Recently, a video recording of a house maid inflicting unbelievable pains on a hapless eighteen months old child, whom ironically she was meant to look after, went wild on the social media. The dreadful sight of the maid pouncing and pounding on the ill -fated child, as in a wrestling bout, was met with widespread indignation across the globe. It was such a disgusting spectacle. Many who saw it wondered what on earth the child could have done to deserve such coldhearted treatment. It was later revealed that the parents of the unfortunate child have been suspecting foul play for quite some time, based on several bruises they have noticed on the body of their child. This, of course, was why they hid a camera in the house to monitor happenings between the maid and the child. It was the hidden camera that eventually exposed the maid and her callous acts. Fortunately, reports have it that the iniquitous housemaid has since been sentenced to a four year jail term by a Ugandan court. Hopefully, this would serve as a deterrent to others with similar sadistic inclination.
Naturally, childhood represents a sensitive period that requires handling with greater care and attention. This readily explains why parents, guardians, nannies, teachers and others in the business of child mending often go the extra mile to care for and protect the interests of children. Obviously, this is quite understandable as children are expectedly quite vulnerable. It is in view of their vulnerable nature that the United Nations, UN, and its affiliated bodies spare nothing to ensure the safety and general well being of children all over the world. Consequently, since 1979, when the UN decided to focus more on children’s rights, the attention of the world has shifted towards child’s protection, care and security. Hence, several rights have been proclaimed as indispensable for the child.
These include rights to love and understanding, adequate food and health, free education, play, an identity and special attention of handicapped regardless of colour, sex, religion and other social-cultural divides.
Regrettably though, child abuse has, over the years, remained a recurring blight that major global child rights advocates and groups have been working hard to deal with. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), 80 million children of 18 years below are working as labourers all over the world while another 2 million engage in children prostitution. Without a doubt, child abuse remains a foremost global danger to the development of children. Ugly incidences of callous maltreatment of children, like the one described above, still abound in a world that is gradually losing its sanity. Some of the things that constitute child abuse include maltreatment of children, sexual harassment, denial of education, child labour, intimidation and molestation, physical assaults, neglect, child labour and child trafficking among others.
As with other such heinous tendencies, child abuse has grave consequences. For one, it can lead to emotional distress, dejection and frustration. It could also lead to unplanned pregnancy which could result into abortion and possibly untimely death. Other effects of child abuse include uncontrollable aggression, bitterness, anger, depression, disorderly lifestyle, unfulfilled dreams among others. Research has indicated that child abuse has far reaching consequences on not only its victims but the community as a whole.
Like other members of the global community, Nigeria has been involved in making concerted efforts to frontally confront the evil of child abuse. In order to provide a legal and institutional framework to confront this menace in our country, the National Assembly passed the Child`s Rights law in 2003. Most states in the country have equally domesticated the law. In Lagos state, for instance, the Child Rights bill was signed into law on 28th May, 2007. Since the law came on board, the Lagos state government has been in the forefront of child` rights protection and development. Since it has been revealed that the female child represents a larger proportion of victims of child abuse victims, the Lagos state government has been paying particular attention to the protection of the girl-child. The State has also strengthened its crusade against child abuse by paying considerable attention to street hawking by children of school age as well the art of engaging children as house maids.
In order to properly stem the tide of child abuse in our country and, indeed, the world, parents, guardians and other stakeholders must work together with relevant government and non-government agencies.
This is important because effecting a positive change in the condition of the children entails that everyone must stand up to be counted. Parents, in particular, must take extra precaution to ensure that those that they employ to take care of their children are psychologically and emotionally stable. It is dangerous for parents to entrust their children to people whom they hardly know much about. Similarly, parents must pay quality attention to the education of their children. The idea of engaging children in street trading and other such demeaning tendencies must be discouraged. Most parents that engage in this act often argue that they need to raise extra money for the education of their children. It is, however, difficult to justify such viewpoint as almost every state in the country offers free education that covers primary and secondary education.
Continuous enlightenment by relevant authorities and agencies on the dangers of child abuse is equally vital. But then, as it has been previously stated, all hands must be on deck in this bid to protect and defend children from abuse. Everyone in the society has a role to play in this respect. For instance, faith based organisations, community leaders, social activists and others must come on board this lofty campaign to respect and restore the dignity and rights of the child.
The media equally has a crucial role to play in the crusade against child abuse. Communication experts will, equally, do better in doubling effort to address the menace.
On a final note, children are special gifts from God and as such everyone must be involved in defending and protecting their rights and interests. This is the right thing to do.
•Ogunbiyi writes from Alausa, Ikeja.