By Luminous Jannamike

Children are blessings from God, so they need to be loved, guided, and protected by all. Unfortunately, in today’s society, parents, guardians, and caregivers who are charged with the responsibility of protecting children hardly have time for them, which makes the under-aged vulnerable to harmful experiences.

Sexual abuse is one of such experiences, and it is on the increase day-by-day.

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a form of molestation is in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation.

Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child, indecent exposure, child grooming, and child sexual exploitation, including using a child to produce child pornography.

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These assaults are usually targeted at children who are aged 15 years and below. Innocent and vulnerable, such children are violated sexually by neighbours, relatives, school teachers, and sometimes strangers who take undue advantage of them.

Prevalence Rate

UNICEF reported in 2015 that one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.

According to the UN child rights agency, this year saw an alarming four-fold increase in multiple forms of violence against women and girls.

This underscored the need to continue to fund, respond to, prevent the occurrence and collect robust evidence of violence against them.

Tackling sexual violence against women, girls

The media as change agents are critical both in terms of how violence against women and girls is reported, and how communities and governments are supported to raise awareness and implement programmes to end violence against women and girls,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative.

Speaking at the webinar, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Fallen, said: “It is important to highlight that everyone in society has an important role to play in ending violence against women and girls and we all must work together across sectors to address the various aspects of violence against women and girls,”

The webinar came in the run-up to the annual, global ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,’ which this year focused on the role of the media in promoting accountability to end violence against women and girls.

Role of Security Agencies 

In an interview, AIG Wilson Inalegwu, an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, in-charge of Zone 9, who retired recently, said: “While some of the cases of child sexual abuse are reported to the appropriate authorities, a large majority of the real life cases are believed to have been swept under the carpet or covered up for fear of being stigmatized.

Experts Proffer Solution 

The Programme Manager, CLEEN Foundation, Mrs. Ruth Olofin said: “Yes, there is usually a culture of silence when it comes to child sexual abuse due to fear of stigmatisation. But, as stakeholders, we need to keep up with the sensitization to encourage victims to speak out.”

In the same vein, Dr. Rafatu Abdulhamid, a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts Department of Philosophy and Religions

University of Abuja, said: “We need to make people aware of this issue of sexual violence, especially against the girl child, so that they can take necessary precautions.

Role of Religious Leaders 

Speaking also, Mrs. Mary Taiwo, the assistant pastor of Destiny Revival Evangelical Ministry International, Lugbe Abuja, told Our Correspondent: “Someone who is a genuine child of God would not sexually abuse a child.“Both Christian and Muslim leaders across the country are doing a lot to see to it that such things do not occur among our followers.”

She however noted that to achieve success in reducing child sexual abuse, the responsibility should not be left solely in the hands of the authorities.

Position of the Law

Meanwhile, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, which was signed into law on 23rd May, 2015, by former President Goodluck Jonathan, stated that once the crime of rape is proven, the offender must be sentenced to a minimum penalty of 12 years for rape.

However, the judge still has the discretion to sentence the offender to more than 12 years.

In addition, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Nkiru Obi, said that psychological therapy for the victim of child sexual abuse was important to achieve success in prosecuting offenders.

Other reasons for Psychotherapy

Also speaking on measures that can be taken after a child suffered sexual abuse, Mr. Ifeanyi Okekearu, the Chief of Party for the SHOPS Plus project in Nigeria, said: “Sexual abuse is a crime that lives with the affected individual for life – nobody seems to forget them, especially when he or she was bullied, tricked, or cajoled into it.

“So, the first thing to do is for the family members to accept the child and work towards helping the child to get over it.

“The child needs to be counseled ame given appropriate remedies on short, medium and long-term basis. These are the things the society needs to work together to support.”

Prevention tips

Some tips on how to keep children safe against sexual abuse include: teaching them the proper names for their body parts, building trust by regularly talking to them about their day to make them comfortable to report any issues, and educating them on sexual abuse and other related matters.

