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

    Video Somali, AU Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    Somalia’s Western backers frustrated over country’s slow progress in establishing its armed forces to bring security after 25 years of chaos

    Israel Makes Push for Gaza Strip Recovery

    After years of economic blockade and attempts to disable Hamas, Israeli leaders eventually realized that Hamas’ downfall could lead to chaos or the rise of a more radical Jihadist group

    Slump in Chinese Tourists Hitting Hong Kong Retail

    Mainland Chinese account for up to three-quarters of visitors to Hong Kong, but that number is falling, and shopping centers are struggling to 'shift gears' and maintain sales

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shababi
    X
    Henry Ridgwell
    April 28, 2016 4:20 PM
    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Town Receives Refugees but Lacks Resources

    A wave of refugees is pouring into the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria as a result of fighting between rebel forces and Islamic State militants. VOA’s Amina Misto went to the town and reports local authorities are finding it difficult to cope with this influx of internally displaced people. Bronwyn Benito narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Build Human Tissue on Animal Matrix

    The question has always been, if a gecko can grow back its tail, why can't we regenerate our lost body parts? Well, maybe we can, someday. Scientists are moving towards the ability to rebuild fully functioning organs, and have made significant progress replacing muscles and other tissue.
    Video

    Video Containing Chernobyl Radiation Continues 30 Years After Explosion

    April 26 marks the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Hundreds were killed following the explosion and it's estimated that thousands more have died from cancers caused by the radiation. Henry Ridgwell traveled to Chernobyl and reports for VOA on the continuing efforts to decommission the site -- and on the fledgling plans for a new future in the vast exclusion zone.
    Video

    Video Frustration Builds Among Refugees Trapped at Macedonian Border

    On the Greek border with Macedonia, 12,000 refugees continue to wait. Since the route to the rest of Europe was closed last month, the makeshift camp at Idomeni has seen protests and tear gas. But while those here wait, their frustration grows — as do reports of people attempting to find new ways of continuing their journey. John Owens reports from Idomeni.
    Video

    Video Researchers: Bees Help Kenyan Farmers Fend Off Elephants

    Elephant crop-raiding continues to be a major source of human-wildlife conflict in Kenya, so one elephant researcher is helping to alleviate the problem near Tsavo East National Park with beehive fences, which use elephants’ natural aversion to bees to deter them from farms. VOA’s Jill Craig visited the area ahead of this month's Giants Club Summit, which will bring together dignitaries at Mount Kenya to find solutions to combat poaching, the No. 1 threat to elephants.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora