We must do more to protect Children against sexual violence

25-Mar-2021 | News | Petronella Chindumba

The Joining Forces alliance wishes to strongly condemn the unacceptable high levels of Sexual Gender Based Violence Against Children in Zambia. This week the nation has been shocked by a report from the Zambia Police Service that four adult men have defiled a six-year-old girl. We note with concern that this case is but one of thousands of cases reported to the Zambia Police every year. 

According to the Zambia Police Service Gender Based Violence report for 2020, the nation recorded 2,545 child defilement cases (2,539 girls, 06 boys). That translates to an average of 7 child cases per day or one case every 3 hours 27 minutes that passes. 

We call upon all institutions, households and individuals to uphold the highest standards of behaviours towards children both in their private and professional lives. These statistics show us that in spite of efforts being made by various actors to curb this form of violence, the crime has continued. It is worth noting that other cases remain unreported for various reasons. Slightly over a year ago, Zambia joined the rest of the world in celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

The CRC sets the minimum standards and overarching principles by which society should treat every child, and has played a critical role in catalysing progress for children over the last 30years. The over 7 child defilement cases reported daily show us that we are failing to meet the minimum standards of protecting children from this unspeakable form of gender based violence.

 We call for immediate action from those with the responsibility of protecting children in Zambia:

 Parents and Caregivers: 
1. Must ensure the environment in and around the home is safe for their children. The most recent Violence Against Children report indicates that 58% of violence against children happens at home or nearby. Community members and local leaders: 

2. Continue raising awareness at household and community level about the importance of protecting children from abuse. There is need to emphasise that No child (below 18 years) can provide consent to sexual activities. 

3. Ensure that all child abuse cases are reported to appropriate authorities including any incidents where videos, photos or audio recordings of children being abused.

 4. Community Child Welfare Committees must review their child safeguarding and protection policies to ensure children are safe. Schools 

5. The Ministry of General Education should work to include Child protection and child safeguarding measures in the curriculum to continuously raise awareness on child exploitation and abuse. We call upon the Ministry of General Education to have written referral pathways in all schools and ensure there is adequate training for guidance and counselling teachers on SGBV. State actors:

 6. The Department of Child Welfare and Protection must have adequate facilities to house and protect victims of this heinous form of violence against children. 

7. The police must investigate and act on all child sexual abuse with the urgency it deserves. The Ministry of Home Affairs must ensure police officers are trained in child protection and safeguarding. 

8. The judiciary must expedite all sexual gender based violence cases involving children. 

9. The 2018 African Report on Child Wellbeing cites Zambian legal and policy frameworks as being weak. This serves to remind the Zambian government to expedite the process of enacting the draft Children’s Code Bill. It is our considered view that Zambia’s poor ranking in the mentioned report is a compelling reason for the prompt presentation and enactment. The delayed enactment of the Children’s Code Bill is denying many Zambian children from benefiting from the envisaged progressive provisions of the Children’s Code Bill since the comprehensive review of all child related legislations begun. Children: 

10. Must be given the confidence to report any form of abuse and violence they experience to parents, caregivers, police, their teachers or trusted adults in their communities and including using the toll free child help line 116 which can be accessed on all networks for further psychosocial support. 

They must be able to report in the knowledge that they will be believed and treated with dignity, sensitivity and confidence in all cases. The Joining Forces Alliance further calls upon our partners in the media to be the strong voice children need at a times when they are experiencing pain, danger and injustice as a result of this despicable form of violence. 

The media must report all forms of violence children are exposed to in Zambia using child sensitive and friendly reporting principles regardless of the form the violence takes, be it emotional, physical, sexual, exploitation and child labour or neglect. In conclusion, we are calling for an uncompromising determination from all actors to put in place the concrete measures listed above that will address sexual gender based violence against children. As a nation our efforts to achieve child wellbeing, such as education and health, will be greatly undermined if we do not tackle this serious form of child rights abuse and we will fail to live up to the principles we have signed up for under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Petronella Chindumba
Brand and Communications