By Olayinka Latona
Although child abuse occurs in Nigeria, it has received little attention. This is probably due to theÂ general assumption that in every African society the extended family system always provides love, care and protection to all children. However, the above reason hasÂ Â contributed to the issue of child abuse in the country.
The story of Patience Udoh, 14, an orphan and a native of Akwa Ibom State is a classic example. Patience, readily confided in a neighbour about how her Aunt GraceÂ usually dealt with herÂ whenever she committed even the slightest mistake.
There was the occasion when she saw her first menstrual cycle and she informed her Aunt only to be threatened and beaten for sleeping around with men. She was warned that she would be ejected if she failed to have her next cycle the following month. Unfortunately for Patience, her second month menstrual cycle failed and she was severely beaten. Left with no choice, she ran out of the home to an unknown destination.
Nevertheless, to tame the menace of child abuse in Nigeria, especially in Lagos State, the Media Concern for Women and Children MEDIACON, a media-based not for profit organisation, workingduring a one day consultative meeting tagged â€œ A Multisectoral Approach in response to Child Sexual Abuse in Lagos State,Â observed that the issue of child abuse must be well reported and dealt with.
MEDIACON which works in the field of sexuality and reproductive health andÂ rights incorporating developmental issues, said the problem of child abuse negatively affects the nationâ€™s development hence the need for society to nip it in the bud.
Senior Victim Advocate of the organisation, Ms. Folake Modupe Bankole said child sexual abuse is a phenomena that affect the general well being of an individual which affect the psychological and physical well being of the victim, thereby making the person to be depressed, reversed, have retard behaviour and also exhibit suicidal tendencies.
â€œWhen we have a dysfunctional individual, the person can not function well in the society. A child that is sexually molested can not concentrate well in class and the grade of such child will start dropping which eventually the child will have to drop out of school and this will reduce the work force of the nation. Even if such child eventually grows up, he or she might start abusing other children, thereby bringing other children into the fold of sexual abuse and more lives are being affected.â€
It was pointed out thatÂ Nigeria is backward when it comes to the issue ofÂ child abuse in that people donâ€™t perceive it as a national issue rather they sees it as a family matter. Folake said there is no adequate capacity building training,Â necessary equipment that can be used to intervene in child abuse matter and most importantly funding from the government. Speaking further, she saidÂ it is when the nation started seeing child abuse case as a crime then there will be proper stand on the issue, which will give room for various stakeholder to perform their duties effectively.
On the other hand, Mrs. Yinka Adeyemi, the Assistance Director of office of Public defender in her presentationÂ appealed to the Directorate ofÂ Public Prosecution to be more objective and look for a lesser cumbersome process when it comes to the case of child abuse.
She stresses that the office of Directorate of Public Prosecution should strongly prosecute any perpetrator that was found guilty in the court of law.
â€œYou could imagine the trauma that any child that is being involved in any form of child abuse experience.Â For rape, there are so, many implication and after match effect of such crime. And the aftermath effect is better imagined than experienced. So, I am appealing to the Directorate ofÂ Public Prosecution to look critically to these issues and look at what can be done within a short time without prolonging the matter.â€
Further, Adeyemi said the non- compliance of the victim and the immediate family remainedÂ one of the biggest challenges militating against the efforts of her organisation to tackle the menace.
Appealing to society at large to have the courage to speak up and also make sure that any case on child abuse is prosecuted to the end in respective of the person involved, she advocated for a siytuation wherebyÂ society should not remain ignorant of the act and its consequences of abuseÂ on the victims arguing that if the perpetrators are let off the hook, other children remain at risk and this only sends wrong signals that societyÂ does not careÂ what happens to the children.