African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child (Article 2) adopted in July 1990 defines a child as every human being below the age of 18 (Kalme, 2009). Children are abused each and every day by strangers, their parents, relatives, teachers at schools and everywhere. The question is that if they are abused even in their homes a place considered a safe haven where are they supposed to go. There are different types of child abuses that take place these include physical abuse, emotional abuse, negligence, sexual abuse just to mention a few. Child Abuse according to (Munro, 2002) is “ways of treating a child that are harmful and morally wrong”. This paper will look at types of child abuse such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and Negligence, socio-economic impacts of child abuse, why child abuse cases are not reported and on time, how other countries respond to child abuse.
When children are abused sometimes they fail to report these cases due to various reasons such as fear and sometimes they will be threatened by the perpetrators. Sometimes when they do report, cases are not prioritized. According to the (Government of Botswana, 2016) “Abuse Cases are common among Children but are mostly ignored”. Sometimes parents, relatives or even guardians of children when they find out that their children are abused they fail to report and this may be due to fear of losing their life partners, fear of losing their breadwinner, fear of embarrassment and fear of losing their lives. Furthermore there are no children’s courts in Botswana according to the Botswana Act (08) 2009 section 36 “Every Magistrate court shall be children’s court”. Due to no separate courts just for children cases take long time to be heard and this can traumatized the child. As if that is not enough there are limited number of probation officers to trial these cases according to the Botswana Act (08) 2009 section 37 “ Every Magistrate shall be a presiding officer of a children’s court, when there is no Magistrate the District Commissioner shall preside over matters concerning children. This is one of the factors that contribute to the delay of Children’s cases. Sometimes police use the penal code to respond to child abuse cases instead of Children’s Act according to (Kome, 2014). Most of the times children are tried in open courts and this can negatively affect the children psychologically (Kome, 2014). Lastly there is no national policy in Botswana that addresses child abuse.
According to the Children’s Act 2009 (Cap 28: 04) a “child is any person who is below the age of eighteen years”. This definition is in agreement with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund and all the 194 countries that signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child international treaty. (World Health Organization, 2018) Defines a “child as a person who is 19 years and younger unless if a country law defines a person to be an adult at an earlier age”. All these definitions assumes that one can only assume responsibility when he or she is above 18 years, earlier than that they are considered to not being able to tell the difference between what is right or wrong, not being able to understand the meaning of responsibility and accountability.
According to (Office of the administration for children and families, 2011) the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) defines child abuse as “any act or failure to act on the part of the parent or caretaker which result in death or serious harm both emotional, physical and sexual to a child”. World Health Organization defines it as “all forms of physical, emotional, sexual abuse, negligence and other exploitation resulting in potential harm to the child’s health, survival and development (World Health Organization, 2018).
These definitions complement each other. The World Health Organization also reported that an “estimate of one billion children aged 2-17 years have experienced physical, sexual, emotional violence in 2017”. Clearly this indicates the magnitude of the problem. In (Botswana Gurdian, 2013) by then the Central District Council Chairperson Lesego Raditanka in 2013 when he was addressing the councilors and members of the public said “in July 2012 there were 98 cases being attended to at district sub stations and in July 2013 a total number of 422 children were registered and out of that number 111 children were placed in various institutions of safety in Botswana”. These definitions are in line with Botswana’s Children Act and United Nations’s definition of child abuse. From all this information it is without a doubt that child abuse is a problem that cut across all nations whether it’s a developed, developing, less developed countries. International Organizations such as United Nations, World Health Organization and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund sees it as a global problem that needs urgent response. Botswana just like other countries faces this problem at an alarming rate. Culture pays a major role in our lives and as such it may differ with other definitions to what child abuse is. Culturally child labour, getting a 15year old married to an 80 year old man, physical abuse are acceptable to those cultures as such it will not be considered as child abuse.
