By Lindiwe Mlandu
CAPE TOWN - The Teddy Bear Clinic says child sexual offenders should be treated differently from adult offenders.
Currently, there is the automatic inclusion of child offenders in the sexual offences registrar.
Rights groups have taken the matter to the Constitutional Court, arguing that this in an unjustifiable violation of children’s rights.
Speaking to the Redi Tlhabi Show, the Teddy Bear Clinic’s Dr Shahida Omar explained how the law works.
“If a child has committed an offence and is sentenced to a period of less than six months, then the child can only have his/her name removed from the registrar after five years. If the sentence is more than six months, then the child can only apply after 10 years to expunge the name off the registrar.”
She says this has a negative impact on the child.
“There are serious implications in terms of the psychological well being and even in terms of their future opportunities.”
Omar says they believe the law should treat children differently.
“A child cannot be treated like an adult because that’s a trickle-down phenomenon. Adults are different. And children, it has been proven empirically and from clinical practice, that children do not re-offend if they are given the necessary intervention and rehabilitation.”
- Same for adults.
She says there are proper ways to deal with the child offenders.
“The Child Justice Act clearly makes provision for restorative justice where there’s an opportunity for victim-offender mediation. And in the lot of the diversion programmes, they are given opportunities to communicate and connect with their victims. They get an opportunity to ask for forgiveness and to repair.”
She says victims also get an opportunity to address their challenges.