It takes place mostly in the shadows, but sexual violence against children is happening everywhere, regardless of a country’s economic status or its citizens’ quality of life. Yet, child sexual abuse and exploitation is preventable, and there are strategies that have been proven successful in reducing it. When government, civil society and the private sector act together, progress is possible.
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently released a report on child sexual abuse and exploitation, based on a study of the approach which 40 countries took to such offences.
Nigeria was one of the countries included in the study. Overall Nigeria scored 46.4 for its measures to protect children against sexual abuse and exploitation, which is way below the all countries average of 55.4.
The study also made other observations on the scourge of abuse around the world.
Here are 10 things that emerged from the report, titled Out of the Shadows .
1) Just over half (21) of the 40 countries analysed have legal protections for boys within their child rape laws.
2) Sexual abuse is happening everywhere, regardless of a country’s socio-economic status or its citizens’ quality of life.
3) Sexual abuse is increasingly enabled by the internet but at the same time, an experimental internet program is “crawling” the web to find abusive and exploitative images of children to have them reported and removed.
4) Children with disabilities, those displaced through trafficking or forced migration, those living in care institutions and those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender can be especially vulnerable.
5) At household and community level, chaotic lifestyles resulting from neglect, alcohol and substance abuse are linked to most forms of violence against and among children.
6) The absence of protective relationships and environments are factors that are often predictive of sexual violence against children across cultures.
7) Education (from pre-school upwards) for children and after-school programmes can have a shielding effect, but the increased mobility to school and back raises the risk of sexual abuse.
8) Patriarchal family structures and the association of manhood with heterosexual prowess are linked to violence against women and children.
9) Engaging in sexual activity in front of a child is banned in only 19 of the 40 countries.
10) Social stigmas associated with sexual violence against boys discourage formal reporting and are exacerbated by “macho” masculine norms, homophobia and fears of being viewed as feminine, vulnerable or helpless. Boys must also be taught the language of how to report sexual abuse.