“A theory of human dignity” for children who are born with acute physical and mental challenges grounded on the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Ngoma, Damazio Mubelu.
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Almost every day, world-wide, women, young and adults give birth to a child. The birth of a child becomes a moment of joy. It becomes a vivid reality of the maintenance and continuation of the family lineage. It is therefore a unique blessing to the family and society. Unfortunately, there are mothers who give birth to children with physical and mental disabilities. Such situations may give rise to frustration among couples. It may, in some cases, create an atmosphere of hopelessness and fear of coping with the reality of living with a child. In extreme cases, most parents are left in a dilemma, not knowing what to do. It is within this context that some mothers and families resort to drastic choices that are detrimental to the life of a child with disabilities. Some mothers and families may opt to abandon the child by stopping to provide the child with the basic human needs that would sustain its well-being. Children who are born with disabilities seem to be victims of child abuse of that nature. There has been an advocacy in the country (South Africa) on issues of human rights especially the rights of children in general and specifically children with disabilities1 since the end of apartheid and the dawn of democracy, yet the fundamental rights of children with disabilities are still being violated. There are several instances of children with disabilities and other medical conditions being abandoned, dumped in inhuman conditions and in extreme cases, instant death is induced on them. Children with disabilities are often side-lined in society. In this regard, the issue of children being abandoned is one of the major bio-ethical issues that is of great concern in this study. It is within this context that the research work will study the situation of children who are born with disabilities in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa as means of addressing the existential problem. The thesis opens a pro-life theological discussion for children with disabilities that is grounded on the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church that is relevant to children with disabilities in the area in question. The scope of the study is to bring about a theology of human dignity that would bring about integral human development in the region. 1 The Human Rights Council Resolution 26/20, (2015), On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to Social Protection: Special Rapporteur Questionnaire to States Parties, Republic of South Africa and Response from the Government of South Africa, 9. It states: “Since 1994 the government has formulated various policies to address the inequalities which were embedded in the policies pursued by the apartheid regime. The policies have focused on empowering previously disadvantaged groups including women, children, and disabled persons. These policies are contained in various policy documents such as the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), Growth, Employment, and Redistribution (GEAR) and the Integrated National Disability Strategy (INDS). The need for relevant data and information on prevalence and experience of disability has increasingly grown because of the need to monitor and evaluate the impact of these policies. (Child Care Act 38 of 2005, Gazette No. 28944, Notice No. 610. Chapter 2, Section 2, Article 11, 1 and 2.) The current research project will study the situation as outlined: the first chapter will study the socio-political situation of the region concerning children with disabilities. The second chapter will make an in-depth investigation on the cultural and ethical reasons why children are abandoned. The third 7 chapter will study the different concepts of human dignity, ethical perspectives and examine the contemporary implications of child homicide. The fourth chapter will further make a theological evaluation of the various concepts of human dignity in reference to the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church as given in Gaudium et Spes and Evangelium Vitae.2 The fifth chapter will formulate a Theology of Human Dignity that would be in accord with children born with disabilities and that would be consistent with issues of the rights of children. The sixth chapter will constitute a review of the chapters, summary findings, recommendations, and the type of Theology of Human Dignity for children.