Kahlil Gibran once said ‘Your Children are not your children. They are the Sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself’’.The issue of child abuse cut across all racial, economic and cultural lines. It is not just the physical violence inflicted on a child (which we all know) but other forms of assault on any child.
Simply defined, child abuse is any form of maltreatment by an adult which may either be violent or threatening to the child. It may come from Parents, Uncles, Cousins, teachers, housemaids etc. which eventually can result in dysfunctional behaviours and abuse.
This piece is necessary as a reminder to all concerned who especially do not know the intricacies involved when they abuse a child. It is to sensitize both the parents/wards, teachers, duty care officers who reside in boarding schools and anyone having something to do with overseeing a child
A child is very vital to be considered for adequate care and protection. This is viewed seriously in Nigeria and in other climes where standard legislations have been put in place to forestall abuse; yet, children are abused in one form or the other every day. Many children are trafficked out of the countries incessantly. Those in the refugee camps have severally alleged being assaulted in the camps; there are child soldiers in some countries that are abused on a daily basis without adequate records or preventions. Some schools of thought have put a defence that probably, those who abuse children at will do not have adequate information or education on the rights of a child. Or that the governments of countries involved have not deemed it necessary to sanction the culprits because there is no adequate policy in place to deal with such barbaric and callous acts.
I have taken the time to let child abusers have the gist of acts that are regarded as child abuse for guidance.
I have about 4 of the types of abuse (but not exhausted) for our concern:
- Physical Abuse- Any form of physical assault (including attempts) e.g. Kicking, punching, slapping, shaking, throwing a missile at, suffocating(lock inside a room) burns, cutting/piercing, drowning( as occurred in Nigeria of recent with a single parent) biting, crawling on stones/sands, knocking on the head, pulling the ear, encouraging a sleepover in friends place etc.
- Psychological/Neglect- Deprivation(when you deprive such a child the right care you give to others)
- Emotional-Not showing love, warmth and security, overprotection, reinforcing negative behaviours, labelling children with vituperative words)abusive words, criticizing the physical appearance of a child, emphasizing child’s learning difficulties, imitating a child’s disability, exposing a child’s disadvantaged situations(family history)
- Sexual Abuse- Abuse of position of trust e.g.-the driver that conveys your child to school, shopping malls etc. who is fond of touching the child when alone in the car, calling her his young wife, same with the security guard, private /home –lesson teacher, Uncles, possession of indecent or abusive photographs or images of children, showing indecent pornographic materials to children, inappropriate language or behaviour towards a child, learning wrong and indecent attitude among mates in school, uncensored or uncontrolled TV shows, internet, boys and girls co-habiting in the same room. Others that look mild but could lead to child abuse are: inviting a female child to a male house and vice –versa, giving constant gifts and offering a regular ride to school or places in a male’s car.
EFFECTS OF CHILD ABUSE ON THE CHILD
- When a mother leaves her child in an unsupervised or unprotected situation, she has indeed given room for sexual abuse. Calling a child(male or female) bad names-worthless, stupid, idiot, pig etc. may leave an indelible scar on the child
- It prevents the child from making and maintaining a good relationship in future as he feels unsecured and would not trust anybody .His/her confidence has been eroded and may look inferior to his peers
- The child is prone to anxiety, depression and anger.
- He may find solace in alcohol or drugs to relieve himself from isolation and painful feelings
WHAT ROLES HAVE THE GOVERNMENTS PLAYED OR PLAYING TO PREVENT CHILD ABUSE?
What are the governments doing to preventing the child from being abused? Are there laws or policies in place to attack this monster called child abuse? What are the parents/wards doing about this? What of the various schools around us?
Yes, there are laws by various governments to curb this monster from further rearing its ugly head; the problem with these policies is that they are not adequately enforced or monitored for enforcement. Even in schools, (especially private schools) standard policies are not in place to curtail the child abuse, all because the proprietors/proprietresses non- chalant attitude covering the misdemeanour of the child or staff accused or suspected of the offence just to save the school face in order to retain such a child because of school fees paid. This does not exonerate the public schools as well.
Children have the rights to be protected and catered for. Let us look at the summary of the Child Rights Act in Nigeria-2003:
( a) Every child has a right to freedom of expression
(b)Every child has a right to quality education, to play and to recreation
(c)Every child has a right to special care if handicapped
(d) Every child has a right to love, understanding and protection
(e)Every child has a right to protection against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation
(f) Every child has a right to nutrition, housing, medical services
(g)Every child has a right to develop physically and mentally in a healthy manner
(h) Every child has a right to equality regardless of race, colour, sex, religion, nationality or social origin
(i) Every child has a right to be brought up in a spirit of tolerance, peace and universal brotherhood
(j) Every child has a right to be among the first to receive relief in times of disaster
(k)Every child has a right to a name and nationality
There are also different Child Protection and Legal Framework in Nigeria. I will attempt to bring out few of them here:
(a)Specific legislative provision and prevention, protection and redress sections 50-52 of the CRA 2003
(b) Sections 21-40 of same Act provide for the protection of the rights of the child through the prohibition of child-marriage, child-betrothal, infliction of tattoos and skin marks, exposure to use, production, trafficking of drugs, child labour, abduction, employment of children as domestic help outside their own home or family environment etc.
(c) Family/Home Level: Section 11 (a) of the Child’s Right’s Act 2003 states that ‘No child shall be subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect, or maltreatment including sexual abuse’’. Sub-section (6) also protects the child from torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Despite this legal framework in place, most of the children are not aware of their rights, let alone be guided by it. Most of the teachers/tutors do not even know about these laws. At the home front, all that some of the parents know is that ‘’I am the one that gave birth to my children and I can do whatever pleases me .’’ That is why they inflict injuries on the children without any remorse or fear of being apprehended by the government to face the law. Some schools do not have any policy in place to curb child abuse. Where the policy is in place, knowingly or unknowingly, refuse to implement the policy probably because of the reasons best known to them.
- Parent, teachers etc should observe their children, the way they behave, look etc. Plus what you see for yourself
- Listen to the children-don’t be too busy or think they are too naïve. Children talk to people they trust
- Record or write down concerns or disclosures as soon as possible and write down time and date
- Refer or pass over your concerns to other trusted people. (don’t keep the information to yourself alone)
- If it’s a school, develop training opportunities to ensure staff have a chance to discuss and make all staff supervisors supported by the management
- Establish a focal point where children can trust adults(in a school)
- Parents should not put a computer in the bedroom.
- The governments should rigidly implement CHILD RIGHTS ACTS and punish culprit severely to serve as a deterrent.
- Idowu is a professional Communicator, Mentor/Caregiver, who is in the business of child mentoring for over a decade.