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                                   Last edited: January 2006

Summary and Analysis

Botswana ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by accession, on March 14,
1995.2,3 The treaty is not self-executing in Botswana and has not been officially incorporated
by legislation into Botswanan law. However, the Botswana courts have held that domestic
law should be interpreted in light of the international Conventions, like the CRC.4 We were
unable to find evidence of how the country has implemented Article 12 of the CRC with
respect to the child’s right to be heard in child protective proceedings.

Child abuse is a serious issue in Botswana, but is rarely dealt with as a legal matter. Child
abuse is widespread, with reported incidences increasing in recent years; yet cases rarely
reach the courts.5 Under the Children’s Act, it is a criminal offense for parents or guardians
to neglect, abuse, or exploit their children or allow others to do so.6 Neglect includes failure
to provide adequate food, shelter, or health and care, as well as exposing children to
circumstances that are likely to cause mental, psychological or physical distress.7 However,
convictions for criminal abuse and neglect are rare. In 2000, for instance, only 16 cases were

To be sure, there is evidence that views of children are not irrelevant in Botswanan legal
proceedings. Their perspectives are sometimes taken into account by courts in disputes
relating to custody determinations when marriages dissolve.9 The right to communicate ideas
is also enshrined in the Botswanan Constitution. Yet, in Setswanan culture, respect for the
views of children is not a right. As Botswana states, in its state party report to the United
Nations: “There is . . . a culture of believing that adults know what is best for children and
that they are in a position to articulate the views of their children.”10 The dearth of formally
prosecuted child abuse cases, combined with tendency to strongly privilege parental views
within the Setswanan culture, suggests that children’s voices play at best a tangential and
informal role in legal proceedings related to abuse and neglect.

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

Constitution of Botswana

Chapter 2, Section 12. Protection of freedom of expression11

(1) Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his
freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference,
freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate
ideas and information without interference (whether the communication be to the public
generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his

Additional Resources and Links
UNICEF – Botswana

Amnesty International – Southern Africa

1 This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.
2 It did so with a reservation that: “The Government of the Republic of Botswana enters a reservation with

regard to the provisions of article 1 of the Convention and does not consider itself bound by the same in so far
as such may conflict with the Laws and Statutes of Botswana.” Convention on the Rights of the Child,
Ratifications and Reservations, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights,
3 G.A. Res. 44/125, U.N. GAOR, 44th Session, Supp. No. 49, U.N. Doc. A/44/736 (1989), available at
4Committee on the Rights of the Child, Initial reports of States parties due in 1997: Botswana, ¶41, U.N. Doc.

CRC/C/51/Add.9 (Feb. 27, 2004), available here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.
5 Id., at ¶222.
6 Id., at ¶218.
7 Id.
8 Id., at ¶219.
9 Id., at ¶140.
10 Id., at ¶135.


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