Gender-based violence can happen to anyone, anywhere but children are particularly vulnerable. Violence against children is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating Human rights violations in our world today and it remains largely unreported due to the stigma, silence, shame and impunity surrounding it.
The child is the most vulnerable in the wickedness and inhumanity of man to his fellow man, the child is born into this world without his own permission and is subjected to become a member of a family and a citizen by birth of a particular country.
The violence to children is the most intractable aspect of human behaviour that has always existed even as far back as the primitive times when man lived as a hunter, gathering and searching for food, and when children became burdens, man did not hesitate to strangle, starve, drown or abandon the child to die.
This unending inhumanity continued even to the 21st century where defenceless children are subjected to inhuman mistreatment, crippled, injured, exposed, enslaved, traded, sold to wealthy families for domestic work, sold to be sacrificed to idols, sexually assaulted, forced into child marriage, genitally mutilated, trafficked and sold into prostitution or labour, poisoned, buried alive and exposed to horrible effects of atomic and nuclear weapons.
The child is subjected to the wishes, whims and caprices of the parents or those morally and legally in charge of their upbringing.
Child abuse in all its form is still a daily reality for many Nigerian children. Nigeria still has the largest number of child brides in Africa with over 20million girls being married as children. Also, 27% of Nigerian children are victims of the case of FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION worldwide. Others suffer physical violence such as punching, whipping, kicking, choking, being threatened with weapons or being thrown out in the street.
To explain further, let’s see how child abuse can be defined in a simple and understandable term.
Child Abuse is a broad-brush term used to depict all types of intentional harm or mistreatment to a minor which often comes in way of physical abuse, psychological abuse and secret sexual abuse or acts of neglect. Child abuse refers to a variety of inappropriate acts against a child.
Part 1 CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE NIGERIA MORALITY
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE is a form of child abuse that involves secret sexual crime perpetrated on a child below the age of consent by anyone. Such a range of indecent sexual activities is regardless of the gender of the child or the relationship between the offender and the child victim. A perpetrator does not have to be an adult to harm a child.
Child sexual abuse is a very complex issue as it does not necessarily need to include physical contact between the offender and the child victim. This should not be regarded as a mere act, it should rather be seen as a process as it’s never accidental, unplanned or entirely harmless because perpetrators of such crimes gradually develop an attraction and select a particular child to abuse, then go on to place themselves in a situation or environment in which they can offend, they go further sexualizing and abusing the child and using their own means to maintain the child’s cooperation and silence to avoid discovery or prosecution.
Child Sexual abuse occurs with far more frequency than most people wish to admit. According to the National Violence against Children Survey 2015, it established that 6 out of every 10 children experience sexual violence before age in one way or the other. It is important to remember that the majority of these children never tell their experiences and less than 5% ever receive the support they need to recover.
More often than not, we pay more attention to the girls than the boys. But over recent times, boys are mostly victims of abuse by guys or females too, but they may face additional social attitudes and stereotypes about men and masculinity, and because we do not pay attention, they grow up stigmatized and refuse to tell anyone. These children are left deeply confused, feeling intensely dirty or ashamed, blaming themselves for what they were tricked, forced or lured into.
Some forms of child sexual abuse may include:
- Indecent touching and Fondling
- Exposing the genitals to a child, like Masturbation in front of the child or forcing the child to masturbate
- Producing or sharing pornographic movies and images with a child.
- Vulgar or profane digital interaction like calls, text messages or video chats.
- Obscene physical discussion or body and eye signals.
- Intercourse of any form whether vaginal, oral or anal.
- Sex trafficking and any other sexual conduct that is harmful to the child’s physical, mental or emotional state.
CAUSES OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
Parental negligence, carelessness, nonchalant attitude.
I have seen a child presently carrying a baby that belongs to her father, We had a case of twins having sex with each other. When they were asked, they said: we see mum and dad do the same*
Why should they be that careless?
When the kids are not informed.
What do you watch with your kids?
