The undisclosed truth about child abuse and neglect in Nigeria
”Every child deserves a better life”
In practice, children are at risk of multiple violations of their rights, including violence, trafficking, exploitative labour, child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Over 17.5 million children can be categorized as orphaned and vulnerable. Large numbers of children, including some as young as five, flee poverty, abuse and family breakdown, and end up on the streets. Children living and working on the streets are more prone to illnesses, malnourishment, accidents, drug abuse, arrest, harassment and trafficking. Nigeria is a source, transit and destination country for women and children trafficked for domestic service, prostitution and other forms of exploitative labour. As many as a quarter of Nigeria’s children aged 5-14 are involved in child labour.
In northern Nigeria, many of the street children are Almajiri – young children sent out from their homes to receive a traditional Koranic education, but whose teachers often make them beg or carry out menial jobs.
Negative social norms continue to impact children. Child marriage is highly prevalent, mostly in the northern states. Despite legislation and policies prohibiting female genital mutilation, or cutting (FGM/C) 27 per cent of females in Nigeria have been subjected to this practice, while in a number of southern states FGM/C has been carried out on over 70 per cent of females.
Over 380,000 children have been displaced by the insurgency in the north eastern states. Many children have been killed, maimed and abducted. There are also reports that children have been detained as a result of counter-terrorism operations.
In real terms, there is the danger of the continuous exposure of Nigerian children to s3xual abuse, exploitation, domestic abuse, stigmatisation, and lots more of such negative occurrences, reflecting and perhaps limning the quite abysmal level of laxity and negligence in the system regarding the welfare of the children
According to a study conducted in 2007 in Oyo State, Nigeria shows that lack of parenting skills, poverty, alcohol or drug abuse, illiteracy, and divorce, single parenting and separation are top psycho-social factors sustaining child abuse in the country and until they are kept at bay, attempt to eradicating the menace may be a fruitless endeavour.
A UNICEF survey reveals to us that, in Nigeria, one in 4 girls and one in 10 boys suffers from s3xual molestation and about one in 10 children will be s3xually abused before their 18th birthday. The statistics are both confounding as much as it is horrifying. Unfortunately, some of these children are abused by their parents, step-parents and family members, who are meant to be the first line of protection for them.
There is an extreme weakness of child protection systems in Nigeria and it is worrying to know that the rate of child abuse in Nigeria has suffered a considerable neglect.
What can be done?
Simple; be the voice those children don’t have. Speak up on their behalf.