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

After Kenyatta Setback, ICC Struggles to Move Ahead

Collapse of the case against Kenya's president, other setbacks are fueling a debate about International Criminal Court's effectiveness and relevancy More

Video Conservationists Use Science to Preserve Rare Species of Rhino

With just five northern white rhinos left in the world, caretakers hope reproductive science may be able to preserve the gene pool More

Video Opening Trade With Cuba Bittersweet for Some

Long-time Cuban exiles in Miami say news is double-edged for those who had to leave everything behind 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.
Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014i
X
December 23, 2014 7:28 PM
The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Islamic State Emergence Transforms Syria and Iraq in 2014

The emergence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as a potent force in early 2014 changed the dynamics of the region. Their brutal methods - including executions and forced slavery - horrified the international community, drawing Western forces into the conflict. It also splintered the war in Syria, where more than 200,000 Syrians have died in the conflict. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell looks back at a deadly year in the region -- and what 2015 may hold.
Video

Video Massive Study Provides Best Look at Greenland Ice Loss Yet

The Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted, according to a new study released in the Proceedings of the National Academic of Sciences that combines NASA satellite data and aerial missions. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the finding means coastal communities worldwide could be at greater risk, sooner, from the impact of rising seas.
Video

Video US Marines, Toys for Tots Bring Christmas Joy

Christmas is a time for giving in the United States, especially to young children who look forward to getting presents. But some families don't have money to buy gifts. For nearly 70 years, a U.S. Marines-sponsored program has donated toys and distributed them to underprivileged children during the holiday season. VOA's Deborah Block tells us about the annual Toys for Tots program.
Video

Video France Rocked by Attacks as Fear of ISIS-Inspired Terror Grows

Eleven people were injured, two seriously, when a man drove his car into crowds of pedestrians Sunday night in the French city of Dijon, shouting ‘God is Great’ in Arabic. It’s the latest in a series of apparent ‘lone-wolf’ terror attacks in the West. Henry Ridgwell looks at the growing threat of attacks, which security experts say are likely inspired by the so-called "Islamic State" terror group.
Video

Video Russian Moves Provide New Mission for NATO

Russia’s more aggressive military posture in Europe during the past year has pushed NATO to take new steps to strengthen its defenses, providing it, analysts say, with a much-needed new mission. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Jane Monheit Christmas Special

Chanteuse Jane Monheit sings the holiday classic “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and explains why it’s her favorite song of the season.
Video

Video Ugandan Doctors Aid Victims of Sudan's Civil War

In Sudan's state of South Kordofan, the number of amputees as result of civil war is in the thousands, but few have access to sufficient medical help. Adam Bailes recently visited the area and says a small team of Ugandan doctors has been providing remote help, producing new prosthetic limbs for those in need.
Video

Video US Business Groups Press for Greater Access to Cuba

President Barack Obama's decision to do all he can to ease restrictions on U.S. trade, travel and financial activities with Cuba has drawn criticism from some conservatives and Republicans. People who bring tourists to the island and farmers who want to sell more food to Cuba, however, think they can do a lot more business with Cuba. VOA's Jim Randle reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid