Journal Article

The Best Interests of the South African Child

Sandra Burman

in International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

Volume 17, issue 1, pages 28-40
Published in print April 2003 | ISSN: 1360-9939
Published online April 2003 | e-ISSN: 1464-3707 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lawfam/17.1.28
The Best Interests of the South African Child

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South Africa has officially adopted ‘the best interests of the child’ as the desirable standard for legal decisions regarding children. However, there are two major problems with its operation. First, it arises from an individualistic worldview that conflicts with that inherent in both religious law and the customary law widely observed in the country. The worldviews are essentially irreconcilable, and attempts to impose the best interests standard may well lead parties to resort to unofficial courts, a time‐honoured remedy when state courts are distrusted. The second problem, of a different order, is that social conditions in South Africa – the economic situation of women, drink, drugs, violence, the size of the prison population, and above all, HIV/AIDS – are affecting the operation of the standard drastically, and the problem is likely to increase. Nonetheless, the legal acceptance of the standard tends to delude those in power into believing that children's interests are being protected.

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Subjects: Family Law ; Marriage and the Family

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