Children are Defiled: Out Of Neglect Or Privation?

by L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu

It is astonishing to read that one in two children in Nigeria is maltreated. Sexual abuse of child mostly occurred to the innocent children who have to work for their living at small ages of 10-15 yrs and greedy take the advantage of these innocent leading them to claustrophobia….But more or less our administration and police is also responsible for these….It takes long time for justice in Nigeria and have to spent a lot of money for police and lawyer and great publicity by media. So how can we expect from a child for to and fro motion around court, leaving his only source of income and fight against crime….Clearly one can never get justice. And this abuse cannot be stopped until or unless there should be strict law and a special NGO, a special court for this purpose.

It is horrifying that some 73 percent of street children in the city are subjected to abuse and suffer from chronic malnutrition. Mortality and morbidity status among the street dwellers has reached an alarming level due to lack of basic healthcare services. The disadvantaged street children are most vulnerable to various complicated diseases because of overcrowding, poor environmental status, and unhygienic foodstuffs. Nigeria has an annual growth rate of urban population. This is the highest rate in the world.

Massive urbanization process is solely responsible for the large segment of street people in Lagos and other developed cities like Port Harcourt and Abuja. This people remain beyond healthcare facilities. We recommend expansion of existing healthcare programs to meet the needs of the street dwellers. A public-private healthcare mechanism may be developed to inform street people about availability of healthcare facilities. The government should adopt a comprehensive child protection policy and ensure sleeping arrangements for floating street children to protect them from any sorts of violence and abuse. It should also take steps to check migration from rural areas to Abuja and other urban areas. For the street dwellers, lack of healthcare facilities is a very big problem.

The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children. When you see the children, the way they are dressed, completely emaciated, you are really moved. The children who sleep in the streets, reduced to begging to make a living, are testimony to unjust, unfair and inhuman policies that we have embarked on. Those in government every day brag about their economic and development achievements but they don’t tell us how these are benefiting children, whose numbers are continuing to increase on the streets.

The reward of economic progress and development will and must be measured by the happiness and welfare of children. Where there is economic progress and development children must no longer be threatened with the scourge of hunger, destitution and hopelessness. Children are the most vulnerable citizens in any society and the greatest of our treasures.

But today, some Nigerian children are increasingly being forced onto the streets by poverty, abuse, abandonment, or as result of being orphaned by AIDS. Youth and Child Development, needs to be taken very seriously. I am not an alarmist on this score. I am simply and boldly putting the reality to us as it stands. The problem of streetism is a time bomb which if allowed growing can explode and have a telling effect on the security and economy of Nigerian people.

Wherever you turn in cities and towns like Aba, Calabar, Dutse and Yola, you will not fail to see street children. They are stopping cars or people to beg or ask for money. Look at them closely – their faces show strain and sadness, their clothes are rugged and dirty, others appear hungry and suffering from ill health and malnutrition. There is something mature beyond their years in their haunted expressions. At night, you can see them hurdled along street corners, in doorways, or in any dry and secluded corner. They are the representatives of a growing multitude of children who have become known as “street children”.

The presence of large numbers of children as young as three on our streets was virtually unheard of prior to the introduction of the current neo-liberal economic policies .This problem requires urgent attention as it threatens the very fabric of Nigerian society. And a starting point would be to get an understanding of who these children are and the factors that turn them into street children.

Street children face untold hardship and danger on the streets – the lack of food, clean water and adequate healthcare. Living on the streets exacts a terrible toll on street children. They are often preying to every physical and moral danger and as they grow older, they often become a danger to others. After such precarious childhoods most of them are condemned to spend their lives excluded from mainstream society. Tomorrow, if present trends continue, they could be blight on our urban civilization.

For us, tomorrow is already here. Street children are not only blight on our urban civilization; they pose a serious obstacle to overall socio-economic development in our country. What stands out is the sad fact that everywhere, children living on the street are ignored, scorned, mistreated and misunderstood by society and by the government. We tend to view these children as troublemakers, a nuisance or menace that needs to be taken off the streets. Few stop to ponder why these children are on the streets, where it is apparent they are not enjoying themselves. Clearly, identifying reasons for the existence of street children is crucial in finding a permanent solution to the problem. It is becoming increasingly clear that there is no single cause for street children. While there are many substantive factors contributing to the existence of street children, increasing mass poverty stands out as a major factor. It is poverty that is breaking up homes and families.

