Statistics from the past year point to wide gaps in translation between what is being taught in schools about sex and what is really happening to many young girls in South Africa.
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In Gauteng alone more than 3000 children have been registered under the Child Protection Register (CPR) since the start of the year. In a written reply to a parliamentary question, Social development minister, Bathabile Dlamini said, “The specified categories of abuse in which the names appear in the CPR are sexual abuse, emotional abuse and deliberate neglect.”
The Western Cape had the highest number of children found to be deliberately neglected, at 2522 and had listed 1751 sexual abuse victims in the CPR. The Children’s Act of 2005 (Act No. 38 of 2005) sets out principles relating to the care and protection of children and defines parental responsibilities and rights among other things. Despite having such policies in place, the country’s children still fall victim to different kinds of abuse on a daily basis.
This has been confirmed to by Childline, a non-profit organization that works to protect children from all forms of violence. Speaking during the commemoration of child protection week recently, Joan van Niekerk, Childline’s national training and advocacy manager said “Although there are a lot of programmes, some of these programmes end up exploiting the exploited”.
Van Niekerk was adamant that some of these campaigns are used by government as a political platform. Her immediate example was the 16 Days of Activism Campaign. “Often the only benefit to women and children is that they might get a cap or a t-shirt at the event. It begins and ends there. They might be a good platform for politicians to win votes, but all these flag-waving and t-shirt wearing events are not effective – what do they achieve for women and children?” she asked.
Van Niekerk also pointed out that South Africa has been running these campaigns for years, but that levels of violence have in fact risen and that this should be a matter of grave concern. For Joan, campaigns need to move beyond comforting words and soothing slogans – they have to be backed up by some substantial action.