Protecting the powerless
HE SOUTH African Child Gauge 2014, an annual snapshot of the status of South Africa’s children, was released this week, and, unsurprisingly, it paints a bleak picture. Published by the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town in partnership with other stakeholders, such as Unicef, the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development, World Vision South Africa, the FNB Fund, and UCT’s Safety and Violence Initiative, this annual study tracks the progress made towards realising the rights of this country’s children. And what it presents is not rosy.
It is common cause that South Africa’s unjust past has contributed a great deal to making our society a violent one, which in turn has resulted in widespread tolerance of this scourge. Children, society’s most vulnerable link, suffer the consequence of this legacy.
They experience different forms of violence across different life stages: from abandonment to physical and sexual abuse. Population-based prevalence studies have shown that more than half the country’s children experience physical violence by a caregiver, teacher or relative.
Incidents of sexual violence are known to be under-reported – a disturbing reality when considering that 50 percent of the 45 230 contact crimes against children reported in the 2013/2014 crime statistics were sexual offences – an average of 62 cases a day.
Such violence, the authors of the report say, has implications for all of society, and over a period that far exceeds the childhood of victims. Parents who experienced violence in childhood, they say, often lack the ability to bond with their own children and are more inclined to use violence. Children who experience or witness violence are also at increased risk of being violent adults.
The key, as the authors of an opinion piece on this page today argue, is a strategic, multidimensional initiative aimed at prevention, ameliorating social stress and deprivation, and generating concerted strategies involving children, parents, civil society and the government.
Let’s say “no” to violence against children.