It is poverty that makes grown-ups turn children into sources of income or into articles for sale. It is poverty, particularly in rural areas, that is making young children move away from their homes. And it is poverty that is turning our society into a vicious and uncaring society. Clearly, street children are the victims of our short-sighted policies, or lack of policies. They are victims of an uncaring community that is increasingly being characterized by poverty, breakdown of family life, violence and economic hardships. Of all the agents capable of doing something about the problem of street children, the state is perhaps best suited to tackle the issue.

However, part of the tragedy of street children is the way our government has abandoned them to their fate. With each passing day, it is becoming increasingly clear that our government is unable to give this problem the attention it deserves, and is unintentionally contributing to its continuation. While it is true that the government has taken some measures to try and deal with the problems of the youth like the scheme of training young people in life skills at Nigeria National Youth Service Camp, effective action to address the problem is yet to be taken, very little is being done to address the problem of street children. We are ignoring the problem of street children at our own peril. The traditional response to street children by the government has been repression.

Most Nigerian children are arrested for minor thefts, or roaming around. Detention in harsh circumstances is the common lot of our street children. This tells us more about the real attitude of our government than any examination of its policies. Today, the government is increasingly taking ruthless steps to clear the streets of street children and other unscrupulous characters. They do not offer any valuable alternative to the streets.

Our politicians seem to be helpless in their efforts to resolve the problem of street children, and have to date failed to prescribe plausible solutions which are realistic, down-to-earth, and

concrete. It appears that the government is paying lip-service to the idea of improving care for street children, but it is influenced by the commonly held opinion that since street children will inevitably wind up as criminals, there is little use in spending public funds for their support.

As a result of this, they have been a target of harassment by law enforcement organisations; there are many cases of street children being beaten and detained by police. The little that is being done by the government appears too little to make a difference to the plight of street children. Like the government, the community also stands accused of failing to address the problem of street children.
We as individuals and as a society have failed to live up to our responsibilities as parents and as custodians of the young. The community tends to hide its head in the sand, hoping that the problem will go away.

Unfortunately the problem is not going away but increasing to alarming proportions. Traditionally, a child in a Nigerian society was normally a member of the community and could not be separated from it. This meant that even the entitlement that a child deserved was a community matter. A child in Nigeria used to be the responsibility of each individual member of society and, therefore, children had no need to fend for themselves. They were loved and cared for by society. Today’s children are the responsibility of individual parents and are ignored by the rest of the community.

While the number of street children grows by the day, the community remains silent with the exception of a few individuals and organizations. There is no community outreach to the problem. The few soft-hearted or religious ones will throw a few nairas to these miserable children and move on. There appears to be no community pressure that is being applied to force government action to find a lasting solution to the problem of street children. The community has also failed to organize itself into a dynamic force to address the problem. This is perhaps the saddest and most tragic part of the tragedy that is unfolding in our country. Children are our most valuable commodity, yet we appear to have abandoned them to their fate.

A question that we must increasingly ask ourselves is: how long must it take before the problem of street children attracts the proper attention that it deserves? How many more children must first take to the streets or die because of lack of care on our streets before we can acknowledge that the problem of street children is a very serious one that is likely to affect all of us? The probable answer, given our present day conditions in Nigeria, is that the problem of street children has to grow to enormous proportions before it gets the attention it deserves.

This is a tragedy that cannot remain ignored any longer. There needs to be a firm commitment by all concerned parties to tackle the problem and not just ignore it, hoping that it will go away or that other people are going to come to solve the problem for us. We need to find ways to lessen the incidence of children winding up on the streets. In addition to other measures that may be taken by the government, there is need to strengthen the institution of the family. Policies centred on family can counteract the unanticipated side effects of development, often caused by uncoordinated government policies. A sound policy for strengthening families would recognize the family as the basic unit for the human development and would seek to assist it to cope with change by allowing better access to services.

But families cannot be strengthened in the midst of poverty, human degradation and destitution. Neither can families become pillars of strength in the face of increasing injustice, inequality and income disparity. The problem of underprivileged Nigeria children will become less pronounced if families could overcome poverty. Justice and equitable distribution of resources is likely to have a positive impact on the problem of street children.

The task of helping street children seems Herculean. Clearly it cannot be achieved simply by injections of money, or by merely passing laws. Mere material improvement trickling down to the community level will not help either: all these efforts may even aggravate matters unless they are accompanied by programs which will allow children to develop their potential and by a softening of a punitive attitude towards street children by authorities. There is no longer any reason for governmental complacency. Our children are our country’s future, and our country must invest in them in no uncertain terms.

