Magistrates who are not married are to be prevented from handling cases involving children if the National Assembly adopts a legislative proposal.

Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma, who had also been in court over a protracted child support case, is pushing for the changes through the Children’s (Amendment) Bill 2019, his reason being that single magistrates are inexperienced in family matters.

Appearing before the National Assembly Labour and Social Welfare Committee on Thursday to defend his amendments, Mr Kaluma said that only magistrates who are married and have the experience to handle family matters should hear cases involving children.

“We need people who are mature and have run families; people who are settled and know that every decision they make can destroy the life of a child completely,” he said.

Mr Kaluma, however, said that due to the low number of magistrates, if unmarried magistrates should preside over children’s cases, they should be of the senior cadre. The lawmaker expressed concern that low-cadre magistrates preside over the majority of children’s cases, making unpopular orders that not only work against the interests of the child but also end up adversely affecting the child’s future.

“Some of these weird orders on child custody are issued by these single magistrates who just [recently] graduated from the law school,” Mr Kaluma said.

He cited a case in January where a 10-year-old girl shocked a Mwingi court when she broke into tears soon after the magistrate ruled in favour of her mother in a child custody case.

The girl wailed in an apparent protest against the court’s decision to transfer her from her father’s care.

Yesterday, the committee adopted Mr Kaluma’s proposals, and will now proceed to publish it as a Bill.

Mr Kaluma also wants the children’s Act No. 8 of 2001 to be amended to vest equal responsibility for parental care and protection of a child in both the mother and the father whether they are married or not.

The Bill provides that neither the father nor the mother of the child shall have a superior right or claim against the other in the exercise of such parental responsibility.

“The Bill amends section 24 of the principal Act to make it mandatory for the father and mother of a child to have parental responsibility for the child whether the parents were married at the time the child was being born or did not subsequently get married.”

Source: Daily Nation

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