[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's international brief, the South African National Assembly [official website] has approved the highly controversial national Children's Bill [PDF text], nine years after its first introduction. The bill, which will be presented to the National Council of Provinces [official website] for approval next before being submitted to President Thabo Mbeki, contains numerous changes widely hailed as beneficial, such as the lowering of the age of majority from 21 to 18, the outlawing of virginity testing, stricter punishments for child trafficking, and a framework for the implementation of a child sex abuse registry. The legislation also contains several contested provisions, from the right of Legal Aid [official website] to determine whether it is fiscally feasible to represent a child in a civil legal case, to the lowering of the age of consent for medical and surgical procedures to 12. The most controversial provisions of the bill, however, are the protection of the right of a surrogate mother to have an abortion after agreeing to an adoption procedure and the creation of a right to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of South Africa [JURIST news archive]. South Africa's News 24 has local coverage.
In other international legal news …
- The Chad government [official website in French] has released the results of the 6 June national referendum [JURIST report] addressing proposed constitutional amendments. The referendum approved all of the amendments proposed with a near 70% majority. The most significant amendment gave Chad President Idress Deby the legal authority to run for a third term in 2006, which he had previously been prevented from doing. Other amendments included the abolition of the Senate and its replacement with an Economic, Social, and Cultural Council whose members will be appointed by the President. Opposition groups are calling the referendum a sham, arguing that the massive boycotts that occurred on the day make the vote little more than a governmental rubber stamp. AllAfrica.com has local coverage.
- The National Electoral Commission of Guinea-Bissau [Wikipedia backgrounder] Wednesday announced the provisional results of the 19 June presidential election, informing reporters that none of the candidates running had attained 50% of the popular vote, as required by the Guinea-Bissau constitution, meaning that a run-off election between the two leading candidates will be held in July. The NEC announced that Malam Bacai Sanha, representative of the ruling PAIGC party, and former military leader Joao Bernardo "Nino" Vieira received the most votes with 35.3%3 and 28.5% of the vote respectively. The results are being challenged by the party of former president Kumba Yala, though no word has been released about officially contesting the results before the NEC. Final results are expected by Friday. The UN and other international observers praised the elections [UN News Centre report] as "exemplary" and were enthusiastic about the nearly 80% voter turnout. IRIN News has more.
- Former Indonesian acting secretary-general of the General Elections Commission (KPU) [government website in Bahasa Indonesian] Sussongko Sahardjo has begun his trial on charges of bribery, corruption, and facilitating the bribery of a public official. Sussongko allegedly assisted KPU member Mulyana W. Kusumah in an attempt to bribe the head of the Supreme Audit Agency (BPK) in return for a clean financial report for the General Elections Commission. If convicted, Sussongko faces five years incarceration. Sussongko is one of several members of the KPU under investigation for fraud and bribery [JURIST report] as part of the push by Inodnesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono [Wikipedia profile] to root out corruption in the Indonesian government [official website in Bahasa Indonesian]. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Indonesia [JURIST news archive]. The Jakarta Post has local coverage.