These series of articles will focus on the child care aspect of the law, specifically, provisions dealing with child maintenance in cases where the mother of the child is not married to the father. The main objective is to educate single mothers on what the law says regarding child support, in the simplest of terms. Uchizi Chinula, a lawyer, is our guest writer.
The Malawi Law Commission developed the Child (Care, Protection and Justice) Bill in 2006 with support from Unicef because Malawi did not have comprehensive legislation on child justice. Any provisions relating to children were spread out across various pieces of old legislation, and were archaic in light of the circumstances faced by children in the country, and current child justice systems at international level. This Bill was tabled in Parliament by the Ministry of Gender, Women and Children.
The Child (Care, Protection and Justice) Act was passed in 2010, a positive step that shows Malawi’s commitment towards improving the situation of children in Malawi by guaranteeing and protecting their human rights. This new law aims to modernise the child justice system and improve the child care and protection systems.
Mothers are the primary care givers. It is, therefore, very important that they are supported in their role to enable them to fulfil this role. When mothers are not supported, it indirectly violates the rights of the child such as the constitutional right to life; where a mother endangers the child’s life by taking an ailing child to the hospital late because they did not have money to get to the health centre.
Children who do not have adequate access to basic needs such as food, clothes and shelter are least likely to enjoy their right to education because they do not perform well at school, which in turn affects their development and productivity.
In extreme cases, these children grow up into selfish adults who lack love and empathy for others because of the upbringing they have had. It is of primary importance that we recognise that parents who are not supporting their children are indirect perpetrators of violence against children which is hugely advocated against in Malawi and elsewhere.
It is worth mentioning that the new law does not concern itself with the rights of the parents. It is based on the rights of the child only, recognising the special needs and interests of children. This means that when the law is being applied, the court’s most important consideration is what is best for the child in light of the existing circumstances.