Section 277 of the Nigerian Child Rights Act, 2003 defines a child as a person who has not attained the age of eighteen years. According to Wikipedia, Child abuse is physical, sexual, and psychological neglect of a child or children, especially by a parent or caregiver. Child abuse may include any act or failure to act by a parent or caregiver that results in actual or potential harm to a child and can occur in a child’s home, or in the organization, schools, or communities the child interacts with.
The same source views Child molestation/Child sexual abuse as a form of child abuse where an adult or an older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child (whether by asking or pressuring or by any other means), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipple, etc.), child grooming, and child sexual exploitation, including using a child to produce child pornography.
Child abuse and molestation are diverse in all aspects, especially as molestation of a child forms a major and the most popular aspect of child abuse. While child abuse is often considered a very delicate topic, it is important to note that child molestation is the most popular form of child abuse. Besides, it is often considered controversial as to what and what connotes child abuse and/or molestation. We should note that the basic rule is that any act perpetrated against a child by an adult or older adolescent that is disadvantageous to him/her and/or that leaves the child vulnerable and/or that the child ordinarily should have control over but due to age and immaturity is lured into. I believe this rule provides an easy way to identify child abuse and/or molestation.
It is important to further state that globally child abuse and/or molestation is expressed and understood differently. These differences are borne out of factors such as; environmental orientation, laws, cultures, etc. In all, the standard is clear and same.
The dynamics of child abuse are often very different from that of adult sexual abuse and therefore abuse of this nature cannot be handled in the same way.
Features that characterize child sexual abuse include:
Physical force/violence is very rarely used; rather the perpetrator tries to manipulate the child’s trust and hide the abuse.
The perpetrator is typically a known and trusted caregiver.
Child sexual abuse often occurs over many weeks or even years.
The sexual abuse of children frequently occurs as repeated episodes that become more invasive with time. Perpetrators usually engage the child in a gradual process of sexualizing the relationship over time (i.e. grooming).
Incest/intra-familial abuse accounts for about one-third of all child sexual abuse cases.
In Nigeria, issues such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), Molestation, physical abuse, child labour, and forced marriage are the most common forms of child abuse. These evils occur in homes, schools, churches, communities, hospitals, etc
Legal frameworks that protect children in Nigeria
There are several legal frameworks establishing and protecting the rights of children. These frameworks are of two types:
Locally enacted laws
Despite the existence of these frameworks, there is still little attention paid to child abuse/molestation in Nigeria. The statistics of child abuse and molestation in Nigeria are staggering. Abuse in all its forms is a daily reality for many Nigerian children and only a fraction ever receive help. Six out of every 10 children experience some form of violence – one in four girls and 10 percent of boys have been victims of sexual violence. Of the children who reported violence, fewer than five out of 100 received any form of support. Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa with more than 23 million girls and women who were married as children, most of them from poor and rural communities. While data suggests a decline of 9 percent in the prevalence of child marriage since 2003 and a projected further decrease of 6 percent by 2030; Nigeria’s rapid population growth means that the number of child brides will in fact increase by more than one million by 2030 and double by 2050. Between the months of March and May in the year 2020, Nigeria reported a whooping number of 900 reported rape cases of which over 50% were against children. Children, they say, are the bedrock of any society and the greatest assurance of the continuity of the human race. We can only but imagine the effect of child abuse/molestation on the coming generations. Abused children suffer a lot of physical, emotional, psychological, and mental deprivation. In many cases, these abuses have a permanent effect on them. In Nigeria, the existence of legal frameworks has not in the true sense reduced child abuse/molestation. It is the opinion of many; the most prevalent cause of child abuse/molestation is poverty. In a country where over 70% of citizens live below the poverty line, the daily influx of the number of children abused on a daily basis should not come as surprise to us all.
Written by Chigoziem E. Onugha