Types Of Child Abusesexual Abuse: is the involvement of a child in sexual activity that he/she does not comprehend, he/she will not be able to give informed consent according to (UNICEF, 2014). Most of the time men use children sexually with or without the knowledge of their mother and these children may end up with unwanted pregnancies. According to (Sethibe, 2016) 142 Primary and Secondary School girls have been impregnated in Botswana from April 2015 to April 2016. Some of the men that engage in sexual activities with these children argue that the children gave them consent forgetting that the age of these children does not allow them to make informed decisions. Usually when this happens some of these children remain silent about the matter until the other guardian figures it out and if that does not happen the child may grow up with that abuse. For one to detect sexual abuse the guardian should know their child well. According to the World Report on Violence and Health “for one to detect child sexual abuse it requires high index of suspicion and familiarity with verbal, behavioral and physical indicators of abuse”.
According to the World Health Report on Violence and Health “the survey that was carried out in 1995 in the United States on how parents discipline their child stated that parents would hit the child with an object other than on the buttock, kicking the child, beating the child and threatening the child with a gun and a knife”. This shows the extent to which parents abuse their children thinking that they are disciplining them. (Mmegi Online, 2017) Argue that “parents should be made aware that severe physical punishment by hitting, severe beating and pinching which result in injury are punishable”. The problem with these definitions is that they do not cater for wounds that do not cause an injury. There are some hittings that do not leave a scar and as a result it becomes difficult to prove the abuse.
This is when parents ignore their responsibilities, that is to say when resources are available and parents fail to provide or cook for their children, when parents do not make sure that children have access to education and good health. This statement is emphasized by (Mmegi Online, 2017) that states that “sometimes children that leave far away from their homes are required to walk long distance to their school without parents accompanying them or hiring them a school bus”. Sometimes when parents do this they believe it’s a form of learning. They believe that it’s their own way of teaching their children valuable lessons on being independent especially in rural areas. This form of abuse is easier to detect and can be punishable.
Defines it as a “continual scapegoating and rejection of a child by parents or caretakers”. This can be done through belittling, blaming and ridiculing just to mention a few. When this behavior is repeated a child may end up believing that they are worthless and that they can never amount to anything in life. Since emotional abuse is hard to detect children end up suffering in silence. According to (Mmegi Online, 2017) “yelling, screaming, humiliating, threatening “ ke tla go bolaya selo ke wena” are forms of ill treatment which often go unpunished under the law of Botswana”. Clearly emotional abuse is the worst abuse that a child could ever go through.
According to (Walsh & Jones, 2015) “Child Abuse is under-reported”. Most of the time the reason why young children do not disclose the fact that they are being abused either physically or sexually is because the abusers may have asked them to keep it as a “secret” especially if it’s the person that he/she knows. Abusers tend to use this “secrecy” to manipulate children into thinking that if they disclose the abuse they will be betraying them (Henry, 1992). Continually the child may not report the abuse because the abuser may have manipulated him/her into thinking that it’s his or her fault that the abuse happened. Culture also plays a role in not reporting abuse cases. The guardians of the child may not want to be “humiliated” in their society especially if the abuser holds an important position in the society. Protecting the reputation of the abuser in this case becomes more important than the wellbeing of the child. Moreover culturally problems are not reported, they are not supposed to be heard by the outside world so they are settled within families. Continually abuse cases are not reported especially if the abuser is the husband and the breadwinner. The mother of the abused child may fear losing her only provider. Fear of poverty, fear of growing old, fear of raising the child alone and fear of being a divorcee are reasons why sometimes families do not report abuse cases.
According to the South African Newspaper (Daily News, 2017) the study that was conducted by World Vision South Africa and University of Capetown estimated that 784967 young people aged 15-17 in South Africa has been sexually abused. 36. 8% of boys and 33. 9% girls reported sexual abuse. In Botswana according to (Childline Botswana, 2012) “for the past 13 years childline has deal with 6000 cases of child abuse”. Continually World Health Organization state that 23% children experienced physical abuse, 36% emotional abuse, 16% physical neglect, 18% sexual abuse and 8% of them being boys according to (World Health Organization, 2017).
South Africa has various courts for children addressing various problems such as Maintenance Court where parents that fail to provide for their children are called and required to pay maintenance. Moreover there is the Children’s court where child custody cases are held. Continually there is Sexual Offences Court where cases of abuse such as sexual abuse are heard. They are built in the way that a child (victim) and the abuser does not come into contact during the trial and are more conducive to children according to (Western Cape Government, 2017). Children’s courts does not deal with criminal cases and there are appointed people whose job is to preside over children’s case. Botswana on the other hand does not have courts that are specifically for children where children’s cases are tried. According to the Botswana Act (08) 2009 section 36 “Every Magistrate court shall be children’s court”. Lack of children’s courts in Botswana makes it hard for child abuse cases to be tried on time because they increase the backlog of cases such as criminal cases that the Magistrate court has already.
