Research indicates that violence against children with disabilities1 occurs at annual
rates at least 1.7 times greater than for their non-disabled peers. Children with
disabilities are also abandoned more frequently than their non-disabled peers and
may face increased levels of discrimination, as a result of their disability. An
increased likelihood of abandonment, abuse and discrimination highlights the need
for the South African justice system to be ready and able to receive children with
disabilities and provide them with access to appropriate redress.
Relying on the interrelated nature of the rights contained in the South African
Constitution, this research is first and foremost focusing on the rights of the child.
Another level of vulnerability is added in respect of the right of children to have
access to justice: disability. This is referred to within the scope of this research as
the two-tier vulnerability principle. This principle necessitates that an approach to
address the needs of children with disabilities must be sought with one leg in the
discourse of the rights of children and another within the area of the rights of people
with disabilities. A combination of the two approaches is applied in assessing South
Africa s responses to the rights of children with disabilities to have access to justice.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities further assist in
establishing a framework against which access to justice for children with disabilities
in domestic legislation and other measures are tested. This research concludes by
comparing South Africa s responsiveness to two other jurisdictions, namely Ghana
and Canada, as well as best practices from certain states from the United States of
America, and makes recommendations on how to apply the best practices principle.