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Child Abuse in South Africa: Rights and Wrongs

NCJ Number
Child Abuse Review Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: March-April 2008 Pages: 79-93
Linda Richter; Andrew R.L. Dawes
Date Published
March 2008
15 pages
This article reviews the prevalence and scope of child abuse in South Africa, assesses the effectiveness of existing efforts to address it, and recommends ways to prevent and counter it.
South Africa's Constitution contains a specific section that defines the rights of children to education, shelter, health, and freedom from maltreatment. South Africa's post-Apartheid government made commitments to children's rights and well-being, including the implementation of a National Program of Action for children in 1995, which ensured that the concern of children was included in broader social-development strategies. Civil society is also active in calling attention to the rights of children, abuses of child rights, and violence against children. Current estimates of child abuse and neglect in South Africa, narrowly defined, are derived from reported crimes recorded by police, conviction rates from court records, incidents of abuse and neglect reported to child welfare agencies, data from children's phone-in crisis services, and case reports from health and social services for abuse survivors. These data indicate that South Africa has extremely high rates of both physical and sexual abuse of children. The conditions in which abuse occurs include poverty, patriarchy, and gender-related violence, as well as socialized obedience, dependency, and silence imposed on women and children. The prevention of child abuse and neglect and improvement in services for victims requires an ecological approach to identifying factors associated with the problem; a determination of the scale of the problem and where it occurs, using appropriate scientific methods; determination of what interventions are currently operating and evidence of their effectiveness; improvement in collaboration among organizations/agencies currently addressing the problem; monitoring and reporting of incidents of suspected child abuse and neglect; and services for child victims of abuse. 42 references


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