One of the countries that has a national policy for children is India. The policy was implemented in 18 April 2013. The policy’s key points are health and nutrition, education and development, protection, participation just to mention a few according to the Government of India under the Ministry of women and child development. Through this policy children are prioritized. Botswana has no national policy it only has Children’s Act.
Children who are repeatedly abused tend to be suicidal. The child may be feeling unworthy and blaming herself for the abuse that may drive him/her to suicide. Abused Children tend to feel trapped in their own world especially if they feel like they cannot share what they are going through with their loved ones and in turn commit suicide. This will not only affect the child but the economy as well. The country would have lost its future generation.
Children who went through child abuse tend to isolate themselves from other people such as family members and friends. Since they are anti-social they spend most of their time alone thinking which may result in depression. This would require the government to spend money through the health sector to help those children.
Botswana has an existing Child Protection Regulations of 2015. This child protection regulation includes guiding principles on how children can be protected from harm. For instance it argues that not anyone can work in the Child Protection Field without holding at least diploma in social work or related field. That individual should not accept or condone Child abuse of any form. The guidelines also entail caring of children that are not biologically yours. The guideline emphasize that parents that wants a co-parenting agreement and fostering are assessed by the social workers and relevant authorities in order to ensure that the child will be in the best hands. Continually Child Protection Regulations states that children’s abuse cases are mostly ignored but they are supposed to report to a social worker any abuse directed at a child. Failure to pass the assessment will render the application unsuccessful. These regulations ensure that children would not be cared for by abusive parents according to the (Government of Botswana, 2016).
According to Botswana Daily news “Botswana’s respect for a child is shown through accession and ratification of the United Nations Convention on the rights of a child and the African Charter on the rights and welfare of the child in 1995 and 200l respectively” (Kome, 2014). There have been various debates on the CRC not being implemented fully in Botswana. There are still rights of children that are not respected.
In 2009 the children’s act was revoked and replaced with the new Act. It included the Bill of the Child Rights that ensures that children are protected from being abused. This Act set up the National Children’s council whose role is to advocate for the needs of the children. It’s supposed to ensure that when there is distribution of resources children are included in the agenda.
According to (Childline Botswana, 2012) Childline Botswana’s goal is to offer help to abused children. It does this through education, counseling, casework and offer care programs. Its vision according to (Childline Botswana, 2012) is to have “nation that respects Children’s rights and does not abuse its children by 2036”. It has a call center where anyone can call and seek help. This initiative is done to help reduce rates of child abuse of any form in Botswana.
There are many parents who died living their children behind without any support or anyone to care for them. In realizing this, the Government of Botswana came up with the National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in 2010. Botswana provides basic necessities such as food, clothing, school uniform, health care and education through social work services. Realizing that this is not enough the Government of Botswana continued to review the programs as there were challenges at the implementation level. There are centers in Botswana that does not only offer basic necessities but that offer accommodation, parenting, support and care. For example (Government of Botswana, 2016) states that Mpule Kwelagobe Center and SOS accept and accommodate orphans and vulnerable children across the country under one roof and raise them as their own.
In 1998 the shelter was started and its mandate is to provide care and support to abused women and their children for safety reasons (Sonke Gender Justice, 2016). This is done through offering them a secure accommodation that is not unknown by everyone, counseling, education and training. According to the website there are only two of these centers in Botswana. The research project will use the law approach to address the child abuse problem in Botswana. It will focus on reasons why people do not report child abuse, number of child abuse cases reported, laws regarding child abuse, why abuse cases are delayed, courts and people that are in place to address child abuse. Continually it will also look at the psychology perspective of the topic. That is to say it will also look at what children go through when and after being abused. In conclusion child abuse is a problem that needs to be addressed not only in other countries but in Botswana as well. The law is not doing enough to address this issue.
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