African Human Rights Law Journal
On-line version ISSN 1609-073X
SKELTON, Ann. The development of a fledgling child rights jurisprudence in Eastern and Southern Africa based on international and regional instruments. Afr. hum. rights law j. [online]. 2009, vol.9, n.2, pp. 482-500. ISSN 1609-073X.
This article charts the development of a child law jurisprudence that is emerging in Eastern and Southern Africa. The article records how judgments are beginning to make reference to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and even to less prominent instruments such as the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption (1993) and the Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Attention is paid to certain textual differences between the UN Convention and the African Children's Charter, and the extent to which these discrepancies have played a role in the development of a child law jurisprudence that might be described as uniquely African. The article considers judgments in the region that have expressly dealt with the 'best interests' principle. Examples from Botswana, South Africa and Kenya are described. The second area discussed is the imprisonment of children's primary care givers, in relation to which article 30 of the African Children's Charter, dealing with the children of imprisoned mothers, is highlighted. Other examples arise in relation to differences in the wording of the UN Convention and the African Children's Charter regarding inter-country adoption, which is the third area of case law discussed. High-profile cases relating to adoption applications brought by Madonna before the Malawian courts are amongst those examined. The article concludes that there is evidence of the beginnings of a specifically African jurisprudence in child law. It is noted, however, that more can be done to promote children's legal rights in the region through the ratification by more African countries of the Hague Conventions, and also through courts in the Eastern and Southern African region taking note of each other's jurisprudence.