Violence against children on the rise in Africa, study finds
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Cape Town - More than half of all children in Africa experience physical abuse while in some parts of the continent, four in ten girls suffer sexual violence before the age of 15.
This is according to data released by the African Partnership to End Violence against Children (APEVAC) – an initiative of the African Child Policy Forum (ACPF).
The organisations has launched a new drive to curb what they described as unacceptable levels of violence against children (VAC) in Africa.
“Of all the unspeakable damages suffered by our children, violence is surely the worst, simply because it is entirely avoidable, yet leaves lasting scars,” said Graça Machel, chairperson of the ACPF International Board of Trustees.
“We cannot accept such suffering at any level of African society, as its devastating impacts on our children’s dignity, physical and mental well-being continue to rob them of their future.”
The social and economic impact on society is equally harmful, she added.
“Violence against children is directly related to poor educational outcomes, school drop-out, ill health and poor future employment prospects. These, in turn, reduce productivity and add massively to the cost of health and social care” Machel said.
ACPF’s executive director Dr Joan Nyanyuki said: “Vigorous action must be taken to tackle the unacceptable scourge of VAC in Africa. Thirty years after the African Children’s Charter was adopted, African governments are still failing to protect children from violence.”
ACPF’s three new studies provide powerful evidence of the rise in VAC in Africa. They found that children caught up in conflict or humanitarian disasters, those with disabilities, those engaged in child labour, living or working on the streets, and those in residential care, were most vulnerable.
Digital technology is driving new forms of VAC, with children now facing increased risks of online sexual abuse. The Covid-19 pandemic has also caused a spike in reports of VAC.
Findings include that at least 60% of boys and 51% of girls in Africa experience physical abuse. In some regions, more than eight out of ten children aged 1-14 experience violent discipline every month.
More than half of all children aged 13–15 in West and Central Africa are bullied in school. The continent also has the highest rates of child neglect in the world: 41.8% of girls and 39.1% of boys are neglected by their caregivers.
Sexual violence against children with disabilities was found to be high in many countries, ranging from two incidents per child in Senegal to four per child in Cameroon.
“There has been some progress, notably on FGM, child marriage and corporal punishment,” noted Nyanyuki.
“But advances have been uneven, fragmented, and too slow. Most governments lack political will, and the amount of money allocated to tackling VAC is derisory.”
On the plus side, the study fiound the “home-grown” initiatives can reduce levels of violence, whilst strengthening relationships between parents and their children.
“We need more of Africa’s own home-grown solutions which offer children greater protection and help to build stronger communities.
“We must urgently address the deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes and practices which discriminate against children – especially girls,” said Nyanyuki.