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shortly after birth almost 18 years before. She was ‘found’ three months before her 18th birthday, and was living with a different name and identity. Represented by Ann Skelton, she fought to have her identity protected beyond the age of 18 years.
The Centre continues to ensure that this protection is afforded to other children who were victims, witnesses or offenders and who have turned 18, through a second part of the case launched in 2016 that seeks to have the law interpreted in line with the Constitution, or alternatively, to declare it invalid. In this instance, the Oxford Human Rights Hub team undertook comparative research on how this type of case has been dealt with elsewhere in the world, while the Centre for Child Law researchers and the legal team drafted a detailed set of papers on the factual and legal situation in South Africa, and on international and constitutional law.
Another example of foreign law feeding into a constitutional court case in 2016 was a case about surrogate motherhood. The Children’s Act requires that one of the commissioning parents must be genetically related to the child who is to be born. In AB v Minister for Social Development, this aspect of law was challenged by a widow who had no viable gametes. In written and oral amicus curiae (friend of the court) submissions presented by the Centre’s Deputy Director, Karabo Ozah, the Centre for Child Law argued that the law was reasonable and justifiable because it protects the right of the child to know his or her origin. The majority of the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of that argument.
Writing about children’s rights litigation has involved the Centre’s staff in investigating how case law is in line with international law, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the regional instrument, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The recognition of South African child rights jurisprudence as a leading example in the world has been reflected in several published articles and chapters in books by the staff of the Centre for Child Law.
In June 2016, Professor Ann Skelton was elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Children, an 18-member committee made up of independent experts from around the world. Her five-year term will be from 2017–2021.
Professor Skelton’s election to the UN Committee was followed by further recognition of her work in December 2016 when she received the Juvenile Justice without Borders International Award. This international award acknowledges her work over the past 20 years in promoting children’s rights and helping improve the juvenile justice system in South Africa.
Ann Skelton and Karabo Ozah
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