with the fact that LHR is representing several abandoned children in the same position is proof that the department has either taken such a decision or at the very least is not doing enough to ensure that local offices are informed of the law requiring such children to be registered.
Not only is the right to a name and a nationality a fundamental human right, it is also the key to further rights such as education and health care. This right is not to be taken lightly and must be ensured at all cost considering the particular difficulties vulnerable children face.
The Pretoria Children’s Court agreed with this position when LHR presented the case to them last week. An order was issued and served on the legal services of the department who was then compelled to comply with the law.
Senelile is now registered. She is protected from trafficking. She is secure in the family where she is loved because the adoption process can now go ahead. She will be able to go to school. She will not be stateless. And the effects of her abandonment will not haunt her all her life, because she has been allowed a legal existence in our society.
Let’s make sure all our children have this opportunity.
**Senelile is not the child’s real name. Her identity has been protected