Today marks the start of Child Protection Week 2015. Once again, government has pushed the date out at the last minute from the 25th to the 31st, one must assume because they once again are not ready! Last year it was also delayed by more than a week, as government tried to recover from their hangover after Jacob Zuma's 2014 re-election campaign, making it abundantly clear where their priorities lie.
At Courage, we believe one of the biggest challenges facing Child Protection in our country, is this exact lack of attention, prioritization and focus. The South African government finds it very hard to comment on the state of our children and their general well being, as very little information, insight, measurement or evaluation exists on the subject. One has to ask whether this is intentional, to facilitate deniability, or just complete mismanagement on the part of our department of social development? I recall when asked about the issue of child abandonment in 2012, Sello Mokoena, spokesman for the Gauteng Department of of social development, stated that he did not know the extent of the problem and that more research was needed. He went on to say that "given current media reports, it would seem the problem is increasing. One cannot emphatically say it is. This issue needs to be researched". And yet here we sit in 2015, and still no research has been undertaken by government on the subject. The only research I am aware of is my own masters dissertation in the field of anthropology, that looks at child abandonment in the context of African ancestral beliefs, however, this is a qualitative study and still cannot answer the important question of exactly how may South African children are subjected to this fate (click here to download the report) . From this study I was able to ascertain that this information on child abandonment is available from the police and the morgues in South Africa, however, government for some reason chooses not to capture these statistics?
The problem with no accurate, current or bench-marked statistical research on the subject, is that if we do not know what the extent of the problem is, how are we able to address the issues effectively, if at all? Courage has identified 35 unique child protection challenges, which it summarises into seven dis-empowerment themes, these are detailed below. For more information on Courage, download our Courage Child Protection community engagement programme for printing or electronic usage, and be a part of the solution,
CHILD PROTECTION FACTS LINKED TO COURAGE DIS-EMPOWERMENT THEMES
The following information summarises what we know and what we don’t know into the seven Courage Dis-empowerment themes or categories.
1. Societal breakdown, violence and inequality:
- Poverty: 56% of South Africa’s children live below the poverty line (2014). South Africa is ranked as the most unequal society in Africa in terms of the Gini coefficient (2014).
- Inequality & Discrimination: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, various forms of racial, gender and sexual discrimination are reported on daily in South Africa. Children living in a female vs male headed household are more likely to experience hunger, less likely to have access to adequate water and sanitation, and are also disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic (2010). The recent spate of xenophobic attacks indicate significant discrimination (2015), a study in Gauteng revealed that 35% or respondents agreed with the statement, “send all foreigners home”. In the same study, 73% of black respondents agreed or agreed strongly with the statement “I would never trust a white person”, and between 91 and 100% of respondents do not trust their neighbours and believe that nobody cares about them (2014).
- Social Security: Over 10.4 million children receive a social security grant and over 500 000 children are registered for foster care grants in South Africa (2011).
- Access to a safe family environment & belonging:
- Only 32% children live with both their parents in South Africa, 39% live with only their mothers, 4% with their fathers, and 24% with extended family (2012).
- The 2012/2013 Annual Report of the Department of Justice reported a 28% increase in new divorce matters, and that divorce actions contribute 89% of the total number of actions registered for the period under review.
- There was a minor drop (4%) in new domestic violence criminal cases registered (11 700 in total), however 3 369 cases were still outstanding and 7 053 cases had been withdrawn.
- The number of maintenance enquiries has increased by 50%, and orders granted by 56%. Half of SA’s children live without daily contact with their father (2013).
- Teenage Pregnancy: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, in 2009, 30% of teenagers reported ‘ever having been pregnant’ in South Africa.
- Exposure to violence and social unrest: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, a national youth lifestyle study in 2008 found that 50% of youth witnessed someone in their community intentionally hurting another, and more than a quarter felt unsafe in their community (2012). 27% of high school learners feel unsafe at school while 18% have been threatened with a weapon (2008).
- Access to legal representation and justice: No national statistics are kept/shared. All children are entitled to legal aid in South Africa, however, access is believed to be limited. A report on the experience of going to court identified that most children felt scared, nervous, embarrassed and disappointed, and 40% felt they had not been given a chance to tell their story. The majority had been transported or held with adults placing them at risk of abuse in the system (2011). The number of children in prison and care facilities (due to diversion) has declined but is still significant (2012).
2. The exploitation of children:
- Child trafficking & illegal adoption: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, it is estimated that over 100 000 people are trafficked annually in SA for sexual exploitation, forced labour, drugs, organ trafficking and illegal adoption (2013).
- Child labour: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, a study in 2010 found that 784 000 children were vulnerable in the area of child labour:
- 116 000 children were doing work prohibited in terms of the law.
- 431 000 children were working excessive for their age.
- 11 000 children’s schooling was being impacted adversely due to work.
- 36 000 children were absent from school due to work related activity.
- 290 000 children being injured or exposed to hazardous conditions.
