Sexual abuse of young children in southern Africa
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How does one begin to understand and respond to the appalling levels of sexual abuse and rape of young children in southern Africa, children who have not yet reached puberty? What is it about our societies that renders so many children vulnerable to abuse? And why is it that we are failing so dismally to protect children despite the provisions of humanistic constitutions adopted in the region and international laws such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child to which we are signatories? Why are abused children continuing to fall through the cracks of our protection and justice systems? What is to be done to prevent the abuse of young children, and what can be done to assist children, their caregivers and perpetrators who, themselves, are oftentimes victims of their own histories, circumstances and personal inadequacies? Sexual Abuse of Young Children in Southern Africa is the first attempt in the region to grapple with the full complexity of these questions. Understandably, child sexual abuse is a highly emotive issue. Just as we need vigorous action and advocacy to protect all children and assist those who are abused, so too we need to understand the problem. Improved understanding will enhance our ability to prevent, protect and heal, and it will strengthen the arms of those who advocate on behalf of abused children. Neither the causes nor the solutions to child sexual abuse can be understood by one discipline. We face a multifaceted problem. For that reason, this volume includes contributions from key players with a range of expertise. Among them are legal and policy researchers, child rights activists, clinical practitioners, social anthropologists and child development research specialists. The book is in five parts. The opening section confronts the reader with the realities of sexual abuse in pre-pubertal children, and proceeds to a discussion of the way abuse is represented in the press. The second section of the book presents the main findings concerning the individual, socio-economic and socio-cultural correlates of child sexual abuse. Section Three covers South African legal and policy responses to the problem, while the fourth section presents accounts of interventions on behalf of abused children drawn from South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The book concludes with critical reflections on the state of knowledge in the field and suggests priorities for policy and research. The authors and editors make the point that one of the primary roots of sexual abuse, rape and related violence against women and children is because many men assume that women and children are naturally subordinate to them and duty-bound to meet their needs. As long as such attitudes prevail, and are reinforced by culture, politics, economics and interpersonal relations, the potential for violence and sexual abuse to women and children will remain.