Save the Children wishes to condemn in the strongest possible terms the unacceptably high levels of Sexual Violence Against Children in Zambia. According to the first quarter gender-based violence statistics by the Zambia Police Service, the nation recorded 495 child defilement cases. While there is a reduction by 150 cases compared to the same period last year, the current figures remain unacceptably high. Earlier this year, the nation was informed that in 2018, the total recorded child defilement cases stood at 2,578 (2,574 girls, 04 boys).
We note with concern the cases of child defilement occurring at an average rate of 6 defilement cases per day (one child defiled every 4 hours). We call upon all institutions, households and individuals to uphold the highest standards of behaviours towards children both in their private and professional lives.
Duncan Harvey, the Country Director for Save the Children in Zambia, said: “Save the Children through its child protection work supports parents and institutions to prioritise the rights of children, especially their right to be protected from all forms of harm. Last week we received the news from the Zambia Police Service with great concern. These statistics show us that in spite of efforts by various actors to curb this form of violence, much more needs to be done to protect children. We note that these statistics refer only to those cases that have been reported to the police, so there may be many more Zambian children who have experienced violence but have not reported.”
We call upon parents and other primary caregivers, community members, local leaders, the media, civil society and state actors like the Zambia Police Service, Ministry of Justice and the department of Child Welfare and Protection to act:
Parents and Caregivers:
Must ensure the environment in and around the home is safe for their children. The Violence against Children report released last year indicated that 58% of violence against children happens at home or nearby.
Must be given the confidence to report any form of abuse they experience to parents, caregivers, police, their teachers or even their neighbors. They must be able to report in the knowledge that they will be treated with dignity, sensitivity and confidence in all cases.
Community members and local leaders:
- Continue raising awareness at household and community level about the importance of protecting children from abuse. There is need to emphasise that No child (below 18 years) can provide consent to sexual activities.
- Ensure that all child abuse cases are reported to appropriate authorities including any incidents where videos, photos or audio recordings of children being abused.
- Community Child Welfare Committees must review their child safeguarding and protection policies to ensure children are safe.
- The Department of Child Welfare and Protection must have adequate facilities to house and protect victims of this heinous form of violence against children.
- The police must investigate and act on all child sexual abuse with the urgency it deserves.
- The judiciary must expedite all sexual gender based violence cases involving children.
- The 2018 African Report on Child Wellbeing cites Zambian legal and policy frameworks as being weak. This serves to remind the Zambian government to expedite the enactment of the Child Code Bill. It is our considered view that Zambia’s poor ranking in the mentioned report is a compelling reason for the prompt presentation and enactment of the Children’s Code Bill without delay. The delayed enactment of the Children’s Code Bill has denied many Zambian children who would have benefited from the progressive provisions of the Children’s Code Bill in the last 12 years since the comprehensive review of all child related legislations begun.
Save the Children further calls upon our partners in the media to be the strong voice children need at a time when they are experiencing pain, danger and injustice as a result of this despicable form of violence. The media must report all forms of violence children are exposed to in Zambia using child friendly reporting principles regardless of the form the violence takes, be it emotional, physical, sexual, exploitation and child labour or neglect.
In conclusion, we are calling for an uncompromising determination from all actors to put in place the concrete measures listed above that will address sexual violence against children. As a nation our efforts to achieve child wellbeing, such as education and health, will be greatly undermined if we do not tackle this serious form of child rights abuse and we will fail to reach the targets we have signed up for under the Sustainable Development Goals.