John is a smart, brown-eyed boy, slightly tall and dark thick hair like the mist of Indian embroidered in beauty somewhat as the Greek god Adonis whom Aphrodite couldn’t get over. As a child, he was that type of baby everyone wanted to kiss and hold in their hands. He is now 11 years and still radiates the beauty and glow of a baby except for the way he paraded on foot. There is an unusual limping related to his style, at first you will believe it is a voguish manner associated to prepubescent children of his era but a deeper look, you will be forced to question his faltering walk.
Two years before now, uncle didn’t realize he was but a child, uncle made him watch pornography, uncle used him to demonstrate what he watched, and one day uncle twisted him backward and did the abominable. He committed the sin against life and human nature as he inserted him with his fist. There were complications after, he passed out and almost died, Uncle fled! John’s life never remained the same.
Child maltreatment is a horrid act which includes all sort and forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment of children, it could be in forms of sexual abuse, violence against children, commercial exploitation of children and even neglect. Anything that results in potential harm of children and hinders their development and dignity is Child Maltreatment.
Child Sexual Abuse involves an adult or older adolescent forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities irrespective of the awareness of the child to what is happening. The activities could include penetrative or non-penetrative acts. It could linger from rape, buggery or oral sex to watching sexual activities, sexual online images or even encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways. Under the United Nations Convention of the Child (UNCRC), every person under the age of 18 years is regarded as a child because of their immaturity and under development.
Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced rape and sexual violence in their lifetime. Boys are also at risk, although a global estimate is unavailable.¹ Through the 20th and 21st century, there has been a high rise in the cases of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests, nuns, and members of the religious authority. Last weekend, the Pope Francis summoned more than 190 church leaders and officials to the Vatican for a 4-day summit which aimed at dealing with the crisis of pedophile priests and most importantly to bolster child protection across the world. The Catholic Church has been long accused of ignoring these allegations and not acting properly to deal with this polemic. Pope Francis during this summit compared sexual abuse to human sacrifice because these acts condemn the victim to a life of misery if they survive not committing suicide.
In Africa, just like in other parts of the world, child maltreatment has always existed mainly as a result of persistent poverty on the continent. Parents give up their children to early hawking, working as maids or even early prostitution to make ends meets. Some children experience violence and mistreatment as a result of certain local believes and practices relating the children to witchcraft. Abuse, sadly is a daily reality for children in Africa as just a few of them really receive help or share their ill experiences with parents. In Nigeria for example, six out of every 10 children have experienced some form of violence and one in every four girls have been victims of sexual violence.²
Children who have experienced mistreatment or sexual violence end up as traumatized adults and some of them, are deemed to dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder all their life. John might grow up into a sad adult who will dawdle in years of contempt and hatred. John might grow up to become a successful voice against child maltreatment and sexual abuse but in any case, he will still tell the humiliating story. Nothing justifies child sexual abuse, assaults or maltreatment. Children should be allowed to be children and be protected from predatory adults.
*John is a case study
1. UNICEF REPORT https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/A_Statistical_Snapshot_of_Violence_Against_Adolescent_Girls.pdf
2. UNICEF REPORT ON CHILD PROTECTION IN NIGERIA