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Violence and abuse

© UNICEF Mozambique/T.Delvigne-Jean

Protecting children and women against violence and abuse

Progress and challenges

While significant steps have been taken to improve the legal framework for the protection of children in Mozambique, child rights violations are a growing concern in a number of areas.

Child trafficking

Trafficking children to exploit them as sex-workers and domestic workers in the region is a growing concern. A report by the International Organisation on Migration estimates that approximately one thousand children and women are trafficked from Mozambique to South Africa every year for the purpose of exploitative labour and commercial sexual exploitation.

Violence, exploitation and abuse

Sexual exploitation and abuse against children and women also occur at home, in the workplace and at school. In a study done by the Ministry of Women and Social Action, as many as 34 per cent of women surveyed reported having been beaten and ten per cent of the respondents reported to have been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse and harassment is also a problem in schools. Case studies suggest that 8 per cent of primary school children have been sexually abused and another 35 per cent have experienced sexual harassment.

Child marriage

Mozambique has one of the world’s highest rates of child marriage. Child marriage compromises a girl’s right to education and health. 

About 36 per cent of married girls aged 15 to 19 have no education. Teenage pregnancy and childbirth is associated with poor health outcomes for both the mother and child.

Children in conflict with the law

A study conducted on children in conflict with the law found that at least 25 per cent of all prison inmates interviewed were under the age of 18, and 18 per cent were under the age of 16.

Children in conflict with the law are mainly male, poor, orphaned or separated from their families and living on the streets. The prison conditions they endure are in direct violation of their rights. Children inmates often share rooms with adults, exposing them to abuse and violence.

For children in contact with the law, either charged with committing offences or as witnesses in court, there is also a serious lack of appropriate protection of their basic human rights.

The justice system suffers from many gaps of coverage, lacks adequately trained staff and the court infrastructure is minimal. Adherence to juvenile justice laws and child protection mechanisms remains unclear.

According to Mozambican law, children under the age of 16 are not criminally liable and should be diverted out of the criminal justice system.

However a study conducted on children in conflict with the law showed that at least 25 per cent of all prison inmates interviewed were under the age of 18, and 18 per cent were under the age of 16.

© UNICEF/MOZA-01767/G.Pirozzi

What is being done

Despite these worrying statistics, important progress has been made to protect the rights of children and women who are victims of violence, abuse and exploitation.

Legal framework

A major achievement is the approval of the Children’s Act in 2008. The new legislation reflects a commitment on the part of the Government to provide a legal framework for the protection of children, in accordance with the principles established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Another key area of UNICEF’s work is the support provided to the Ministry of the Interior in the creation of more than 200 specialised Police Centres for children and women who are victims of violence, abuse and exploitation. These support centres provide a safe space for victims to report incidents of violence and access social services.
 
UNICEF also works with the Ministry of Justice to improve the response of the juvenile justice system to children in conflict with the law, which has led to the creation of six Children’s Court sections since 2007. The courts aim to reduce the backlog of pending adjudication and improve the capacities of the judicial system to effectively handle cases of children in conflict with the law.

The way forward

From 2009 to 2011, UNICEF will continue to support the Government and other partners to strengthen the protective environment for children, focusing on five main areas.

Legal reform – UNICEF supports the Ministry of Women and Social Action and civil society partners to improve the legal framework for children, including:

  • Disseminating the Children’s Act and other child protection-related national Action Plans to key stakeholders.
  • Improving the protective environment for orphaned or abandoned children and advocating for the ratification of the Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption.

Justice for Children – UNICEF supports the judicial system towards more child-friendly, gender sensitive procedures, including:

  • Supporting the Ministry of the Interior to establish and operationalise 50 model Police Centres to support victims of sexual exploitation and abuse.
  • Supporting the Ministry of Justice to establish and operationalise 11 specialised Children’s Court section in each province.

Child protection systems – UNICEF works with a range of Government partners to strengthen the capacities of the social welfare and justice sectors, including:

  • Establishing and operationalising an independent Body to monitor the implementation of the Children’s Act.
  • Identifying capacity gaps in the social welfare and justice sectors and develop a strategy for filling those gaps.
  • Developing and implementing regulatory frameworks and guidelines on care and support for child victims of violence and children in conflict with the law.
  • Incorporating training modules on the Children’s Act and child protection, referral mechanism in the regular training curriculum of the police, social welfare and judiciary training institutions.

Research, data collection systems and monitoring – In this area, UNICEF’s support to Government and civil society partners includes:

  • Conducting a study on violence against children and disseminate the results to key development partners to advocate for application of greater protection mechanisms for children.
  • Collecting and disseminating information on key indicators of child victims of violence and children in conflict with the law to raise awareness and improve protections mechanisms.

In the communication for development area, UNICEF supports a range of activities aiming to address social norms and behaviors, including:

  • Activities to ensure that communities know how to protect children from violence, abuse and exploitation.
  • Building the capacity of activists and the media to contribute to the prevention of violence against children by influencing cultural norms and public opinion.
  • Monitor media coverage on child rights.

 

 
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