Children are blessings from God, so they need to be loved, guided and protected by all. Unfortunately, in today’s society, parents, guardians and caregivers who are charged with the responsibility of protecting children hardly have time for them, which makes the under-aged vulnerable to harmful experiences.

Sexual abuse is one of such experiences, and it is on the increase day-by-day.

Child Sexual Abuse

Child sexual abuse is a form of molestation is in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation.

Forms of child sexual abuse include engaging in sexual activities with a child, indecent exposure, child grooming, and child sexual exploitation, including using a child to produce child pornography.

These assaults are usually targeted at children who are aged 15 years and below. Innocent and vulnerable, such children are violated sexually by neighbours, relatives, school teachers, and sometimes strangers who take undue advantage of them.

Prevalence Rate

UNICEF reported in 2015 that one in four girls and one in ten boys in Nigeria had experienced sexual violence before the age of 18.

According to the UN child rights agency, this year saw an alarming four-fold increase in multiple forms of violence against women and girls.

This underscored the need to continue to fund, respond to, prevent the occurrence and collect robust evidence of violence against them.

Tackling sexual violence against women, girls

The media as change agents are critical both in terms of how violence against women and girls is reported, and how communities and governments are supported to raise awareness and implement programmes to end violence against women and girls,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Representative.

Speaking at the webinar, the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Fallen, said: “It is important to highlight that everyone in society has an important role to play in ending violence against women and girls and we all must work together across sectors to address the various aspects of violence against women and girls,”

The webinar came in the run-up to the annual, global ’16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,’ which this year focused on the role of the media in promoting accountability to end violence against women and girls.

Role of Security Agencies 

In an interview, AIG Wilson Inalegwu, an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, in-charge of Zone 9, who retired recently, said: “While some of the cases of child sexual abuse are reported to the appropriate authorities, a large majority of the real life cases are believed to have been swept under the carpet or covered up for fear of being stigmatized.

Experts Proffer Solution 

The Programme Manager, CLEEN Foundation, Mrs. Ruth Olofin said: “Yes, there is usually a culture of silence when it comes to child sexual abuse due to fear of stigmatisation. But, as stakeholders, we need to keep up with the sensitization to encourage victims to speak out.”

In the same vein, Dr. Rafatu Abdulhamid, a lecturer in the Faculty of Arts Department of Philosophy and Religions

University of Abuja, said: “We need to make people aware of this issue of sexual violence, especially against the girl child, so that they can take necessary precautions.

Role of Religious Leaders 

Speaking also, Mrs. Mary Taiwo, the assistant pastor of Destiny Revival Evangelical Ministry International, Lugbe Abuja, told Our Correspondent: “Someone who is a genuine child of God would not sexually abuse a child.“Both Christian and Muslim leaders across the country are doing a lot to see to it that such things do not occur among our followers.”

She however noted that to achieve success in reducing child sexual abuse, the responsibility should not be left solely in the hands of the authorities.

Position of the Law

Meanwhile, the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act, which was signed into law on 23rd May 2015, by former President Goodluck Jonathan, stated that once the crime of rape is proven, the offender must be sentenced to a minimum penalty of 12 years for rape.

However, the judge still has the discretion to sentence the offender to more than 12 years.

In addition, an Abuja-based legal practitioner, Nkiru Obi, said that psychological therapy for the victim of child sexual abuse was important to achieve success in prosecuting offenders.

Other reasons for Psychotherapy

Also speaking on measures that can be taken after a child suffered sexual abuse, Mr. Ifeanyi Okekearu, the Chief of Party for the SHOPS Plus project in Nigeria, said: “Sexual abuse is a crime that lives with the affected individual for life – nobody seems to forget them, especially when he or she was bullied, tricked, or cajoled into it.

“So, the first thing to do is for the family members to accept the child and work towards helping the child to get over it.

“The child needs to be counseled are given appropriate remedies on a short, medium, and long-term basis. These are the things the society needs to work together to support.”

Prevention tips

Some tips on how to keep children safe against sexual abuse include: teaching them the proper names for their body parts, building trust by regularly talking to them about their day to make them comfortable to report any issues, and educating them on sexual abuse and other related matters.

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