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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Realising the right to birth registration to prevent statelessness in Africa: in the context of the General Comment on Article 6 of the African Children’s Charter

ayalew_getachew_assefaAuthor: Ayalew Getachew Assefa
Legal researcher, Secretariat of the ACERWC

As is the case with other human rights, the right to birth registration and nationality are interrelated, and the realization of these rights plays a great role in preventing statelessness. Birth registration, as an act of recording a birth of a child by a governmental authority with the effect of granting the child a legal personality, establishes the existence in law of a child. It is through birth registration and acquisition of a birth certificate that the parentage of children, their age, and their place of birth can be recorded. These elements play a significant role in according nationality for children, and hence prevent statelessness.

It is in consideration of this fact that Article 6 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC/the African Children’s Charter) recognizes three interlinked rights and imposes an obligation on State Parties to take legislative measures to prevent statelessness among children. In order to clearly spell out and explain the obligations of State Parties in implementing the provision, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC), in April 2013, adopted a General Comment (the General Comment) on this particular Article. This article briefly explains the reasons why the Committee decided to develop the General Comment and the major principles included in the General Comment.

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Child marriage as ‘security’?

thato_motaungAuthor: Thato Motaung
Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, University of Pretoria

International Day of the Girl Child: 11 October 2014

“The female soldiers did everything we did. In addition they were forced to cook for the commanders, wash their clothes, and some were forced to have sex with them.” – Khalid al-Amin on life as a conscript, Aljazeera interview – Escaping Eritrea’s ‘open prison’ (3 October 2014)

The legal age at which a girl can get married in Eritrea is 18 years, however many marry earlier as an act of great desperation.

Child marriage is prohibited in numerous international human rights instruments, namely; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC) and in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. That said, child marriage is nevertheless rampant on the African continent. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) figures (2013), out of the 20 countries most affected by child marriage, Africa hosts 15. ‘Typical’ drivers of child marriage include customary/traditional beliefs, desire for economic gain or to provide security. I hesitated at the mention of ‘security’ because how does a minor gain security from being forced to engage in sexual reproduction, childbearing and birth within a completely unprepared body and mind?

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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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The State’s ineptitude or indisposition to deal with Eastern Cape education is a continuous violation of children’s rights

akho_ntanjanaAuthor: Akho Ntanjana
Legal intern, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), Banjul, The Gambia

Without citing any empirical evidence, it is known that the quality of school facilities has an indirect effect on learning and ultimately on its output.  For instance, in a study carried out in India (1996), out of 59 schools in a region, only 49 had structures. Of these 49 schools, 25 had a toilet, 20 had electricity, 10 had a school library and four had a television set. In this study, the quality of the learning environment was strongly correlated with pupils’ achievement in Hindi and mathematics.

Further, a research study was conducted in Latin America that included 50 000 students in grades 3 and 4, it was found that learners whose schools lacked classroom materials and had inadequate libraries were significantly more likely to show lower test scores and higher grade repetition than those whose schools were well equipped (see the United Nations Children’s Fund’s paper ‘Defining Quality Education’). There are many other studies done even in Africa, for example in Botswana, Nigeria and Papua New Guinea, indicating similar outcomes.

There seem to be a correlation between good school infrastructures, other quality dimensions (inter alia the quality of content, psychological aspects, quality processes involved) and the achievement of higher grades by learners. In this opinion piece, I examine the state of education in the Eastern Cape, and the failure by the South Africa government to meet its constitutional and international obligations to provide basic education.

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