- Sexual Exploitation, prostitution and pornography: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, it is estimated that there are over 40 000 child prostitutes in SA, again this figure is believed to be low (2004). SA is often compared to Thailand as a centre for child prostitution and paedophile/pornography crime syndicates.
- Child marriage: No national statistics are kept/shared in South Africa, however, 24% of girls aged 15 to 19 years are married or in a union in Sub-Saharan Africa (2012). This is not believed to be a common practice in SA, however, the practice of Ukuthwala (where a young woman is abducted and forced into marriage) is still being practiced in rural parts of the country, with many traditional leaders still openly supporting it.
3. Low self-esteem and personal responsibility:
- Registration, identity and citizenship: Although registration of children has improved in South Africa (95%), the new Home Affairs rule of registering a child within 30 days of their birth or facing stricter measures, has created some challenges for the high number of abandoned children in the country.
- HIV/AIDS Stigma: There are 410 000 registered HIV/AIDS positive children (2012) and over 5.2 million people living with HIV in SA. A study in 2011 found that a combination of familial AIDS, food insecurity and abuse
- Bullying: 57% of children claim to have been bullied in schools in SA (2013). Cyber bullying is believed to be increasing with up to 40% of students experiencing harassment via the internet, sms or voice calls at an Eastern Cape university (2009), no national statistics are kept/shared for the school environment.
- Exposure to gangsterism: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, this is believed to be rife in the Western Cape. Organised crime is also believed to be on the increase nationally following high profile arrests and gang activity. A school survey in Manenberg Cape Town found that nearly half the boys surveyed had loaded a gun and a third knew where to purchase a gun.
- Self-harming and Suicide: One in four South African teens have attempted suicide and one in three hospital admissions for suicide involve youth (2014).
- Eating disorders: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, it is more likely to affect young women (90%) during adolescence/young adulthood (2013).
- Youth unemployment: 50% of 15-34 year olds unemployed in SA (2014).
4. The abuse of children:
- Physical abuse: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, smaller regional studies report between 55% and 70% of children experiencing some form of physical abuse from their caregiver (1997 – 2012). In 2012 there were 12 645 common assaults reported and 10 630 assaults with grievous bodily harm.
- Child murder and attempted murder: In 2012 there were 793 child murders and 758 attempted murders (this number has declined slightly from past year).
- Sexual abuse: 52% of the 50 000 crimes committed against children in 2011/2012 were of a sexual nature. 25 862 sexual offences were reported (61% of children under 15 years of age, and 29% between the ages of 0 and 10 years). All studies cite severe under-reporting due to fear of recrimination, lack of access to child protection services or the fear of further abuse in the justice care system. The prevalence of rape and multiple perpetrator rape is unusually high in South Africa with 70 000 cases of sexual assault reported in 2012. Experts believe that this figure could be multiplied by 25 due to lack of reporting, indicating a possible figure of 1.7 million victims annually (2012).
- Emotional abuse: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, emotional abuse is inherent in all forms of child abuse. Childline SA has reported a substantial increase in the reporting of emotional abuse with the number of cases doubling from 2 065 in 2006 to 4 827 in 2008 (2012).
- Corporal punishment in the home: 58% of parents report smacking their children and 33% report using a belt or object (2010).
- Corporal punishment in schools: 1 in 5 cases of sexual assault occurs in our schools, and a national study found that a third of perpetrators of rape are educators. There are also many reported incidents of learners engaging in sexual acts with educators for money or goods due to poverty (2012). Corporal punishment is prohibited in SA schools, however, a national survey found that over 50% of children experience it (2012).
- Abuse of special needs children: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, of the approximately 1 million children with disabilities in SA, studies have found that these children have a higher prevalence of neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse than other children (2012).
- Abuse in the Justice Care System: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, a recent report found that over a third of registered child and youth care centres do not meet the required ratio of child to youth care workers. The report also found that a lack of monitoring of children in facilities and a lack of implementation of policies and compliance norms and standards have resulted in abuse and/or neglect (2012). Between 9 000 and 13 000 children are arrested on a monthly basis by SA police (2010).
- Violence against or abuse of sexual minorities: No national statistics are kept/shared, but incidents of “corrective rape” have been widely publicised in the media and a study conducted in 2003 found that 71% of homosexual females had experienced discrimination, harassment and abuse, and 73% of males had experienced threats of physical violence and abuse (2012).
5. Addiction and helplessness:
- FASD: No national statistics are kept/shared, but South Africa is believed to have one of the highest incidences of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder globally, with the greatest area of concern being the Western Cape (2014).
- Parent drug or alcohol abuse: 1 in 10 parents struggle with drug or alcohol addiction in South Africa (2013). 15% of children report times in their lives when one or both parents were too drunk to care for them (2009). 27% of perpetrators of sexual assault are intoxicated at the time of the crime (2010). Over 90% of murder cases are linked to alcohol and drugs (1997). Blood alcohol concentration tested positive in 58% of homicide victims, 52% of transport-related accidents and 37% of suicides in 2005.
