Yearly, date 16th June connotes the International Day of the African Child (DAC) and the Judiciary of Zambia joins both the local and international community to commemorate this historical day.
This year DAC is dubbed “THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD IN THE DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT” and presents an opportunity for stakeholders in Zambia to collaborate for the full realization of the rights of children in Africa right from the family/ community structure to the national and international levels. This can be done by leveraging on the digitization of the child justice system overall.
As stakeholders, we all are duty bearers charged with the responsibility to promote and enhance the African child’s rights in the digital sphere; in his or her best interests and for his or her full harmonious development.
The Child Justice Forum & the Family and Children’s Division of the High Court-Judiciary celebrates the African child, realising the uniqueness borne by this vulnerable yet invaluable sect of human beings. On this day we introspect and commit to join stakeholders across the country to address the varying challenges being experienced and we can do so by digitizing the systems and processes that involve children in order to expedite the attainment of the equitable rights and freedoms. Among them the child’s right to protection from all forms of violence, that to participation and provision require full commitment for their enhancement.
Notably, Zambia domesticated the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) through the enactment of the Children’s Code Act no. 12 of 2022. The ACRWC’s four guiding principles which are; non- discrimination (article 3), the best interests of the child (article 4), survival and development (article 5), and child participation as reflected under the right to freedom of expression (article 7) ought to be applied in all measures taken to guarantee the realization of children’s rights in the digital environment.
As digitization grows globally, there has been an increase in internet usage and access by children- the African child is no exception. This child has adapted to the use of the internet in various forms and stakeholders ought to realise that the attainment of children’s rights cannot be realised without considering the effect the digital environment has on this.
Notwithstanding, we ought to be weary of the dangers presented by the digital environment on children that may infringe on their rights and their privacy compromised as they may be prone to online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) which include the use of children in pornographic activities, performances and materials (child sexual abuse material), sexual extortion, online grooming, and exposure of children to adult pornography, cyber bullying among others. As such, the rights of these users ought to be protected from online exploitation through adequate mechanisms of protection by enhancing legislation, policies and various national responses.
Undoubtedly, the internet has provided great opportunities for the realisation of children’s fundamental rights and freedoms, among them, the right to education, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, emergency access to these rights, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, it is also a reality that many children in Africa lack access to the internet and still do not meaningfully participate in the digital sphere. It is this inequality of opportunity that stakeholders should seek to bridge in order for the poor and marginalised to realise the aforementioned rights, while ensuring that protection from harm online is guaranteed.
It is thus crucial for all stakeholders to collaborate and work towards scaling up digital access and technology in Africa.
The Judiciary of Zambia is thus committed to ensuring that children are allowed the full benefit of the digital environment while protecting them from the harm that may be occasioned in the digital space and ensuring that perpetrators are brought to account and face the wrath of the law. It is our commitment that we too will join other duty bearers in ensuring the protection and promotion of children’s rights in the digital environment