Address the Rising Cases of Sexual and Physical Violence Against Children

Today marks the 9th day of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. We applaud the media houses for their increased reporting about children being abused. In the last few days, we saw the story of a girl aged 15 who was repeatedly raped by an elderly man while a close relative was an accomplice to this rape by facilitating this heinous crime. We have again taken note of other young girls that are reportedly sexually and physically abused by older men on various media channels. These stories highlight the criminal practices that are all too prevalent in our country.

Barely five months ago, the Zambia Police reported that 576 children (571 girls and 5 boys) were raped in the second quarter of 2021. This was a 10% increase in the number of children reporting this brutal crime in the first quarter of 2021. However, we note that these figures and those shown in the media are merely a small fraction of many unreported incidences.

The organisations in the Joining Forces Alliance are deeply concerned that with all the laws to protect children from such abuse, we continue to see and hear of thousands of Zambian children being raped and abused so often. Each of us living in Zambia have an equal responsibility to safeguard the welfare of children which strengthens their ability to thrive and live a life where all children can realise their full potential without fear.

The Joining Forces Alliance calls upon the Government to address this heinous form of violence against children in Zambia. We are calling for:

 Stern enforcement of existing laws and stiffer punishment for persons violating and aiding in violations against children within their own families, communities and societies at large. Consistent enforcement of existing laws has been shown to deter would-be offenders and gives confidence to people about the justice system's effectiveness in supporting children.

 Greater awareness building in communities on how to use available reporting systems to increase community surveillance and quick response to support children affected by violence in families and communities. People should be made aware of the use of toll-free lines, whistleblower methods, and One-Stop Centres to report incidences of child abuse of all forms.

 Expedite the enactment of the Children's Code Bill and review of the 2011 Anti-GBV Act to create a child-friendly national legislative environment in Zambia.

We also call on:

 Parents and all caregivers to guarantee children's protection from all forms of violence at the family and community level and to uphold zero tolerance to sexual violence against all children. Adults must provide confidence and safety to children that will encourage them to report abuse when it occurs and to believe children when they report abuse

 Service providers (Government Responsible Ministries, Civil Society Organisations and others) to ramp up awareness among communities of the long-term effects that sexual and physical abuse has on children. Further, service providers must go out of their way to support children affected by any form of violence with appropriate, gender, child-friendly information and support. This information must help affected children and would-be victims understand how physical and sexual abuse cases can be reported and how to access emergency medical and psychological support.

As Joining Forces, we reiterate that all actors in society should put in place stringent and concrete measures to address the heinous acts of sexual and physical violence that repeatedly derail the lives of children. If urgent action is not taken immediately, our dreams of a Zambia safe for children will not be attained, and we as a country will not succeed to live up to the commitments and the national leadership role we made under the Convention on the Rights of a Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.


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Notes to the Editor:

In 2017, the six largest child-focused agencies: ChildFund International, Plan International, Save the Children International, SOS Children’s Villages Zambia, Terre des Hommes International Federation, and World Vision International joined forces. We aim to use our collective power to accelerate change to secure children their rights and end violence against them. We will pilot and scale innovative and effective approaches worldwide and be driven by the voices and needs of children.