Violence against children a challenge in Lesotho: survey

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Limpho Sello

AT LEAST 58 percent of males and 42 percent of females suffer different forms of violence before they reach the age of 18.

This came out of the preliminary results of the 2019 Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) which were recently released in Maseru. Although preparatory work began in October 2017, the data collection for the survey started last June and ended in September 2018.

The survey was conducted by the Ministry of Social Development with technical support from the United States of America through the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ICAP.

Speaking at the meeting in Maseru recently, the CDC Atlanta Branch Chief in the division of Violence Prevention, Greta Massetti, said when they embarked on the survey last year, the preliminary results showed that more males have been abused than girls.

The survey had three categories namely sexual, physical and emotional violence. It targeted children and young adults aged from 13 to 24.

Ms Massetti however, said the statistics were different when it came to childhood sexual violence where the number of female victims is higher than that of males.

“For instance, 14, 5 percent of females and 5 percent of males reported that they had experienced some form of sexual violence before they reached 18,” Ms Massetti said.

Physically forced or pressured/ coerced sex at sexual debut among females in childhood stood at 81, 7 percent in females and 18, 3 percent in males.

In terms of physical violence, Ms Massetti said during the survey the respondents were asked questions about abuse perpetrated by parents, adult caregivers, intimate partners, peers and adult relatives.

The number of physical violence victims was also found to be higher in males than in females.

“There is 56 percent of males and 32, 3 percent of females who have received any form of physical violence during childhood, while 37, 8 percent of males have been violated by parents, adults caregivers and adult relatives,” Ms Massetti said.

Ms Massetti said females are less violated in childhood as 21, 8 percent are violated by adults, caregivers and parent.

Females were found to be more prone to emotional violence by parents, caregivers, or adult relatives in childhood, with the figures standing at 10, 6 percent as compared to males whose number stands at 7, 8 percent.

Ms Massetti said the next step after the survey is to work with relevant stakeholders to inspire strategies for ending violence against children namely implementation and enforcement of laws, norms and values, safe environment for children, parent and caregiver support, income and economic strengthening, response and support services and education and life skills.

For his part, CDC Chief of Party Andy Pelletier, said the surveys are designed to measure the prevalence and circumstances surrounding emotional, physical and sexual violence in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood.

Dr Pelletier said the surveys identified risk and protective factors as well as consequences of violence.

He said across the surveys, they have learnt key facts about violence against children and young people.

“Girls and boys experience high rates of violence in childhood. Physical violence is more common, with one in two children experiencing it. About one in four children experience emotional violence. About one in four girls and one in eight boys experience sexual violence.

“The onset of violence also varies by type. Physical violence is most often first occurring around age five and six. Sexual violence most often first occurs at ages 14 to 17. For girls, partners are typically the most common perpetrators of sexual violence. We also know that victims rarely seek assistance,” Dr Pelletier.

Dr Pelletier said the Ministry of Social Development has shown great leadership in conducting the survey in Lesotho adding that the findings from VACS will provide reliable evidence to enable leaders in the country to make better decisions about violence prevention programmes and child protection services.

Speaking at the same event, the Acting Minister of Social Development Habofanoe Lehana said following the enactment of the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act 2011, the government is continuously increasing its efforts to ensure that the children’s legislation is enforced and implemented in a coordinated manner by all concerned line ministries and other non-governmental players.

Mr Lehana said part one of the Children’s Protection and Welfare Act defines violence against children in various sections adding that Section 16 provides for the protection of children from abuse, torture and degrading treatment.

“Section 17 prevents harmful cultural practices being inflicted upon children. Section 20 obliges parents to protect children from neglect, violence, abuse, exploitation and moral hazards, Section 161 prohibits the use of corporal punishment or the death penalty as a sentence for a child.

“It is against this background that the country undertook the VACS so as to come up with programmes addressing all the above sections and many more which are not mentioned above like the escalating issue of child marriage,” Mr Lehana said.

Mr Lehana said there was need for collaborated efforts by all stakeholders to validate the key priority findings and identify the key priority areas to be addressed over the next five to 10 years.

“This needs to happen to come up with an action plan that will resonate well with us for increased commitment and leadership and thus improve the equality of lives for our children,” Mr Lehana said.

 

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