Commentary

Stop incidences of gender-based violence inflicted upon children

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By Justine Nakiwala

Posted  Wednesday, December 18  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Together we will create a violent free environment for children of this nation.

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Violence against children is a human rights violation. Regardless of location, children have rights to be protected from all forms of violence. While Uganda has laws that protect and promote the rights of children, school-related violence is still rampant. School-related gender based violence contravenes the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Againstagainst Women.

The 2011 Police reports in Uganda indicate that sexual offenses against girls top the list of crimes with 95 per cent of them being sexually abused during their childhood. There are continuous media reports on the persistent corporal punishments in schools which trend acts as a deterrent to children wanting to continue school. 80 per cent of all those abused in schools are girls.

Evidently, there is need for all concerned to work together and promote the rights of girls and women. A recent study by Plan Uganda indicates that the prevalence of physical violence in schools is unacceptably high in both boys and girls with 83 peR cent of girls and nearly 84 per cent% of boys reporting experience of some form of physical violence from a school staff member in their lifetime.

Low knowledge levels on child protection among local communities aggravates children’s vulnerability to violence. Violence in the family often overflows into the school setting. As a result, children adopt this type of behaviour and are rude to fellow children at school. It is common to find parents asking teachers or law enforcement officials to punish their children by caning, sometimes in the presence of their peers. This indicates that physical and emotional abuses are socially acceptable and it is not surprising that children replicate this type of behaviour in the school setting.

Sadly, violence transmits the implicit message that force is appropriate for controlling the weak, and thus helps to continue violent means of conflict resolution. When children get angry, the first thing they are likely to do is hit the other person; often they are encouraged to hit other children by their own parents so that they do not grow up “weaklings”. At the heart of violence against children are the unequal power relations that exist between adults and children as dictated by traditional culture. Sayings like, “Spare the rod and spoil the child” are referred to when justifying physical punishment. Children fear to report as they do not have the capacity to do so and do not know where to report.

In addition, they do not report abuse because they do not recognise some of the subtle forms of abuse particularly the emotional and economic forms.
Many children identify corporal punishments as one of the hated experiences in their lives because it has devastating effects. Violent acts ruin children’s lives as they experience trauma, depression, disability, morbidity, injuries, unintended pregnancies, early marriages, unsafe abortion and in the worst cases death.

Addressing school-related violence requires a proactive, holistic, and multi-faceted approach with specific attention to gender equality and human rights principles. The involvement of children, health professionals, police, parents, Non-Government Organisations and all actors is vital for effective prevention and rehabilitation responses. Clearly, parents, schools and state actors at national and local levels are main duty bearers in the protection of children from violence in school settings.

Protecting children’s rights is everyone’s responsibility. Stop incidences of gender based violence inflicted upon children in homes, communities, and schools. Together we will create a violent free environment for children of this nation.

Ms Nakiwala is the communication manager, Plan Uganda. Justine.Nakiwala@plan-international.org