We demand children’s voices

In the recently released Draft Marriage Bill[1], underage marriages would no longer be permitted, and parents will no longer be able to have a say in these matters. This is one of the most powerful pieces of legislation giving children a right to have a say on issues that affect them. Sadly, SowetanLIVE did not include children’s voices in these important issues affecting them. Therefore, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) selected the article as a Missed Opportunity[2] for not accessing children’s views on the issue. 

The article titled, “Draft marriage bill will criminalise underage unions” (SowetanLIVE, 15/07/2023 ) is about the proposed law prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from getting married, the regulations also prevent parents or guardians from marrying off children, and anyone who will do so will be guilty of a criminal offense.

In this article, the journalist accesses two essential stakeholders, this included Cultural experts and Child right expert. Despite this draft bill impacting largely the lives of children, in particular girl child which is more vulnerable in this issue. The article further reveals that, “according to Statistics South Africa’s Marriages and Divorces 2021 statistics, released earlier this year, 37 minors entered civil marriages. Five of them were boys and 32 were girls”. The omission of children’s voices in this regard left the article incomplete and overlooked an opportunity to incorporate their views.

Children are some of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society, and they are hardly ever consulted when communities make decisions that may affect them[3]. This also includes children being married off by parents without a say.

One of the six principles and guidelines for the media on reporting on children by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), journalists should, “In interviewing (and reporting on) children, pay special attention to each child’s right to have their opinions heard, to participate in decisions affecting them[4]”. The journalist missed an opportunity to have children share their views on this important issue that involves them.

MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media[5] encourage journalists to include children’s views on matters that affect them as children have the right to have their views heard.

We urge SowetanLIVE, to continue reporting on issues that affect children but always ensure that the children are allowed to express their views.

Written By Ntsako Manganyi

Edited by Ntombifuthi Kubeka

[1] http://www.dha.gov.za/images/Acts-Bills/Gazette-Marriage-Bill-7-July-2023.pdf

[2] A missed opportunity is a story in which, for instance, children should have been accessed but are not.

[3] https://unglobalcompact.org/what-is-gc/our-work/social/childrens-rights

[4] https://www.unicef.org/eca/media/ethical-guidelines