Everything must be done to protect children. They are the future of every society. Abused children suffer their whole life from a trauma and they have got little chances to lead a happy and normal lifeless is done for abused children in developing countries. Trauma therapies are seldom offered or carried out. The poorest of the poor cannot afford any therapy. It is the duty of The Government of Nigeria to build psychological institutions across India that all registered cases of sexual abuse receive a proper treatment free of charge. This editorial says:”The provisional draft, which has emerged from consultations between the Attorney-General of Nigeria and NGOs, provides for stringent punishments, ranging from three years in prison for sexual harassment to life imprisonment for aggravated sexual assault. More importantly, it deals with sexual abuse in a comprehensive and sensitive manner.”

The most glaring slip is the exclusion of domestic workers from its ambit. As is widely known, there are millions of female domestic workers who toil each day for unaccounted hours (and this is another kind of abuse) in middle and upper middle class homes in Indian cities and towns all over the country. The nature of their work in the privacy of homes makes them most susceptible to all kinds of exploitation, particularly sexual. They are poor and often ignorant of their rights and sometimes even about what constitutes sexual harassment. Of all workers that the Bill describes, it is this segment that most deserves ‘protection’, to use the patronizing word in the title of the Act.

This study appears to have been conducted on moon and not in Nigeria. It appears that it is a manipulation on the part of NGOs to exploit the rich. Onus being put on accused to prove his innocence, life term for alleged crimes, will be a good tool in the hands of politicians, police, NGOs and likes to exploit and malign anybody. This appears to be a scoop on the constitution.

Loop holes in any law should not be in favor of criminals. Law makers are the law breakers. They are setting the loop holes in the law that enables the criminals to escape (may be money making tactic).It affects the faith of people over the law .Government and other organization can work out to get the best, based on the previous understanding and the kind of punishments given to the culprits in other nations. It will work.

A great deal of responsibility for this kind of actions lies with the public. Most of them are not aware of sexual abuse with children and pedophilia. It is important that our community’s watch-dog groups namely, news media organizations take up the issue and spread awareness about such issues among the public. It is only when the public gets outraged about such issues that the government is forced to act.

We can stop such kind of child abuse only through educating children and removing poverty from Nigeria. Being a victim I just want to say that making law is not just whole story of doing great; education related to sex and sexual abuse must be provided to the children/teenagers. By doing this only one can think that the right will be protected as they will be aware what’s happening to them!!

I know personally for a kid it is very difficult to draw a line between right and wrong. And it takes time to recover from the abuse. So if a kid is aware then only he/she can get the

feeling of being abused.

Really it’s very difficult for a child to segregate between the right and wrong. Knowing these we people need to come forward and encourage basic education about the sex. The kid must understand the fact that no one suppose to touch his or her private parts in the absence or at lone places. Second thing is that all of should accept this fact that character of someone is very unpredictable .no matter how intimate we are with someone whether he or she is our relative we must keep an eye on them .This is the most important story.

Child sexual abuse should checked by establishing a large no of NGO groups. Through them only children from remote areas be aware of child sexual harassment

The presence in our cities and other urban areas of large numbers of disgruntled young people can be politically destabilizing. They are the prime targets of those prepared to use violence as a political weapon. Street youths – tough, ruthless, unattached, half-educated, intellectually vulnerable and familiar with secrecy, deception and the subversion of authority – can be perfect recruits. The problem can no longer be ignored. What is clear is that if we are serious in our efforts to promote children welfare, we must pay urgent attention to the plight of street children. There is at present no real alarm or outrage from the government or the general public on the increasing number of children on our streets. These children face starvation, are at the mercy of unscrupulous individuals or a brutal police force and often die from preventable diseases.

We need government policies which will oversee the protection of children and other vulnerable members of society. And such policies, whether one calls them socialist or welfare states, cannot be sneezed at. Indeed, it is important to highlight that the pioneers and most capitalist of states have in place strong measures which protect children and other vulnerable members of society.

The tragedy in our country is the introduction of crude and unhindered liberalization as a strategy of economic and social development. This trend must be reversed in the interest of our children and future generations. It is inconceivable that the welfare of children can be advanced in an environment of mass poverty. It is in this regard that efforts must be made to ensure sustainable development in our country. The government and the community in general needs to put in place viable strategies that will ensure that the plight of children is addressed.

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1 comment

Ibenye ndubisis March 1, 2011 - 5:23 pm

It appears as if children in Nigeria do not have a proper right of anything since they are not making their own money yet. They are extra-maltreated in the name of discipline. They are breeding all the time with no one coming to their help. what a shame. A child could be subjected to torture in the name of correction. Killing a child slowly is no other way better .


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