Activists call for stringent measures to protect children against violence

Violence against children and youth survey official launch . (Diane Mushimiyimana)

Child rights advocates have called for a comprehensive national plan of action to address violence against children and youth, and that any intervention should be based on nationwide consultations.

 This follows the official launch of Violence against Children Survey (VACYS 2015- 16) in Kigali on Thursday.

The VACYS survey was led by the Ministry of Health, with technical support from UNICEF and the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The survey shows that some children and young people hold beliefs about sex, gender and violence that may put them or their peers at risk and worrying barriers exist to their getting help, such a belief that they are at fault or that violence is not a problem.

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 police or other authorities.

Speaking at the launch, 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,” he 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 youth.

He called for renewed commitment of all stakeholders in the child protection drive to end all types of violence against children.

There is a large body of evidence on the devastating impact of violence on children‘s health and wellbeing.

This study supports these findings. For instance, 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.

Also violent 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.



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