The Juvenile Justice Law Reform Process in South Africa: Can children's rights approach carry the day?
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The impetus for juvenile justice law reform sprang originally from concern for the plight of child detainees in the dark days of apartheid in the 1980s. Children, who were at the forefront of the struggle for democratic rule and against apartheid, were liable to be detained without trial as punishment for their political activism. Many hundreds of children were detained without trial under the infamous security legislation of the time.' However, in the early 1990s, the political climate changed: detention without trial for political activity abated; a moratorium was placed on the execution of the death penalty; Nelson Mandela was released from prison; and negotiations for the transition to democracy began to get underway. Because the focus during the struggle had been to achieve basic human rights and the franchise for all South Africans, it was only after this period that attention turned from children as political detainees to securing procedural rights for children caught up in the conventional criminal justice system.