And Pedophiles… People whose hearts continually think of such terrible things.
Perpetrators look for opportunities. Five(5) minutes is enough to cause a lifelong damage
BUT WHO COULD ABUSE YOUR CHILD?
Well, the troubling answer is ANYBODY.
Do you know? Over the years Studies show that over 95% of sexually abused children are abused by persons known or close to the child or the child’s family.
Yes, ABUSERS ARE NOT MOSTLY STRANGERS as there’s already a social concern regarding the stranger danger. More often than not, perpetrators are right there in your house, by someone within their immediate or extended family.
This can take the form of incest (a biological relative having sexual contact with a child). It might be a playmate, older sibling, father, mother, stepfathers, step-siblings, cousins, uncles, nephews, niece, grandfathers, co-tenants, lesson teachers, neighbours, their friends in school, hostel, classmates, class\school teachers, imams, choirmasters, pastors, confidants, guardian, instructor, caretaker, security guard, domestic employees such as the maids, cooks, drivers etc.
People we know are the most common offenders.
Do you know? That some parents allow sexual access to their children for money, drugs or to avoid losing an intimate partner.
Such parents or guardians do not care as long as they are getting what they want. It is as bad as No one can be trusted
HOW DO OFFENDERS GET VICTIMS
They take advantage of a child’s vulnerability to manipulate the victims to stay quiet and keep shut using different tactics;
• GROOMING: The act of patiently attempting to gain the trust of a minor with intention of having a sexual relationship with them. This could go on for years.
• EMOTIONAL BAITS: This is where the offenders try to befriend and establish an emotional connection with a child, thereby lowering the child or parent’s inhibitions of thinking of nearly possible abuse.
• RESPECT BAITS: An abuser may use their position of power over the victim to coerce or intimidate the victim.
• FINANCIAL BAITS: Offenders may offer gifts in form of treats or cash, trips to desirable places that children enjoy, special privileges, showering the prospective unsuspecting child victim with attention.
• THREATS/FORCE: They may make threats if the child refuses to participate or plans to report to another adult. Telling them they would kill them, some could even go to an extent of cutting the child, licking their blood and making them believe it’s a blood covenant between the both of them and that any day they disclose such, they would die.
Others would physically inflict pain on the child by maybe beating them, starving them or not providing the adequate care the child deserves.
• Other times offenders may convince the child that the activity is normal or that they enjoyed it. Sometimes, friends and family help each and touch each other. Adding more pressure by going ahead to the child, “you’re hurting my feelings by saying no”.
WHERE CAN YOUR CHILD BE SEXUALLY ABUSED?
- On your bed, Right under your nose, under your ROOF
- In the school environment- class, toilet
- In their room (siblings)
- Deserted/Abandoned places
- When you are distracted
- Street corners
- Cars or offenders’ residences etc… It could happen ANYWHERE.
WHAT A PERPETRATOR SAYS TO A CHILD WILLING TO SPEAK OUT
⦁ I will kill u
⦁ You will die
⦁ Your mummy will hate you
⦁ Your mummy will beat you
⦁ Your mummy will blame you.
⦁ Your mummy and your daddy will die.
⦁ He could cut the child, lick the blood and say ‘this is a blood covenant between us, the day you tell is the day you die’, or even tell the child they’ve brought it upon themselves.
WHAT ARE THE POSSIBLE WARNING SIGNS?
Child sexual abuse isn’t always easy to identify, the perpetrator may be someone you’ve known for a long and trust which makes it very hard to spot but you can always look out for torn or bloodstained child’s innerwear, bleeding, bruises, pains, itching or changes in the child genitals, difficulty in walking or sitting, inappropriate sexual knowledge from the child, nightmares, signs of depression, phobias, fears, isolation, sudden drop in academics, withdrawal of the child or change in mood whenever a particular comes around.