- Child drug, alcohol or gaming addiction: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, a DSD report in 2010 states that the numbers are increasingly younger and female. There is also an increase in the use of serious drugs such as whoonga or nyope, heroin, crack cocaine and tik (2014). Binge drinking associated with teenage pregnancy is also believed to be on the increase (2012). Internet and gaming addiction and excessive screen time for very young children are also believed to be on the rise.
6. Ignorance and corruption:
- Illegal/late abortions: No national statistics are kept/shared, but it is believed that 50% of all abortions in SA are conducted through unsafe channels (2013). Illegal abortions are estimated at 100 000 per year and are considered to be one of the leading cause of death for children aged 0 to 4 years (2010).
- Ignorance of children’s rights: No national statistics are kept/shared on the levels of awareness of children of their rights. More than 50% of learners stated that they did not know corporal punishment was illegal in 2005.
- Harmful cultural practices:
- Female circumcision: No national statistics are kept/shared, but this is not a common practice in SA with only a few reported incidents.
- Harmful male circumcision: In 2013, 80 boys died from botched circumcisions and a further 300 boys were rescued from illegal initiation schools, and hospitalised due to gangrene, septicemia and dehydration.
- Virginity testing: No national statistics are kept/shared, and although this practice discriminates against young women, it has been revived in many rural and urban communities in SA under the guise of preventing the spread of HIV.
- Child marriage: No national statistics are kept/shared, and although illegal, the practice of Ukuthwala is still practiced in some rural communities in SA. In 2009 it was reported that 20 girls in the Eastern Cape were forced to drop out of school every month due to the practice (2012).
- Using children’s body parts for muti or traditional
- medicine: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, there have been reported incidents of traditional healers, using the body part of children for muti or medicine. This is often ascribed to its powerful nature due to the child being uncorrupted or innocent.
- Ignorance of child protection challenges (no monitoring or measurement): Of the 52 different areas pertaining to child protection outlined in this summary, 31 do not have accurate national statistical references and are only estimates. The studies that are done, are often only conducted on an ad hoc basis meaning that there is no understanding of trends in child protection challenges over time. There is therefore very little understanding of the scope, extend and impact of child protection challenges facing South Africa today due to a complete lack of monitoring or measurement.
7. Neglect and non-delivery:
- Child neglect: No accurate national statistics are kept/shared, however, 45% of children admitted to registered child and youth care centres are due to abandonment and neglect. Over 4000 cases of child neglect or ill-treatment are reported annually (2010).
- Child abandonment: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, over 3500 children were estimated to be abandoned in 2010, and this number is believed to be increasing.
- Orphans: There are over 3.54 million orphans (2012)
- Children living and working on street: No national statistics are kept/shared, but the estimated number of children living on the street is 10 000, many child protection experts believe this number to be far higher with the increase in refugees and unaccompanied minors.
- Child headed households: No national statistics are kept, but it is estimated that there were 90 000 children living in child headed households in 2010 with limited access to social grants (2012).
- Children living in institutions: No accurate national statistics are kept, but an estimated 21 000 children are believed to be living in institutions (2012). This estimate is thought to be very low due to the many informal children’s homes that are not registered in SA.
- Adoption: Adoptions continue to decline with only 1448 adoptions taking place in 2014, a decline of more than 50% since 2004.
- Access to a secure home: 1.7 million children (9%) live in informal housing in South Africa, such as shacks in backyards or squatter settlements (2010).
- Access to adequate nutrition: 3.3 million children are underfed daily in SA (2010) and 1 in 5 children are stunted as a consequence of chronic nutritional deprivation (2010). Conversely, more than 17% of South African children between the ages of 1 and 9 living in urban areas are overweight, according to the Medical Research Council of SA (2011).
- Access to adequate healthcare: 83% of children have access to healthcare, but only 4 in 10 children with HIV have access to antiretroviral treatment (2012/2013). Over 50 000 children under the age of 5 die every year primarily from respiratory infections, diarrhea, anemia and malnutrition. Life expectancy is 52.3 years (2012).
- Access to services: 34% of children do not have access to electricity and 31% do not have access to adequate sanitation.
- Access to education: 99% have access to primary education, but only 43% have access to an early childhood development programme.
- Access to recreation and play: No national statistics are kept/shared in terms of access, however, at least half of South African children are not active enough (exercise less than an hour a day), take part in some kind of organised sport or recreational activity and spend on average 3 hours a day watching TV (2014).
- Support of special needs children: No national statistics are kept/shared, however, a report in 2012 found that 10% of children with disabilities do not attend school and that they have little to no access to ECD programmes (2012). Children with disabilities are less likely to have access to adequate housing, water and sanitation than their non-disabled peers (2011). There are also insufficient support services, qualified therapists and special needs school to accommodate them (2011).