A new report on child abuse makes for depressing reading and raises fundamental questions about the morality and integrity of our society. It also raises serious concerns about the enforcement of laws and regulations on child safety.
The report by Childline Kenya, a non-governmental organisation, shows that more than 30,000 children have been exposed to brutal encounters such as trafficking, abduction, child labour, torture, neglect and sexual assault. But this figure is conservative, given that many more cases go unreported. It is a crying shame that these crimes still occur although the Constitution spells out robust children’s rights and the Children Act provides tough penalties for culprits.
Though the report blames the prevalence of abuse on ignorance about children’s rights, a more plausible reason is lack of enforcement of the law. It is a shame that even when child abusers are apprehended and insurmountable evidence adduced against them, they often go unpunished. Worse, parents or guardians prefer out-of-court settlements, undermining the judicial process. Police and even administrators rarely treat child abuse, especially forced labour, as serious crimes and hardly investigate them. The laws on child abuse must be enforced. Public education is vital and police must pay special attention to children’s protection.