Justice for children
Children deprived of liberty in West Africa face severe ill treatment and grave human rights violations. This includes unnecessary confinement in unsafe and inhumane living conditions, a high risk of sexual and physical abuse, acute malnutrition, illness and psychological trauma. Children in the region are commonly detained without charges or for offences that should be handled by protection authorities, such as child prostitution, begging and witchcraft. Poor children and children from marginalized groups are also overrepresented in the system, making up the majority of detained children in many countries.
The lifelong damage resulting from detention and abuse of children is well documented. Children deprived of their liberty are more likely to be illiterate, excluded and remain poor. Research also demonstrates that trauma associated with abusive prison conditions, corporal punishment, rape and persistent ill treatment have significant consequences on a child’s long term cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. Once labelled a “delinquent,” boys and girls are often stigmatized and shunned by their families and communities, leading to a life of rejection, shame and poverty.
Child-Friendly Legal Aid in Africa