Stop the escalating violence against children

Thursday 21 March 2019

Jane Mbagi Mutua

By Jane Mbagi Mutua

Director, Programme Development and Quality at Save the Children

A society that cannot protect its children has no future; and rightly so, given that children are the future. I would like to shine a light on the recent increase in child abuse cases manifested in sexual abuse, child neglect, child battering, and denial of physical and emotional needs among other forms of assault.  In January 2019 media attention focused on a fourteen year old class seven girl who was gang-raped, doused with acid and killed in her home in Eastleigh, Nairobi. This story though brutal, tragic and shocking was not an isolated event.

A month ago we heard of a heinous act on an 11-year-old who despite being a child was subjected to laborious work as herd’s boy and was dipped in a sufuria full of boiling water by his neighbour for allegedly stealing maize flour in Marsabit. The boy was found unconscious by his family two days later lying under a shrub. Tragically the boy's two hands will have to be amputated as they cannot heal. Last week in Makueni a standard six year old pupil at Mikuyuni Primary School is reported to have died after he was allegedly beaten by a teacher.

These cases are a tip of the iceberg on violence against children that should provoke our deepest shock and outrage. We must not tolerate and consider these crimes against children as normal. A recent report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics indicated that the sluggish justice system is partly to blame for the high cases of violence against children despite tough laws that have been enacted to protect children. But what it also revealed was that immediate family members are the biggest threat to children and abuse them right in their own homes. What happens to our children, when the protectors have now turned into the predators; when statistics show that violence and abuse on children is by people close to them? What I keep wondering about is: why are we not more outraged? That children are being attacked in supposedly safe places. Their schools. At home.

This year marks 30 years of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which declares that, “Mankind owes to the child the best it has to offer.” While we have achieved a lot for the Kenyan child in the last 30 years, we are still a long way from eliminating violence against children.

I have always believed, that if you can improve the lives and futures of children, then you can transform the world for the better. Children will one day be making the decisions that shape the world: in their families, in their communities, in their work places, in government and across the international community. We need to sensitize the public on child protection and to continue to strengthen the existing community structures like Area Advisory Councils, Children’s Clubs and the School Board of Management – as these focal points play a key role in the identification and referral of children in need of protection services. Violence against children should no longer be tolerated – and it can only be stopped by the collective efforts of ordinary citizens, policymakers, governments and international stakeholders.

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 The article was first published on the Daily Nation on March 19, 2019