Failing to respect and fulfill: South African law and the right to protest for children

Nurina Ally


Despite the historical and ongoing importance of protest as a vehicle for expression by children, current laws fail to protect and enable children’s participation in protest. More than two decades after the formal end of Apartheid, a child may be subject to criminal processes for convening a peaceful, unarmed protest.  This article highlights the importance of the right to protest for children and the obligation on the state to respect, protect and fulfil the right to protest specifically taking into account children’s interests. Through a description of the Mlungwana & Others vs The State and Others case, the article highlights the manner in which the criminalisation of peaceful protest by the Regulation of Gatherings Act fails to take into account the best interests of children and violates the right to protest.


right to protest; children's rights

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Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996

Child Justice Act 75 of 2008

Regulation of Gatherings Act 205 of 1993

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S v M (Centre for Child Law as Amicus Curiae) [2007] ZACC 18

South African Transport and Allied Workers Union and Another v Garvas and Others (Freedom of Expression Institute as Amicus Curiae) [2012] ZACC (13 June 2012)



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