Reflecting on child abuse

FRIDAY marks the end of 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence under the theme ‘Orange the World: End Violence Against Women Now.’ The campaign is meant to raise awareness globally in order to prevent and eliminate violence especially against women and girls. The 16th day of the commemoration is also Human Rights Day; this year, it will be celebrated on December 10 under the theme ‘Equality – Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights. It is through the commemoration of the day that children and young people are enlightened that they have the same rights as adults. On the day in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to advocate for the rights of all human beings regardless of race, colour, sex, language, political or other opinion, social background, among others. The inclusion of Human Rights Day as part of the 16 days demonstrates that gender-based violence (GBV) in whatever form, constitutes an infringement of the rights of victims, including children. What is of concern is the several reports of GBV cases against children during this year’s commemoration, in spite of the initiatives by Government and stakeholders to eliminate all forms of violence in communities. Some cases include physical and sexual abuse, imprisonment, child labour and early marriages. According to a World Vision report, Zambia has one of the highest child marriage rates in the world, with 42 percent of women aged 20-24 years married by the age of 18. Because of statistics, some stakeholders have decided that the campaign is no longer a fight for only 16 days every year; it will be a daily fight if the vice is to be eliminated because of the negative effects violence has on children. It is a fact that children as victims of violence usually suffer from low self-esteem, they have identity issues, and they have a distorted self-image. Most times, they do not have much confidence and they tend to make wrong life choices because they depend on the opinion of abusers which is not always in their best interest. As a result of violence, some children suffer from self-guilt and they always have fear within themselves even when they have not done anything wrong; these feelings are based on the emotional and psychological messages relayed by the perpetrator. For instance, child victims always live in a state of fear and are unable to develop any level of confidence. Research has shown that in some cases, children who have been victims of abuse tend to become abusers because they believe that violence is a normal way of life. Child victims of abuse tend to become loners who prefer to isolate themselves from friends and peers. They are unable to cultivate friendships because they believe that others will not understand what they are going through and they have trust issues. Most times, they are unwilling to ask for help; they would rather suffer alone in silence.
For some children, talking about their abusers is viewed as a betrayal because of the power abusers have over their victims. They feel guilty about speaking ill of their abuser and they do not want to see them punished. They will actually sympathise with their abusers and are willing to do anything possible to cover up for them; the lack of cooperation from child victims makes it difficult to punish perpetrators. This is where fast track courts are critical as they protect victims from being intimidated by their abusers during the judicial process. The effects of abuse, whether emotional, physical or sexual, can be severe and long lasting; it can take a very long time for the victim to heal. In children, violence can affect brain development and their ability to have healthy and meaningful relationships. The fight to eliminate violence and uphold the rights of children calls for a multi-layered approach that permeates all level of society. The fight to eliminate violence against children and infringing on their rights should not be a seasonal activity but should be adopted as a lifestyle if the world is to end violence against children! Covid-19 is real; stay at home and keep safe! Remember, children are our future, until next week, take care. For comments:pcmalawochilufya@yahoo.com

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