22.04.2005 Regional News

District assemblies urged to expedite establishment of 'child panels'

22.04.2005 LISTEN

Cape Coast, April. 22, GNA - Stakeholders for the protection of children's rights in the Central Region, on Friday called on district assemblies to, as a matter of urgency, ensure the establishment of 'child panels' in their areas, in accordance with Act 560 of the Children's Act.

The proposed 'child panel' system, is to facilitate the settlement of minor criminal offences committed by juveniles at the community levels, towards the efficient reform of such offenders, as well as sit on complaints concerning abuses of the rights of children, such as parental neglect.

Membership of such panels will therefore comprise representatives from the communities, traditional councils, women's groups and a member of the justice and security sub-committees of the assemblies. The stakeholders, made the call at a forum organized by the regional office of the 'NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child', for among others, media practitioners and personnel from the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE).

It was under the theme; " child survival, development and protection."

They were of the view, that the assemblies, have not done enough to enhance the protection of children and that it was imperative for them to commit the necessary resources for the establishment of the panels.

According to them, this would ensure that the justice system is made more "child friendly", as well as stem the situation whereby children committed to industrial homes under the penal system, such as by the juvenile courts, rather become more delinquent than reformed. The stakeholders, also called on the media to step up public education on the importance of good parenting, and stressed that the upsurge of delinquency among children, could mostly be attributed to parental neglect.

Earlier in an address, Mr Kwamina Dennis, an official of the Department of Social Welfare, underscored the importance of child panels, and described it as a system to bring justice to the doorstep of the people.

He, in this regard, commended the Coalition for organizing the forum, and tasked the assemblies to act quickly to ensure that the panels are put in place.

The acting Regional Director of CHRAJ, Mr Emmanuel Bodai, expressed concern about the "deplorable" conditions in the prisons and police cells and other penal institutions, and tasked the media, to take up the issue.

He pointed out that child panels are meant to rehabilitate and not punish minor offenders, and stressed the need for the assemblies to create an enabling environment for the effective development of children, by showing more commitment to promoting their welfare. Mr Bodai, also expressed concern about the spate of teenage pregnancy in the Cape Coast township, involving girls as young as 14, and charged parents to show more responsibility, by monitoring the activities of their children.

The regional coordinator of the Coalition, Mrs Baaba Fleischer, on her part, said the Coalition will, within the next three years, focus on promoting the protection of children, particularly on the importance of the child panels system. 22 April, 05

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