Source: Protecting children from abuse | The Herald February 5, 2020
Our Children, Our Future
The Department of Social Welfare (DSW) is the principal Government department responsible for the implementation of the Children’s Act that ensures the protection of children from all forms of abuse.
Its key roles include ensuring that the immediate safety and well-being of the child is the central factor in all decisions and case planning. A probation officer ensures emergency medical care for the child is given absolute priority, ensuring access to post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) within 72 hours.
Furthermore, all reports of child sexual abuse or violence must be referred to the police on the day that the information comes to the attention of the probation officer.
The department also ensures that all child sexual violence and abuse cases are to be treated as a priority regardless of the alleged time of the offence and that the privacy of the survivor is respected at all times.
In cases where a child survivor, witness or alleged offender has a disability, specific measures should be taken to ensure that they are supported to actively participate in the justice process.
Contact between survivor and perpetrator to be minimised at all times.
The DSW also ensures that the survivor is oriented to court surroundings and trial processes by intermediaries and receives psychosocial support from either the probation officer or recognised counsellor prior to being referred to court.
The probation officer should also follow a matter from its initial referral, through to the finalisation of the trial.
Throughout the investigation and subsequent processes, efforts must be made to ensure the safety of, and limit the hardship on the survivor.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Judicial Service Commission and Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs also play important roles.
The NPA is responsible for the quality of the docket of alleged sexual violence and abuse and the subsequent prosecution of the alleged offence through the courts.
It also plays a key role in promoting a just and fair system for all persons who are participating in the justice delivery system, making it easier for survivors to access justice.
The NPA is responsible for assigning a public prosecutor (State lawyer) to the survivor/ victim of sexual abuse and violence.
It also makes sure that all reports are treated as a priority regardless of the timeframe of the offence.
The District Public Prosecutor is responsible for ensuring that a docket is brought before the court at the earliest possible time and to advocate the prioritisation of the matter in the courts.
The NPA also makes sure that the privacy of the child survivor is respected by all parties. Reasonable steps must be taken to safeguard the identity of a survivor and the details of the matter are protected and remain confidential.
Separate and appropriate transportation arrangements for survivors and perpetrators to and from the courts should be guaranteed. Most important, contact between the survivor and alleged offender should be minimised to the fullest possible extent.
In cases where a child survivor, witness or alleged offender has a disability or is a minor, specific measures should be taken to ensure that they are supported to actively participate in the justice process.
Judicial Service Commission (JSC)
The JSC is responsible for overseeing the functions of judges and magistrates who preside over cases involving sexual violence and abuse.
They are responsible for ensuring that all parties receive a fair trial and that justice is served in line with the relevant legislation. They are ultimately responsible for ensuring that vulnerable survivors and witnesses are supported to actively and meaningfully participate in the justice process.
Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
The ministry is responsible for leading the development of policy relating to justice for children and service delivery, including legal aid and management of detention facilities. Legal aid is provided through the Legal Aid Directorate, which has the mandate to deliver free legal aid services to the indigent persons across the country.
The directorate is responsible for identifying and assigning alleged child offenders to a qualified legal assistance professional. It is also responsible for mapping and identifying alternative legal assistance partners across the country who are resourced and willing to receive referrals of children who fall outside the reach of the directorate.
The article was prepared by Justice for Children Trust (JCT), whose mandate is to promote and ensure access to transformative justice and enjoyment of human rights by children. The article series aims to educate and inform the populace on the Protocol on the Multi-Sectoral Management of Sexual Abuse and Violence in Zimbabwe, through popularising how survivors of sexual abuse and violence can use the protocol as they seek protection.