Who is a child?
A child is anyone under the age of 18 years.
The supreme law of South Africa, which is the Constitution, guarantees that all people younger than 18 years have children’s rights. Therefore, all children in South Africa, including children from other countries, have rights.

What rights do children have?

    •    Children have the right to be children.
    •    Children have the right to be cared for by their parents, family and caregivers.
    •    Children have the right to enough food to stay healthy. Children have the right to the best possible health care when they are sick.
    •    Children have the right to be protected from harm, to have shelter and to feel safe.
    •    Children have the right to an education.
    •    Children with disabilities have the right to special care. Children have the right to speak out and be heard. Children who are in trouble with the law have the right to be treated with special attention.
    •    Children have the right to be protected from situations of armed conflict.
    •    Children have the right to be protected against neglect, abuse and degrading punishment by parents and caregivers.
    •    Children have the right to play and not to do grown-up work; to be protected against child labour, and to not being forced to work to make money for others.
    •    Children have the right to be protected against all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
    •    Children have the right to be protected against harmful substances and drugs. Children must be protected from being used to make or sell drugs.

What is child abuse?

Sexual abuse
    •    Forcing a child to touch you.
    •    Exposing a child to pornographic material.
    •    Touching a child where he or she doesn’t want to be touched and when it is not appropriate.

Physical abuse
Hitting or hurting a child - or to relieve your own frustration on him or her.

Emotional abuse
    •    Degrading, threatening or yelling at a child

    •    Not taking proper care of a child, for example not bathing, clothing or feeding a child.

When there are indeed indications that a crime was committed, it must be reported to the police. The South African Police Service, and in particular the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units (FCS) are responsible for the investigation of these crimes.

Children have the right to be cared for and to feel safe.

Perpetrators are often known to the child. They could be people who abuse their positions of trust by abusing children when they are actually supposed to be protecting the children. They could even be parents, other family members, friends or neighbours. This, however, does not mean that all those in positions of trust abuse children.

Children  are  vulnerable,  especially  over  weekends  and holidays when they are alone at home.

Parents or caregivers must always know where their children are, and who they are with.

Parents or caregivers must always act in the best interest of the child.

Remember, child protection starts at home and with one’s own family.

Safety plan for children

Tell someone
    •    If you are feeling threatened, tell someone that you trust.
    •    Never allow abuse to become a secret between you and the abuser.
    •    If someone has already abused you, do not protect him or her - protect yourself - report it.
    •    If you are not believed, tell someone else.  Go to a clinic and tell the clinic sister, she must take action.  You can report abuse at a police station, or ask a teacher you can trust to help you report it.  You can also call the toll-free Childline number on 0800 05 55 55.

Remember, keep telling people what has happened until someone believes you and takes action to protect you.

Be aware, be safe
    •    Be informed about your rights as a child.
    •    You have the right to say NO to any person who is doing or saying things that you feel are wrong (even your parents).  This will include someone who tries to touch your body or makes any proposals that you feel uncomfortable about.
    •    Read about things that you do not understand such as sex, AIDS, how babies are born, and what sexual, emotional and physical abuse is.  You do not have to be afraid or ashamed to ask questions about these things. You can ask your parents, teachers or any adult you trust about these things, or you can call Childline.

Remember, a child who is aware is a well-protected child.

Missing children

There is NO waiting period before reporting a child or person as missing; time is of the essence so it should be done immediately. The sooner  you report a  missing person to the police, the sooner they can assist you in searching for him/her.

Go to the nearest police station to report a missing person.

When reporting a missing person you need a clear, recent photograph, all basic information on the missing person, as
well as the exact circumstances of his/her disappearance in order to enable the police to assist you.

To assist the police when reporting a missing person, know the schedules and movements of loved ones and family members, and know your children’s friends. Make a point of remembering the clothing they wear. This information is absolutely necessary for investigations.

After you have taken IMMEDIATE ACTION by reporting a missing child to your local police station, there are always FOLLOW-UP actions you can take:

    •    Check or visit several local spots that the missing child frequently visited.
    •    Have posters or fliers with a picture of the missing child made and place them in store windows or notice boards in the community.
    •    Recheck with your child’s friends, school, neighbours, etcetera. Don’t exclude old boyfriends, friends made at school camps, friends from out of town, or friends made on the computer, and so forth.
    •    Search for clues in your child’s bedroom, computer files, diary, and the like.
    •    Ask the police to request the Bureau for Missing Persons to publicise the case in the print and electronic media.

When a missing person is found or returns home voluntarily, you should return to the SAPS as soon as possible and report it to them. This is important in order for  them  to cancel the information on police records.

The number to call with any information on a missing person’s whereabouts is SAPS Crime Stop 08600 10111.

Remember, caring communities protect children.

ACT: Against Crime Together and report cases of child abuse to the South African Police Service.

SAPS Crime Stop 08600 10111
Volunteer information about criminals and their activities anonymously to this number.

SAPS Emergency number 10111
Call this number only in police emergencies and NEVER make hoax calls.

Childline 0800 05 55 55
Childline offers a 24-hour toll-free helpline with trained counsellors to assist abused children, young people and their families.
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