Pro­tect­ing the pow­er­less

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

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.


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