NGO advocates robust child protection systems in W/A
Accra, March 14, GNA – West African countries have been asked to initiate robust child protection systems, to defend children against child sexual abuse to ensure their proper development.
Plan West Africa, a child rights non-governmental organization (NGO), made the call in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra on Tuesday.
It said because of lack of national child protection systems, child abuse cases tended to be handled in an informal, sporadic and uncoordinated manner.
The statement said:“Globally, 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact. Yet even these statistics represent a great under-estimation given the gross under-reporting and the ever-changing nature of child sexual abuse.
“Sexual violence and abuse occur in many different forms and may happen anywhere: at home, in school, at work, in the community, institutional care, vocational training centers as well as in cyberspace.”
The statement said according to Stefanie Conrad, Plan West Africa's Regional Deputy Director, “On too many occasions, the process of handling cases of abuse is itself abusive and disturb children and their families. In some cases the current legislative systems are so defective that they favour the perpetrators rather than the victims."
She called on individuals and organisations working to promote child welfare to collaborate efforts to build and strengthen child protection systems at different levels, in different contexts.
Conrad said: “The education system needs to be part and parcel of an effective protection system. Schools have a responsibility to ensure that children are protected from physical and sexual abuse while pursuing their education; but they also have a responsibility to ensure that students learn how to act in a non-violent and cooperative manner.”
She said studies show that girls experience higher rates of sexual violence than boys, although in the recent past, the number of boys is increasing and many children in the region continue to be victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.
Conrad said: “This can lead to deep psychological scars, irreversible damage to the health of women and girls in particular, including their reproductive and sexual health and, in some instances, can result in death.”
The statement said recent research by the NGO, in Mali, shows that 8.3 per cent of men and 7.7 per cent of women declared that they have one child or a relative who was a victim of sexual violence in school.
It said In Niger, a study by UNICEF revealed that 47.7 per cent of students have observed teachers expressing feelings of love for a fellow student, whiles in Ghana, 14 per cent of students surveyed by Plan have experienced sexual abuse andtwo thirds of the girlsinterviewed in a national survey in Sierra Leone reported that they had experienced at least one or more forms of sexual violence with 30 per cent of school related rape incidents.
The statement said: “According to Paul Fagnon Plan W/A child protection specialist, Plan as a children's organization, through its Learn without Fear campaign against violence in schools, has helped to put in place new laws and policies to protect 485 million children globally from corporal punishment, sexual violence and bullying.
“More than 1.1 million children have been directly involved in the campaign so far and the progress is very encouraging but school violence in particular is still a huge issue especially in sub-Saharan Africa, preventing many children from attending and completing their schooling.”