Promoting and protecting children’s rights in Africa: Case of the Talibés of Senegal.

Authors: Coordinator and members of the Implementation Clinic of the Centre for Human Rights

Henrietta Ekefre Samuel Ade Ndasi Susan Mutambasere Jonathan Obwogi

In 2012, the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria,  together with La Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO), an NGO in Senegal, submitted a case to the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC). The case concerned children forced into street begging in Senegal.

Since the 1980s, Senegal has had a challenge with access to primary education, which leaves thousands of children unable to get absorbed in the mainstream schools. Further, religion plays an important role in the upbringing of children. These have contributed to a situation where at least 100 000 children are enrolled in daaras (religious schools) often far away from their parents. The daaras are administered by marabouts who are religious leaders and not trained educators. These children who are called talibés live in deplorable and overcrowded conditions where they are subjected to various forms of abuse. The marabouts exploit the talibés by making them beg on the streets. In some instances, children are given financial targets to reach, failure of which results in punishment. There is no provision of medical care should the talibés fall sick as they essentially have to fend for themselves.

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Sexual violence against children: Are girls in Mozambique little angels or sex objects?

michael_addaneyAuthor: Michael Addaney
Student (MPhil Human Rights and Democratisation in Africa), Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

Global statistics indicate that child sexual abuse is increasing with an estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18 having experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual abuse. According to the East, Central and Southern Africa Health Commission, one out of three girls in Sub-Saharan African experiences some form of sexual violence before the age of 18. In Mozambique alone, 33% of children between 12 and 15 years have been victims of sexual violence, one of the highest rates in the world.

Also, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) observes that child prostitution is a growing concern in Mozambique. The Mozambican Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Affairs links the increased sexual violence with the country’s failure in the realisation of the child’s right to education with an estimated 36% of girls aged between 13 and 18 years married instead of being in school.

This situation is also attributed to the Mozambican civil war which weakened institutions particularly those protecting the rights and welfare of children. Despite major sector-specific strategic frameworks to combat sexual violence against children, these are often done with little consultation and coordination. This has had a deleterious effect on the enforcement of children’s rights through the existing legal and institutional arrangements.

Meanwhile, Mozambique is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and all the relevant international human rights instruments. The domestic framework for addressing sexual violence against children includes the Children’s Act of 2008 and Juvenile Justice Act of 2008 which translate the CRC and the ACRWC into national child rights legislation.

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Nigerian schoolgirl kidnappings not just an act of terrorism

karen_stefiszynAuthor: Karen Stefiszyn
Programme Manager: Gender Unit, Centre for Human Rights

The kidnapping by Boko Haram of over 200 school girls in Northern Nigeria is an act of gender based violence for which not only Boko Haram is responsible, but also the Nigerian government. Indeed the militant group has carried out atrocities against boys and men that are equally deplorable, however, in this instance it is not by chance that Boko Haram kidnapped girls. They were targeted because they are girls.

The leader of Boko Haram said in a video shortly after the kidnapping that he would sell the girls in the market. His statement is reflective of an exceptional disdain for girls, which did not exist in isolation, but within a patriarchal society where harmful stereotypes perpetuate girls’ inferiority and enable violence against women to be an accepted norm. Amnesty International has reported that up to two thirds of Nigerian women may have experienced violence in the home by an intimate partner. While domestic violence differs in nature from the kidnapping of over 200 school girls, the common thread is the context within which the acts occur; in a society which does not accord women equal value and provides the structural conditions whereby a girl or woman can be abused in the home or kidnapped and threatened to be sold in the market.

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