Innocent victims of violence

2017-07-07 13:45
SA has 13th highest rate of child homicide.

SA has 13th highest rate of child homicide. (File)

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South African children suffer the highest rate of homicide anywhere in the world, apart from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Nine South African children are killed per 100 000 per year — 200% higher than the global average. It is the 13th highest rate in the world.

An international research report by Save The Children also noted “concerning” levels of “extreme violence” that South African children face.

Violence analyst Crispin Hemson, director of the International Centre of Nonviolence, told The Witness that high levels of violence in the country could have its roots in the unchecked legacy of apartheid violence.

The report, entitled Stolen Childhoods, ranked 172 countries based on factors including child mortality, rate of school dropouts, child pregnancy and child homicide rate. Eight African countries were placed ahead of South Africa, which was placed at 103.

The report found that, annually:

50 000 South African children are victims of violent crime, with 11 000 being killed or seriously assaulted;

There are some 26 000 reported cases of sexual offences against children;

The mortality rate for children below five years old was 39 per 100 000; and

40 000 children die before they reach the age of five.

“In South Africa, we see the rest of Africa as more violent when I find that to be not true,” Hemson told The Witness. “I think SA has not yet come to terms with the degrees of violence [in the country].”

He said violence in South Africa has become “normalised”. “And that’s why it’s so much easier for violence to occur … it’s not seen as out of the ordinary.”

Hemson said that his work with young people revealed “troubling” evidence of violence that children experience at home, generally at the hands of their fathers. “Sometimes this can be homicidal — I know of a father who launched an attack that would have killed the child if the neighbour had not intervened. The attacks usually come from those close to them.”

Hemson said the rate of violence embedded in society can be explained by South Africa’s tortured past. “We’re largely still a traumatised society, and we haven’t yet developed an effective means of coping. During that time [apartheid], there was the consistent killing … and that equalled patterns of violence today, where children can be victims.”

He said this violence was seen across race and class.

Hemson said a solution could lie in teaching about violence in schools.

He explained: “Like with sexual assaults, we actually see that violence is part of being a man [which is] approved within each culture. That is something we must challenge.”

Save the Children SA CEO Gugu Ndebele said: “We need to stop being reactionary. Our emotions flare up when we hear these horrific reports of … attacks on our children — but then we go back to our daily lives. We need to invest in preventing these incidents from taking place.”

The Witness reported last month on the high number of cases recorded of sexual assault against children under 12 in KZN, between January and March.

A report presented at the Provincial Council on Aids said there were increases of sexual assaults in seven of the province’s 11 districts against children between those ages. The uMgungundlovu, iLembe, uMkhanyakude and uThukela districts were the worst affected.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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