Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, education institutions were closed leaving many children stuck at home and redundant. Government has encouraged homeschooling, TV and radio lessons and has distributed learning materials to encourage learning continuity.
However, this is not all that our children need. Many challenges regarding the safety of children abound. School not only keeps them busy, but also acts as a buffer from unscrupulous people such as sex abusers, who given chance, take advantage of the children.
With children staying at home for more than three months since the imposition of lockdown in March , children abusers have been on the loose.
The Daily Monitor of June 16 reported in an article, ‘Defilement cases increase in Lyantonde during lockdown,’ that a total of 25 girls aged between six and 14 were defiled during the first two months of the lockdown in Lyantonde District.
In a related story, ‘Defilement cases on the rise in Busia District,’ Grace Acom , the officer in-charge of Child and Family Protection Unit at Busia Police Station, said police have registered eight cases of defilement since the lockdown, and a total of 31 cases since January.
Overall, police in Busia say they have registered 116 child-related cases, with nearly half of them coming during the lockdown period. This is only but a drop in the ocean of crime.
Many such cases have been reported in various districts. Yet there are many cases that are never reported to the authorities.
Just two days ago (June 16), we marked the Day of the African Child under the theme: ‘Access to a child-friendly justice system in Africa.’ Several people participated in the day’s event through webinars, online conferences and editorials, which is commendable.
However, let us not stop at this. Let us ensure that children’s rights are not endlessly abused. This, therefore, demands that the relevant authorities punish harshly the perpetrators of such heinous crimes.
For instance, while the government preoccupies itself with plans to distribute radios and TV sets for children’s virtual learning, stopping children abuse is key in instilling their physical and mental welfare.
Many children who are defiled never receive justice due to society’s tendency to be lenient with the perpetrators of such crime. In some cases, society prefers to keep such crimes as a secret. This must stop. Perpetrators must be punished.