By Becky John
Three human rights groups on Friday in Lagos raised the alarm over the increasing rate in child sexual abuse in the country and called for collaborative efforts to curb the menace. The groups told the news men that sexual abuse of minors should be a cause for concern to us all. Mrs Ifeyinwa Awagu, Secretary, Foundation for African Cultural Heritage (FACH), described child sexual abuse as a form of child abuse in which an adult used a child for sexual stimulation. Awagu said that the law did not provide adequate time to prosecute offenders.
She said that lack of forensic evidence, inability of parents to allow their wards to testify and social stigma were the major constrains in prosecuting offenders. She also identified other constraints as lack of facilities for Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) tests.
According to her, Lagos State has declared zero tolerance for sexual and child abuses.
“Although, we do not have official national statistics on how many children have been raped or sexually abused.
“But the daily reports from the media should keep us on our toes and keep us aware that we have an epidemic on our hands.
“Whether we are related to the victims or not, we should all be actively involved in its condemnation and prevention.
“When we condemn sexual perversion in strong terms, the perpetrators become uncomfortable and keep off,’’ she said
Mrs Jessica Ndupu, President, Society for Support and Welfare for the Under- Privileged, said child sexual abuse had a lifetime effect on victims. Ndupu outlined some of the effects as severe distress, fear, shame, stigmatisation, discrimination and other physical and psychological health issues.
“Child sexual abuse occurs all over the world. But it’s phenomenal growth over the years in Nigeria leaves much to be desired.
“Do you know that up to one-third of adolescent girls report their first sexual experience as being forced?
“Sadly enough, tradition and culture have prevented such cases from being appropriately addressed and ultimately taken seriously.
“Sexual abuse of children is a public health issue which has long term negative effects on the victims,’’ she said.
Mrs Hope Okoye, Executive Director of Integrated Anti-Human Trafficking and Community Development Initiative (INTACOM- Africa) identified communication and massive awareness as a major tool in eliminating child and sexual abuse. Okoye said that it was essential to sensitise market men and women on the need to be more informed and educate their children to prevent such ugly situations.
According to her, it is better to prevent a happening than seek a cure for it.
“Parents are primarily the custodians of the children. They should help prevent the child from sexual abuse.
“Due to recent awareness many Nigerians are now coming out of their shells to talk about the problem unlike years back.
“The situation has shown that the long silence about child sexual abuse has been broken and awareness was coming up unlike before.
“Parents and guardians needs to educate both boys and girls about sex.
“Some parents do not want to talk about sex education and this is a subject that needs to be addressed.
“They have to teach them about issues on sexuality because these children are being exposed to different images through the internet, television and newspapers,’’ she said.