Protecting children from violence is everyone’s responsibility
Ending violence against children
UNICEF is deeply saddened and seriously concerned by the high rates and cases of violence being reported in Malawi against women and children in the recent months. The statistics indicate an alarmingly widespread and serious violation of human rights and child’s rights to protection from all forms of violence.
Sexual violence against children knows no boundaries and occurs across all parts of society. It can take the form of sexual harassment, sexual abuse and exploitation such as involvement of children in prostitution or pornography. It can take place at homes, institutions, schools, workplaces, and in communities. Most often, the abuse occurs at the hands of someone a child knows and trusts. Many victims of sexual violence, including boys, never tell anyone.
NO CHILD should experience this horrific brutality. Yet, children in Malawi experience high rates of violence with one in five girls and one in seven boys experiencing sexual violence. Most children who are sexually abused in Malawi experience it on multiple occasions. One in three females in Malawi define their first sexual experience as non-consensual.
We also know that of those children, a very small percentage will ever seek professional help. Sixty per cent of girls and 54 per cent of boys who experienced sexual abuse told someone, and yet only less than 10 per cent received professional help (VACs Study, 2015).
Sexual violence has serious effects on children and can result in long-term physical and psychological problems including sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV/AIDS), unwanted pregnancy, stigma, discrimination, physical trauma, psychological distress and learning difficulties. Beyond the horrific impact on individuals, any form of violence leaves severe and long-term scars on families, communities and societies, and results in significant economic and social costs for countries
UNICEF is supporting both the government and civil society organizations to raise awareness about violence against children, its effects and how to deal with it.
- We are strengthening community-based complaints and feedback mechanisms and rolling out safe schools initiatives to ensure that all cases of violence are reported and responded to.
- Services such as One Stop Centres at health facilities, Community Victims Support Units, Police Victim Support Units, Children’s Corners, Child Justice Courts, District Social Welfare Offices are all being supported to provide adequate services to survivors.
- UNICEF also supports training of key protection workforce such as Community Child Protection Workers, Social Welfare Officers, Police Child Protection and Victim Support Officers, Police Prosecutors and Investigators, Health workers, Magistrates and Judicial officers on violence against women and children and provision of appropriate services.
- In collaboration with the Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary, UNICEF supports efforts to strengthen the legislative and policy frameworks on sexual violence against women and children and its application in Courts.
Call to Action
UNICEF is calling upon all stakeholders – parents, religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society organizations and the Government to join hands in preventing and responding to sexual violence nationwide. We need to be outraged, but more than that we need to act now and give the survivors the justice, protection, health, education and social services they need to recover while ensuring that all actors involved respect the confidentiality and anonymity of the survivors for their safety and protection.
UNICEF is committed to working with all to ensure that all Malawian children can thrive in a protective environment.
We need to work together to change social norms that condone sexual violence. We also need to stop further victimizing children through social media, sharing of pictures, videos and details of child survivors of abuse. Breaking the silence and stigma surrounding sexual violence is an important part of getting children the help they deserve.
If you suspect a child is at risk or has suffered sexual or any form of violence, please seek help immediately from the police, social welfare, or a reputable NGO. You can also call the National Child Helpline toll-free on 116 or Police Mthetsa Nkhanza line on 932.
Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility!