News / Africa

Child Sexual Abuse Growing In Cameroon, Study Says

Survey blames reluctance to speak out

Researchers from the Cameroon branch of the international NGO The School as an Instrument of Peace, or EIP in French, say the figure shows the scale of the problem nationwide.

It reinforces the findings of a study conducted by the local media, between January and March. That survey showed many children are the victims of rape, incest, prostitution, sexual trafficking and forced marriage.

Some say the findings show that no child is safe in Cameroon.

Catherine Moto Zeh is secretary general of EIP and coordinator of the study. She says the sexual abuse of children in Cameroon is far more rampant than previously thought.

“People who abuse children are found in all communities – among teachers, among parents, among religious people,” she says. “Most of the time, we think that only little girls are abused; even little boys now are being abused too; even women abuse young children. Children from two years old to 18 years old are being sexually abused.”

Experts agree the situation in Cameroon is one example of what’s going on across Africa. Parents, guardians and even victims themselves often don’t speak out, in an effort to avoid stigma and disgrace.

But the immediate and long-term consequences can be devastating to the health and social development of victims. The involvement of children in sexual activities they don’t fully understand and are not developmentally prepared for has harmful consequences. They include physical injury, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, poor performance in school and rejection by their peers and even adults. The psychological problems can last far into adulthood.

Melissa is a victim. She is only 30 but has been married and divorced three times. Her parents did not report her abuse as a child and are only now realizing how much it’s affected her life.

She says she was repeatedly raped at puberty by an uncle and grew up with relationship problems she has never been able to overcome. Melissa says memories of the abuse have permanently haunted her, leading to a distrust of men and causing the frequent divorces. She has resorted to drinking alcohol and thinks she may never marry again.

The WHO notes that about 13 percent of school-going children in sub-Saharan Africa are sexually abused. In Cameroon, watchdog organizations say the figure is more like 40 percent. Officials in the Ministry of Social Affairs say the numbers are exaggerated but have no statistics.

Health officials say government and communities are not giving child abuse enough attention.

The WHO says the contributing factors include poverty, the increasing breakdown of families, armed conflicts, and weak law enforcement . Another contributor is a widespread superstition that sexual intercourse with virgins, including babies, is a cure for HIV/AIDS.

EIP Cameroon, backed by the Canadian government and local child protection organizations, has begun a campaign to educate the public on the need to break the silence and report cases as they occur.

Cameroon has ratified several treaties protecting children, but they’re not strictly enforced. The Cameroon Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect says the few abusers who are eventually dragged to court for long procedures are either acquitted for lack of enough evidence or enjoy lenient sanctions. Sometimes perpetrators offer money to relatives of victims to avoid prosecution or threaten the victims so they’ll keep quiet.

Moto Zeh says everybody must denounce brutality against children.

“It is time for the community to do something because the problem is serious. Prevention is very important. We have to educate the community; then the society has to take laws.”

She says, “Cameroon has very good laws, but those laws have to be applied effectively so that people who abuse children are given the treatment they deserve.”

The campaigners are finishing a document to send to parliament. It recommends laws requiring parents and guardians to report cases. The document also calls for the creation of centers for clinical care and counseling for victims, as well as community-based monitoring. In addition, they are lobbying for bigger penalties for convicted abusers.

They say until such measures are put in place, and enforced, the problem will only get worse.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs