The Family Code from a child’s perspective

I want to tell you about the Family Code from the perspective of children because it is very important for a country’s development.  It is the ideal tool for family management.  

However, when I attended the Day of the Girl Youth Forum, I found that the current DRC Family Code contains numerous flaws.  It allows child marriage and discriminates against girls and children born out of wedlock.

It needs revising.

The DRC Family Code, is a legal instrument that governs the rules and organisation of the family.  This text includes several laws related to marriage, adoption, inheritance, marriage settlements, marital registration etc.  Given that a child is a full member of the family and that the Code is universal, it contains several articles that concern children.  These articles refer to protection, nutrition, health, child identity as well as other areas.

However, let me assure you that the current Family Code is being re-examined in Parliament.  As an expert at the Day of the Girl Child explained to us, the review of the Code is taking into account excessive terminology; the existing Code’s inadequacies with other legal instruments at a national level (Law on the Protection of the Child, the Constitution) and its’ inconsistency with other international instruments (Convention on the Rights of the Child).  This is why Ms Geneviève Inagosi, as Minister for Gender, Family and Children, has filed a bill in Parliament to revise it.

This law regulates family matters which are the foundation of any society

The Code review is extremely important, both for us as children and for the community as a whole: this law regulates family matters which are the foundation of any society, and yet the current Code contains certain provisions which conflict with our rights and us, as children.

Did you know that the current Congolese Family Code sets the age of marriage for men at 18 years and for women at 15 years? Did you know that the Code prohibits the adoption of children if, at the time of adoption, the applicants have more than three children, unless waived by the President of MPR, Marshal Mobutu’s political party, which no longer exists?  Did you know that according to the Code, a child born out of wedlock has no right to inherit property from his parents if he is not connected with the family?

Photos from Day of the Girl Youth Forum :

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DRC has the second highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the world: 135 per 1000 live births (MICS 2010).  Forty three per cent of Congolese women are already living in a common-law relationship before the age of 18 (EDS 2013/2014).

It is for these many reasons that I and my friends, the Young Reporters, support the revision of this Code, which discriminates against rather than promotes the Rights of Children.

Early child marriage holds back a country’s development.  It has a negative impact on children’s health and education.  According to experts that we met at the Youth Summit on early marriage, a girl who becomes pregnant before the age of 18 is less likely to complete her education, risks having serious health problems and giving birth to a child suffering from growth deficiencies.

According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Protection of Children Act, all children have the same rights and are equal. Whether a child is born in or out of wedlock, it has the right to inherit property from its parents and live like any other child. Children do not ask to be born, it is a destiny that is decided for them.

That is why I am asking the government to:

  • – Establish a child protection mechanism against early marriage and provide support for victims
  • – Make it easier for the population to understand legal instruments such as the Protection Children Act and the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • – Effectively punish perpetrators of early marriage
  • – Raise awareness about the damaging effects of early marriage
  • – Draw attention to the campaign for child birth registration

In Parliament:

  • – Accelerate the Family Code revision process
  • – Strengthen laws against perpetrators of early marriage

And finally, I ask parents not to allow their children to marry early because it will have a serious impact on their future. As children, we need protection and support from our parents and our community.  Girls face a dark future if subjected to early marriage, neglect and discrimination.  We children say:

  • No to child marriages
  • No to discrimination between girls and boys
  • Yes to equal opportunities for all children
  • Yes to education for girls up to the age of 18

 

Good news!

Debate on the Bill within the Senate has come to an end. The changes to articles relating to early marriage and husband’s permission have been adopted. The Bill mustnow be discussed in Parliament in March.

Since October 2013, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Delegation of the European Union , UNICEF and GIZ (German organization of international cooperation) started the implementation of “Women and men, let’s move forward together”, an innovative programme with a high political significance that aims at fighting gender-based violence through a holistic and sustainable approach. This approach consists in working on the root causes of gender-based violence, in order to obtain lasting results in the perception of the role and the position of women and men in the Congolese society.

Translated from From French by Victoria Steele
Photo: UNICEF DRC 2013 Benoit Almeras
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Carmel

Carmel a 15 ans et il est enfant reporter de Kinshasa. Cycliste et constructeur de robot, il aime le football et Cristiano Ronaldo. Sa devise? "Malgré les tempêtes, il faut aller de l'avant".

Carmel is 15 years old and is a child reporter from Kinshasa. Carmel is a cyclist, builds robots and likes football and Cristiano Ronaldo. His motto is: ‘Despite the storms, one must move on.’

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