…K300,000 fine or jail for 10 years!
By Isaac M. Mwanza
In Zambia, some parents and guardians have continued to disrespect our laws by continuously posting pictures of their little children on social media or using these children to advertise.
Though children may become aware of their digital footprint and online identity at an early age, they are powerless to assert their rights especially when parents are the ones engaging in the dual acts of parenting and being publishers of a child’s pictures.
This situation has given rise to an inherent conflict between the right of a child to privacy and the right to freedom to publish the photos of their children, which certainly puts a child and his or development at risk. How should these two rights be resolved?
Last year, President Hichilema’s administration enacted the Children’s Code Act No. 12 of 2022 in which Section 12 states:
“A child has the right to privacy appropriate to the age and maturity of that child.”
The violation of this right is punishable under the Zambian law and soon, the wrath of the law will catch up with these parents.
Under Section 26 of the Act, any violation of this right to privacy and other children rights attracts a one million penalty unit, that is, K300,000 or imprisoned for a period of not more than 10 years or to both. If one is luck, they can be asked to do community service
These provisions in our law trace from the many international conventions such as United Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
For example, Article 16 of the UNCRC (1989) states that:
“No child shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his or her privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation” and that “the child has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks.”
Parents who violate a child right to privacy may want to use Article 20 of the Constitution which guarantees then the right to freedom of expression but this may not guarantee them enough protection because this freedom is not absolute but subject to limitations.
A parent should be the primary protection of a young child because children are inexperienced, do not have maturity and the capacity to make an informed judgment.
What is sad is that instead of protecting the child’s right to privacy, especially with the rise of social media, parents are taking turns to violate this right in the name of competition with others or using children as advertising tools.
When an adult posts a picture of a child on these online platforms such as Facebook, a child has no opportunity to “opt out” should they wish to remove themselves from the online platforms.
Parents must recognise that there is a vital boundary between public and private life which they don’t have to cross when raising children.
Every child has an interest in his or her own privacy but Zambia is witnessing the violation of this right by a parent or parents who want to dictate how they want their child to be brought up, hence making wrong decisions that expose children.
When a child exposes a child to online platforms such as Facebook, he or she is simply opening a door up to exploitation, abuse and potential harm, which may take any form such as physical or not real.
Abductors and kidnappers can use social media to target children. A child’s identity can be stolen online by an individual who may want to portray the child as his or her own.
When we as parents share information about our child without consent, we begin to narrate a child’s story and journey, leaving a child vulnerable and unprotected.
What we must know though is that a child privacy is also a child’s dignity and respect.
Parents who violate the child’s right to privacy also violate their dignity, yes they violate human dignity.
This is why Government has come up with the Children’s Code Act, a law to provide and protect the rights of a child.
Unfortunately, having a good law is one thing but enforcement it is another.
The Act came into force in Zambia on 9th August, 2022, meaning all violations after this date must be reported to police or taken to court.
We have law enforcement agencies and our courts must begin to take interest in the Children’s Code Act and begin to act on parents and guardians who post pictures of children on social media thereby violating the right of a child to privacy.
Society generally, and in particular, those of us with ability to take legal action must step in and utilise the courts to stop these delinquent parents from continuing to violate the right of a child to privacy through posting a child’s pictures on social media.
It does not mean that parents who do not post their pictures of their little children online don’t love their children but they seek to protect them from potential harm but also are obedient to the law.
When we hear a child has been abducted or later killed, it is the entire society and not the parent that get affected.
We all feel the pain when a child is abducted and we have a common duty to protect every child, whether our own or that of a neighbour or unknown child. He or she is still a child society values.
[Published by the Zambian Daily Nation, 2023]