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Protecting The Vulnerable In Our Midst

Published by Leadership on Tue, 27 Sep 2016


It is worrisome that in this day and age, children still work as slave labourers and are generally subjected to myriad abuses from family members, public institutions, including schools, and when going about routine activities. In many instances, their sufferings are largely invisible and silent. Some parents, desperate to feed their families, consider selling their young daughters into marriage, believing this action will ensure that they are taken care of and kept safe. Orphaned children are abducted and trafficked as domestic servants, or worse as sex slaves. Most vulnerable children come from single parents, divorced parents and dysfunctional families. These acts of violence against children happen spontaneously, in moments of anger and frustration, with horrifying results that often surprise the person who commits them. We consider these occurrences as a social crisis. Poverty also propels this child abuse phenomenon and poverty is a twin sister to ignorance. Since 1989, 194 countries have acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. To date, just a few states of the federation have ratified this law.We believe that laws alone cannot sufficiently deal with this dangerous development. For instance, the kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Chibok and other parts of Borno State and the dozens of boys slaughtered in a dawn raid in Buni Yadi, Yobe State deserve more than global outrage. We need security and justice on their matters. We are confident that these outrageous features can be remedied through societal interventions, re-education and sanctions. The sad truth is that people who abuse children almost never grew up in healthy loving households, but were children of absent, neglectful or hurtful parents. The society should therefore evolve a system of love, where parenting is made better. Adults need to learn patience and restraint to stop the cycle of destruction. We also need to unlearn consideration of childrens views or ideas as non-compos mentis. This is a violation of the provisions of Article 4(2) of the African Charter. Childrens voices, needs and aspirations should be mainstreamed in all national policies and strategies. Their aberrant behaviours should not be treated with violence and/or with primordial and irrational sentiments either. When a child is accused of witchcraft, for instance, it is irrational. Rather than to abuse, torture or even kill a child for a misfortune in the family, such as a breakdown of a marriage or a relatives death or illness, we need to start thinking that not all problems in life have a spiritual origin. We recommend serious sanctions for religious bodies and movie artistes propagating these putrid doctrines and capitalising on peoples ignorance.Laws have been made to cater for some discrimination and to prevent abuses but we suggest that the responsibility should not be limited to the Government; it should involve the whole community, not one confined within the limits of private homes. Making laws more comprehensive and penalties more severe can reduce the number of offences, but may not necessarily eliminate them. Parents and other caregivers need to understand that there is a thin line between discipline and abuse. They also need to understand that neglect is also a crime punishable by law. Most women placed under servitude in their homes and many cases of abuse, we are aware, also go unreported. There must be a comprehensive framework of engagement at the local, community and national levels for social relationships where albinism, leprosies, deafness, etc. are not seen as death sentences. Members of the community should be encouraged to report any suspected cases of abuse inflicted on the vulnerable members of society. Attitudes must change, and governments must play a helpful role in facilitating that transformation.
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