Child Rights and Child Abuse: A Global Phenomenon
By Halima Ummi Ismail
AREWA AGENDA – As a part of human rights, child rights focuses on the protection of the fundamental and essential rights and dignity of a child who according to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) “…is any human being below the age of 18 years, unless under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier”.
This emphasizes on the dignity and welfare of a child as a human. Taking into consideration, the vulnerability and fragility of a child who lacks the power of self protection, the rights of the child evolved to protect the rights, dignity, and interest of the child. Just like the human rights, child rights guarantees the fundamental rights, the civil rights, the social, cultural,and economic rights of a child. Thus, the child has the right to human identity, freedom of discrimination, right to education, right of association with both parents, right to freedom of thoughts, right to privacy, right to information, the right of protection against violence and abuse, the right to take part in making decisions concerning his/her life, and so on.
The fundamental rights of a child provides the child with the right to survive, and the right to live like every other human. It also guarantees the right to dignity by protecting the child against child abuse, child labour, child trafficking, and bad treatment. Other fundamental rights includes the right to food, shelter, clothing, and proper healthcare. As such, every child is expected to enjoy these fundamental rights as basic needs.
The civil rights of a child entails the right to nationality, the right to education, and the right of involvement in political discussions.
The social, economic, and cultural rights of a child includes the right to be loved and cared for, the right to personal growth and development, the right to freedom from oppression, protection against bad influence, the right to a standard living and well being, the right to physical and mental healthcare, and the right to proper guidance.
Although most of these rights are in existence, majority of them are not put into practice, and they are being violated on a daily basis.
For some children, the reality of childhood is miserable and indeed a painful encounter. Instead of being loved and cared for, they are left to cater for themselves in order to survive. Due to one reason or the other, some children have no other alternatives than to be on the streets when they are supposed to be with their families, learning and inculcating good morals and ethical values. The refugees and orphans are subjected to lack of parental love and care, lack of food, shelter, clothing, lack of proper guidance, and lack of proper education. Instead of getting protection against harmful influence, these children are subjected to sexual, physical, and mental abuse either by their immediate families or the members of the society they live in. Everyday, a child somewhere falls victim of exploitation and neglect, child labour, and much more.
The children who come from poor backgrounds especially in developing and underdeveloped countries are not given proper healthcare and education, rather they are left with whatever is given to them even it is not adequate and sufficient. Regardless of how fragile, vulnerable, and dependent they appear to be, some children out there are subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, gender, nationality, religion, ethnicity, disability, identity, and colour. The society places limits to their abilities on these basis.
In order to change the situation, every member of the society needs to make contributions. In the absence of the parents, the government should assume the custody and care of such children. Every adult should try to protect and preserve the rights of children in our society by making sure that our children are protected against abuse and other harmful practices.
Having being recognized as a global challenge and issue, child abuse is the neglect, maltreatment, and mistreatment of a child/minor. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers child abuse/maltreatment as all sorts of physical, sexual, emotional abuse, neglect, negligence, and commercial or other exploitation resulting into actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.
According to international studies carried out by the World Health Organization, 3 in 4 children between the age of 2-4 years suffer from physical punishment, and/or psychological violence at the hands of parents and caregivers on a daily basis.
The physical abuse of a child involves causing physical injury or harm, or the implementation of excessive physical punishment on a child by another person. Parents, caregivers, or guardians who engage in the physical abuse of children tend to use it as an avenue for disciplining and training the child. However, they fail to understand the difference between physical punishment and physical abuse.
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 5 women, and 1 in 13 men reported to have been sexually abused as a child. Child sexual abuse includes making a child to participate in sexual act either for the physical or financial benefits of the perpetrators, indecent exposure of a child to sexual situations, body contacts with a child’s genitals, using a child for pornography, or the viewing of a child’s genitals.
Some children experience psychological/emotional abuse which end up affecting a child’s mental development and self-esteem. This is as a results of constant yelling, lack of parental care, and negative comparison of a child to another.
Another frequent type of child abuse is child neglect. It consist of the inability of parents or guardians to provide for the basic needs of a child such as food, shelter, clothing, adequate healthcare or safety, lack of parental love, care, and attention, and the lack of proper education.
There are many reasons why people abuse children. Some adults who have histories of being victims of abuse or domestic violence are likely to inculcate such behaviours thereby, having no other means of training children except through what they have passed through. However, there are exceptions, as some adults who survived child abuse tend to protect and train their children differently.
Some adults abusers suffer from the misuse of drugs, taking of alcohol, and lack of adequate mental health. Some adults suffer from lack of adequate financial capability or poverty. This tends to frustrate them, leaving them with no option than to bully their children. Others suffer from work stress and low self-esteem. Some parents abuse their child due to the child’s physical or mental disabilities. These and much more are factors that lead to child abuse.
The effects and consequences of child abuse are indeed huge. Children who are/were victims of child abuse do suffer from physical, psychological, emotional, and mental disorders. Victims also suffer from depression, startle response, personality disorders, growth and development disorders.
Victims of physical abuse tend to suffer from low self-esteem, injury, and much more. Victims of child neglect do end up with lack of social skills, aggressiveness, and they may have difficulties in maintaining relationship with others in their lives due to lack of trust.
Victims of emotional and sexual abuse do end up with feelings of shame and worthlessness. They mostly end up with a sense of shame and the feelings of being useless.
Adults who are survivors of child abuse may end up with anxiety, depression and anger, and they may inculcate such behaviours thereby re-victimizing other children.
Preventing child abuse requires different approach. Parents and caregivers need to constantly upgrade their parenting skills in order to learn and develop non-violent parental tactics.
Children should be given appropriate love,care, and attention by parents, caregivers, and nurses in orphanage homes. They should be given listening ears, and a supportive family environment in order to build their self-worth.
Adults should control their anger towards children. Parents should learn how to interact with children even in times of stress and financial struggles. On no account should they take out their anger on children.
Parents, guardians, and caregivers should always be vigilant. Children should not be left alone at home. Parents should be careful with who they trust with their children, even if such person is a family member as the perpetrators of child abuse are sometimes family members of the victims.
The government should provide appropriate education system, and healthcare in order to assist parents who cannot afford them with it. There should be proper implementation and enforcement of laws so as to protect children and punish the perpetrators of child abuse and those who violate child rights.
Conclusively, as adults, we need to be conscious of our actions towards children. To create and maintain a safe environment for our generations, children need to be protected because they are the future. Childhood experiences affect most children’s future development. In order not to fail them, they need to be protected and guided, as the costs of failing them is wide. The ways in which this can be done is to uphold their rights, and protect them against child abuse.
Halima Ummi Ismail is a Law student from Bayero University, Kano. She is an advocate of Women and Children’s Right.
She can be contacted via email: [email protected]
Arewa Agenda is a Publication of young writers and journalists from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives