News | South Africa
A recent research report published by the Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) has found that sections of the Children’s Act potentially discriminated against unemployed men.
Dr Thabo Rapoo, head at the CGE research department, said the research was done last year and the report was published earlier this year.
Rapoo said the research study led to the recommendation being sent to parliament.
“In our report we found fathers, who are divorced or single, tend to experience problems trying access and enjoy their parental rights, especially where the children are staying with the mothers,” Rapoo said.
When the parents separated and the custody of the child was with the mother, the father tended to struggle to have normal relationships with them, he said.
“One of the several reasons for this was contained in the Children’s Act under Section 20 and Section 21,” Rapoo said.
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He said those sections place all sorts of conditions on fathers.
“Especially single fathers, that section of the Act demands if they want access to children, they should meet certain conditions such as they have to be in a relationship or have to contribute to the upbringing of the child, especially African fathers who must pay damages traditionally,” Rapoo said.
He said the mothers, however, did not have to meet any conditions to have the child.
“We argue that the father has natural rights as a parent too and should be able to enjoy it, irrespective of whether they can afford to pay maintenance or not,” he said.
Rapoo said fatherhood should not be reduced to financial affordability.
“If you do that, you are going to violate the rights of unemployed men. There are plenty of SA men who are unable to pay maintenance and won’t be able to enjoy parental rights,” Rapoo added.
He said that’s why it was the commission’s recommendation to parliament to review sections 20 and 12.
“Those sections contain provisions that are potentially discriminating to fathers and their rights as parents, including adoptive parents. It would apply to any father, irrespective of a heterosexual relationship, or a same-sex relationship, it would still apply,” Rapoo said.
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He said the problem was the conditions were meant for fathers and if they didn’t meet them, their rights to access the children were being violated.
“That’s not only unconstitutional, but unlawful,” he added. He said it was punitive towards the father and not the mother.
“One of the reasons why the Act should be amended was because there was a deal of ignorance and lack of understanding on both sides,” Rapoo said.
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