HOW TO IDENTIFY A POSSIBLE ABUSER
A. Always trying to be around your child or vice versa
B. Child feels uncomfortable when they sight the abuser or when the abuser is around.
C. Easily and conveniently accept to care for your child while you are away.
D. Can be hard on the child especially if the child is rejecting his moves.
If any of the above is observed, please, shine your eyes. Or sometimes, your child might feel uncomfortable /rejecting to go to the person when you send him or her or even go for holiday.
EFFECTS OF CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE
It is a known fact that our experiences during childhood play a big part in shaping our health and mental wellbeing for the rest of our lives. The consequences of sexual abuse are very complex and difficult to document. It should be seen as a public health problem that concerns everyone as it has a terrible impact on not only the victim but also the victim’s family and society in general.
• Genital complications like tearing of the vagina and sexual related problems in adulthood.
• Child Victims could face immediate psychological disorders like intense fear, guilt, helplessness, horror, shock, confusion, anxiety, isolation, grief, post-traumatic stress disorder e.g. nightmares, flashbacks, and problems with concentration amongst others.
• Lifelong psychological trauma that could last for a lifetime and span generations affecting marital or parental life like stigmatization, distrust of others, low self-esteem or body image, suicidal thoughts, disassociation from family, marital dissatisfaction or spousal violence
• Mental health problems like depression and suicidal thoughts, personality disorder, panic disorder
• High-risk sexual behaviour and indulgence
• Self-mutilation and bodily harm.
• Greater risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases
• The abused child could become a serial abuser.
• Early motherhood and premature births
• Premature death resulting from injuries suffered
• Risk of problems of substance abuse( alcohol or drug abuse)
Child abuse is real and can happen anywhere so what can you do?
Give your child sex education proportional to their age. Yes, it’s never too early to talk to your child about sexuality as a healthy part of life. It’s better to start early as a child of two or even less is due for sex education.
Some children don’t ask questions so start these open safety conversations and have them often.
Clearly and calmly teach children the need to talk about their bodies like the correct names of their body parts, let them know that somebody’s parts are private and other people shouldn’t look at or touch them.
This will help them understand what is allowed and appropriate and know when something isn’t right and encourage them to speak up and know that they won’t be punished for asking questions like where babies come from, where is the girl’s body different from the boys and do not get upset when they ask. Let your children know they can always talk to you especially if they have been told to keep a secret.
And if a child discloses that he or she has been abused, do not rely on handling it indoors or blame the child for their actions, you should report it to appropriate authorities like the police. Victims of abuse need extra care and support.
Teach every child what I call the SRR action.
S – Shout/scream
R – Run
R – Report
Part 2 CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE NIGERIA LAW
There are Lots of laws prohibiting sexual offences against the Child, geared toward protecting the child. These offences are contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) 2011, the Criminal Code Act of Nigeria, Child Rights Act 2003, Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act 2015 (NAPTIP Act 2015) etc.
Some of the relevant provisions of these laws will be discussed and examined in this work.
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
In Nigeria, the 1999 Constitution is the grand norm and the Supreme Law of the Land, superior to any other law whether such law is statutory, customary or judicial. This constitution recognizes and protects the right of children.
This is seen in The fundamental rights provided in Chapter IV of the Constitution which covers every citizen of Nigeria whether young, old, men, women, children or adults. The rights provided for in that Chapter IV are also enjoyed by children. Chapter II of the Constitution which deals with Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy also provided for some economic, social, political, and educational rights for the citizens of Nigeria inclusive of children. This Constitution also gives a definition of who a child is.
These rights include – the right to life – S.33; right to dignity of the human person – S.34; right to personal liberty – S.35; right to a fair hearing – S.36; right to private and family life – S.37; right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion – S.38; right to freedom of expression and the press – S.39; right to peaceful assembly and association – S.40; right to freedom of movement – S.41. Most of these rights were replicated in the Child Rights Act.
Child sexual abuse is an offence under THE NIGERIA CRIMINAL CODE…… To be continued in the next publication of the article.
written by Ogodo favour Chinonyelum