By Perseverance Javangwe
Despite efforts by many organisations and rights groups working to explore ways of raising awareness in the hope of curbing abuse against children the sad reality is that children continue to be humiliated, beaten, burned, and sexually abused by the adults in their lives, their parents, teachers, and caregivers, relatives, neighbors.
According to Francis Mutema the current Acting Staff Officer Victim Friendly Unit at Police Headquarters, of the violence cases recorded during the lockdown children were affected the most. Mutema was speaking during a Covid-19 Social Work Chat on the theme: Covid-19 pandemic and management of SGBV.
Official police figures in Zimbabwe show a dramatic increase in the rape of children and young people under the age of 16. Incidents of rape rages on. However, not only sexual abuse but also violence and neglect are part of the everyday life for many children and young people, and Mutema states that relatives perpetrate more SGBV. He also talked about the rate of SGBVin 2020 as compared to 2019.
“From the cases we recorded children as usual constitute the majority of survivors. Neighbors and relative constitute the majority of perpetrators. All the same stranger danger is relatively high to warrant our interventions as strangers perpetrate around 19 percent of SGBV.
“SGBV is a serious problem in this country as we might be aware. It does not respect any Lock Down as we have noted. We have seen both children and adults being abused during the Lock Down. However as highlighted by the Police Spokesperson the number of REPORTED cases are low compared with the same period last year. Thus acquaintance rape is a serious challenge,” he said.
Section 81 on children’s rights state that “(1) Every child, that is to say every boy and girl under the age of eighteen years, has the right: (e) to be protected from economic and sexual exploitation, from child labor, and from maltreatment, neglect or any form of abuse;” There is need for the community to create a conducive environment for children to enjoy their constitution gains. Thereby achieving Sustainable Development Goal number 3 on ‘good health and well-being.
Speaking last year on the launch of Plan International Zimbabwe’s Country Strategy 2020-2024, which was held in Harare Maria Ribiero said violence against children remains a challenge in Zimbabwe.
“In 2018, Child line received a total of 25 000 cases (15 000 through the helpline and 10 000 through drop in). Of these cases, 66% were on protection while 34% were on welfare (Child line 2018 Annual Report).
“Sexual abuse accounted for 26%, physical abuse 20%, neglect 17%, emotional abuse 17% and 20% other forms of abuse. These are the realities that we are all facing here in Zimbabwe, yet, there is hope because the world has committed to the Sustainable Development Goals,” Ribeiro was quoted as having said.
Preventing and responding to violence against children requires that efforts systematically address risk and protective factors at all four interrelated levels of risk (individual, relationship, community, society).
Nurturing environments that foster successful development are critical to children’s well-being. Understanding what creates negative interactions within the peer or family context is essential for violence prevention.