CHILDREN are entitled to love, protection as well as care from their parents. They deserve a positive future the chance to grow and learn in safety, free from the threat of sexual abuse.
The effects of childhood sexual abuse are long lasting and often devastating, but most of the cases are not reported because are perpetrated by someone related to the child.
Child sexual abuse is the elephant in the room of parenting topics and it’s no surprise, parents have difficulty addressing it, especially with their children because the statistics are so horrifying and sobering, you don’t want to believe them.
For the year 2018, Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), in their Human Rights report found children’s freedom from violence, to be the most violated human right, mainly caused by the growing incidence of Violence against Children (VAC).
The report indicated that the incidence of violence against children increased from 4,728 incidents by mid-2017 to 6,376 incidents by mid-2018.
Sexual violence against children, particularly in the forms of rape and sodomy was a major human rights concern in 2018. Reported child rape incidents increased from 759 incidents in the first six months of 2017 to 2,365 from January to June 2018.
Sexual violence was also mentioned as one of the major violation of children’s right in all 20 districts of 10 regions that LHRC visited in 2018 LHRC survey further revealed that 91 per cent of reported VAC incidents were of sexual violence while nine per cent were physical and psychological violence.
Child on child sexual abuse exists and is becoming a major problem especially at schools. Reports of the existence of such abuse were made in seven out of 10 regions visited by LHRC.
Many perpetrators of sexual violence were identified as neighbours and close relatives. Bodaboda drivers and teachers were mentioned among perpetrators and implicated in several acts of sexual violence against children in 2018.
Reports of increased sexual crimes against children were made in areas such as Mpwapwa-Dodoma, Chunya-Mbeya, Misungwi- Mwanza, Hai-Kilimanjaro and Tarime-Mara.
Factors contributing to VAC in Tanzania mainland include lack of proper care and parental guidance, lack of parenthood and childcare knowledge amongst parents/ guardians leading to poor upbringing, household poverty, leaving children especially girls vulnerable to men who offer them money and food.
As a society and as a family, let us challenge the culture of tolerance for violence and silence when it is perpetrated against children.
We must all work together- government, NGOs, business and the public alike to overcome this crisis and positively shape the leaders of tomorrow.
Failure to do so could cripple our country’s economic growth, intensify unemployment, and thus poverty and crime. Developmental work is essentially geared towards enhancing the wellbeing, empowerment and protection of the children of today.
There are things that parents can do to help children recognise when something is wrong and to tell others about it. It is crucial to make time to talk with your children each day, stop what you are doing and really listen, talk about the good things that happen and the things that worry them.
Let them know they can talk to you at any time and there is nothing so bad that they cannot tell you about. It is also important they know not to keep secrets about things that worry them. Start from an early age, talk about what being safe means and what it feels like.
Help children to know body signals that tell them when something is wrong or when they do not feel safe, teach them to name their feelings and to tell you when they feel confused or scared.
Teach children about risky situations rather than dangerous people. An abuser might not seem scary or could be someone they know.
The online world is risky for children to make sure they know how to use the internet and mobile phones safely, including not sharing personal information, understanding that people in chat rooms may not be who they seem.
Remind them to tell you straight away if someone says or sends them something sexual or something that makes them feel uncomfortable, even if it is a friend At times if a child tells you someone is harming them, parents may think a child is lying if they talk about sexual abuse, especially if it involves someone the family trusts. Mind you, children can make up stories about many things but they do not usually lie or make up stories about sexual matters.
If a child tells you someone is harming them: listen to them, do not dismiss what they say. It takes a lot of courage for a child to tell about the abuse.
Reassure them that they are right to tell you and that you believe them, thank them for telling you and say, you know it can be hard to tell people.
They may be afraid to say more if you show you are shocked or upset don’t ask lots of questions. Let them tell you in their own words at their own pace, make sure the child is safe and let them know you will do your best to stop them being harmed. Let them know that you will have to talk to someone else so you can keep them safe.
Child protection is everyone’s business Child sexual abuse can be prevented or stopped. Everyone can help make sure children are safe. People in the community can also report their concerns.
It is important to do this even if you think it is not your business or you don’t want to get involved you could stop a child being harmed and help a family get support.
Last month, during parliamentary sessions the government pledged to establish Children Desks in all schools countrywide. Creation of these desks will be useful since children will be free to explain and reveal their experiences.
June 16 this year, the ministry of health will officially launch the National Agenda for parents and guardians to fulfil their responsibilities in providing basic needs and security to their children.
While the government has put in place mechanisms and legislation to protect the rights of children, parents and guardians are not doing enough to protect their children, especially in urban areas, where most parents are preoccupied with activities that earn them a living.