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Violence against children escalates

• Survey reveals about half of all Nigerian children experience physical violence before age 18

• Less than half of all who experienced violence tell someone

• Now, UNICEF calls for prevention, implementation of CRA

Few weeks ago, National Mirror discovered a 12-year-old house boy known as Peter who had his left eye severely injured by his ‘madam’ simply for not washing a kettle properly.

Peter, who resides with his madam at No. 14b, Olu Akerele Street, Balogun Bus Stop off Awolowo Way, Ikeja. could not utter any word when questioned about his injury.

A resident, who gave her name simply as Tayo, told National Mirror that Peter has always been subjected to constant beating whenever he does something wrong: “we always hear the woman shouting and beating the boy every now and then”

However, house helps are not the only victims of physical violence. Parents at times met out violence against their children all in the name of discipline. One particular case which occurred last month, was the story reported in a national newspaper, of a 37-year-old man, Rasak Adekoya, who allegedly beat his 10-year-old son to death in Ago Iwoye, Ogun state, for stealing a mobile phone. Another woman in Delta State, had also stripped her 9-year-old son naked, flogged him mercilessly with a cane, for stealing N50 from her bag.

Data from UNICEF reveals that 8 out of 10 children in West and Central Africa have been disciplined in a violent manner. Explaining the implication of physical violence on children, Deputy Director, Planning and Research Department, National Population Commission Abuja, Mr. Unogu Sylvanus, said victims of physical violence often end up with mental distress and thoughts of suicide.

Speaking during a media dialogue on ending violence against children campaign held at Ibadan recently, Mr. Unogu also explained that physical violence is associated with the use of substance among males.

“Adults are significantly more likely to perpetrate physical violence against their intimate partner if they experienced physical or sexual violence in childhood

For female children who experienced sexual violence, they are always associated with higher risk of STIs, mental distress and thoughts of suicide”, he said.

About half of all Nigerian children experience physical violence before age 18, according to the 2014 National Survey on Violence Against Children.

While presenting the data from the survey, Mr Unogu revealed that most Nigerian children experience violence at a very young age.

“More than half of the children first experienced physical violence between the ages of 6 and 11. Approximately 1 in 10 children first experienced physical violence under the age of 5. A third of girls experienced their first incident of sexual violence between 14 and 15. Almost a third of boys experienced their first incident of sexual violence at 13 years and younger. 26% of females and 9.6% of males reported that their first sexual intercourse under the age of 18 years was forced. Approximately half of children first experienced emotional violence before the age of 12”, the survey states.

Unfortunately, majority of children who experience physical violence do not disclose or tell anyone. According to the survey, less than half of all who experienced physical violence tell someone. In fact, it stressed that sexual violence had even lower rates of disclosure – only 38% of girls and 27% of boys tell someone when they are sexually violated.

Even when they do tell someone, they are more likely to tell a relative or a friend rather than go to a service provider or authority figure.

In order to encourage children to speak out and increase access to service, Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Nigeria, Sharon Oladiji, said there is need to develop public health messages on violence against children and implement a public campaign to promote awareness-raising about the negative impacts of violence on children’s health.

She called on the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development to complete the mapping of child-protection services in Nigeria and promote awareness of available child protection services, to children, families, and communities.

She stressed that the Ministry of Education need to introduce and strengthen Guidance and Counselling units in all primary and secondary schools to support children on issues related to violence and increase awareness of available support services.

“The Ministry of Health need to strengthen the implementation of school health programs and services, in order to address issues of violence against children. It should also integrate free-of-charge violence-against-children-related health services (e.g., counseling, post-rape care) for victims under the Primary Health Care component of the National Health Insurance Scheme.

“The Nigeria Police Force should implement the “Speak Out!” communications campaign to encourage reporting to the Police while the justice sector should establish and strengthen complaints mechanisms for children in all forms of detention. The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) can also create and promote safe spaces (children’s clubs, youth clubs, and child parliaments) for children in communities to speak out (CSOs)”, she said

She also called for the implementation of the Child Right Act CRA and the VAPP in all states.

In 2003, Nigeria adopted the Child Rights Act to domesticate the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Although this law was passed at the Federal level, it is only effective if State Assemblies also enact it. To date, only 16 of the country’s 36 States have passed the Act. According o experts, if the CRA is adopted by all states, Nigeria will be able to deal with several issues hindering the protection rights of children.[sgmb id=”1″]

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