By Alexia Bizumuremyi
As figures of violence against children arise, activists advocating for their rights call everyone’s hand as well as government’s urgent action to fight violence against children and youth.
The call was made on Thursday May 17, 2018 in Kigali during the dissemination of the “Violence against Children and Youth survey (VACYS) report conducted in 2015-2016.
The survey was led by the Ministry of Health, with technical support from UNICEF and the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It shows that some children and young people hold beliefs about sex, gender and violence that may put them or their peers at risk.
Children and young people often, but not always, tell friends and family when they have experienced violence. However, they do not usually formally report such violence to the police or other authorities.
Dr Parfait Uwaliraye, the Director General of Planning, Health Financing and Information system at the Ministry of Health, said the figures give a benchmark for further intervention based on tangible evidence.
“Violence against children and youth happens in our communities; let’s join efforts to end it. It is possible to create a safe and violence free relationship between children and their parents and caregivers, including training parents and other caregivers in non-violent disciplining model,” Uwaliraye said.
He urged all actors who are responsible for child protection to join hands and come up with tangible response to all forms of violence against children.
The research was sampled on 1,182 boys and young men, and 1,032 girls and young women aged 13-24 randomly selected to be representative of the wider population.
Some of the key findings from the study indicate that half of the young women aged 18-24 who were interviewed about violence during childhood had experienced some form of violence before the age of 18, compared to 65% of males.
Physical violence against boys is the most common form of violence, followed by physical violence against girls, sexual violence against girls and emotional violence against boys.
37.2% of girls and 59.5% of boys (physical violence); 23.9% of girls and 4.6 % of boys (sexual violence); 11.8 % girls, 17.3% boys (emotional violence)
The UNICEF country representative, Oliver Petrovic, said that sexual, physical, and emotional violence greatly affects the youth.
He called for renewed commitment from all stakeholders in the child protection drive to end all types of violence against children.
“UNICEF is committed to ending violence against children and young people. We commend the government for completing this important study, and pledge our support to develop and implement the national plan of action in response to these survey findings. Violence against children is preventable, it is everyone’s responsibility to take urgent action to fight it,” said Petrovic.
The study states that 32% of young women who had experienced emotional abuse as children had contemplated suicide. 47 per cent of young men aged 18-24 who had been sexually abused as a child has experienced mental distress.
Furthermore, according to the survey, sexual abuse can lead to unplanned and unwanted pregnancies among young women who had experienced unwanted completed sex in childhood, 48% reported unwanted pregnancy as a result.
The national plan of action that will be developed from the findings will include multi-sectoral interventions to prevent and respond to violence against children and young people.
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