By Anees Teladia
With National Child Protection Week 2019 commencing on the 2nd June and ending on the 9th, children’s rights and protection needs to be highlighted – particularly in a country like South Africa with worrying levels of violence and abuse in all facets of our society. Women and child abuse is a serious problem in the South African context and a senior researcher at the University of Cape Town’s Children Institute, Lucy Jamieson explained on VOC’s Ramadaan AM show how nearly all forms of violence that children are exposed to contribute to the continued scourge of violence in our communities.
“We’ve got a very long way to go to end violence against children. We know from the research it has long term impacts and is one of the drivers of violence against women. It also leads to aggressive behaviour in children and adults in later life – contributing to widespread violence in our communities,” said Jamieson.
“People find this hard to believe but all violence comes from a simple starting point: when we are violent toward young children, i.e. we inflict corporal punishment on children. It teaches them violence from before the age that they can even speak.”
“One of the things we can do to reduce violence is to stop hitting children. But, of course, it’s not as simple as that. There are many drivers of violence here in the Western Cape.”
Jamieson indicated that there are many serious socio-economic issues plaguing communities and that those issues are often directly linked to the violent realities and experiences children are faced with and forced to navigate through.
“We have high levels of poverty, overcrowding, gangs, community violence, we have problems with substance abuse and of course there are high levels of violence against women,” said Jamieson.
“Witnessing violence in the home has just a profound impact on children as actually experiencing it.”
It was acknowledged that there have been efforts by government, directed at addressing the issue of violence against children. However, those efforts have been limited and are inadequate considering the amount of work and resources needed.
“We’ve got to try and tackle all of these complex problems at the same time,” said Jamieson.
“At a national level, the president organised a summit last November and issued a declaration earlier this year to work hard toward ending gender based violence and femicide…we are concerned about that because gender based violence doesn’t cover all the trends of violence children experience within the home.”
“The second issue is that this excludes boys and we know that it’s the experience of trauma in a child that often lies behind what leads men to extreme violence, in the form of femicide, later in life.”
The Children’s Institute envisages a holistic approach that targets children and gives support to parents and caregivers. There is also emphasis on schools adopting a zero-tolerance approach to bullying and holding teachers accountable when they use corporal punishment.
“All of this requires money, resources and strong leadership… We need to see focal points in the premier’s office, focal points in cabinet and that there’s a strong agenda to actually support initiatives with money and resources to help combat the scourge in our community,” she added.
Jamieson explained that ensuring the safety of children in communities does not have to be an expensive exercise nor one that drains resources. She highlighted a facilitated initiative which saw police officials work in coordination and in consultation with children in a community to ensure their safety when travelling to and from school.
Together, the children and police formulated a route to and from school which would see the police maintaining safety and security and the children using the route to regularly attend school.
“One of the greatest concerns children have is violence in their communities,” said Jamieson.