Violence against Children in Zambia: Findings from a National Survey, 2014

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1.1 Introduction

Violence against children is a problem affecting over one billion children and youth annually worldwide. Violence and exploitation of children undermines the victims' social, economic and human rights, with significant negative health and social consequences that can affect them throughout their lifespans. Violence against children includes all forms of sexual, physical, emotional or psychological abuse, as well as other forms of injury, maltreatment, exploitation, neglect, or negligent treatment.

Besides direct physical injury resulting from violence, the health impacts of violence include disabilities, depression, reproductive and physical health problems. Violence also increases the risk of engaging in behaviours that have a negative impact on health, such as smoking, high-risk sexual behaviour, and alcohol and 2 drug misuse.

Perpetrators of violence against children can be both adults and other children, including but not limited to parents, guardians, family members, friends, acquaintances, and other adults in the community. Violence occurs across different contexts and in many settings such as the home, schools, within care and justice systems, the workplace and public spaces in the community.

In 1989, the United Nations adopted and opened for ratification and accession the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Zambia signed on 30 September 1990. The CRC states that all children have the right to be protected against all forms of violence, exploitation and abuse “irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, 3 property, disability, birth or other status” . Over the last decade, children's rights to protection have gained increased recognition on international, regional and national agendas.

Despite this increased attention, data on the prevalence of violence against children worldwide are still limited. Additionally, as seen with violence against women, violence against children is subject to under-reporting in 2 official statistics, police reports and hospital data. In 2006, the United Nations issued the World Report on Violence against Children, which revealed the grim reality of violence experienced regularly by children worldwide. This report highlighted the unfortunate truth that the lack of data surrounding violence against 4 children undermines potential solutions.

In sub-Saharan Africa, scientific research on the prevalence and incidence of child violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation is still in its nascent stages. However, the search for quality data on the scale and nature of such maltreatment for the purpose of informing appropriate state planning and budgeting is gaining momentum.

Although evidence concerning the magnitude of various forms of child exploitation, such as child prostitution and child labour in the region, is still difficult to capture, a few development organizations and universities are making progress. These organizations have conducted small-scale surveys on violence against children in an 5,6,7,8 attempt to extrapolate findings.

The disclosure rate following violence is very low, partly due to a culture of silence and shame. Furthermore, social norms surrounding violence generally support the beliefs that violence perpetrated against children in the home is a private affair, physical violence is an acceptable way to discipline and educate children, and children are expected to submit to the will of their parents, teachers, religious leaders and other elders or authority figures. As a result, law enforcement officials and others mandated to protect children rarely intervene or enforce laws that exist.

In addition, children are reluctant to report incidents of violence that are committed against them, sometimes for fear of retribution, out of shame or guilt, or due to the belief that they merited such treatment or were, in some way, responsible. Findings from country-specific studies, documentation of various cases of violence, abuse and exploitation across the region, as well as the discussions which were held during the lead-up and follow-up to the United Nations Study, have all underscored the gravity of the problem, with some attempting to 9 demonstrate its scale.

Drawing from 190 countries, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF's) 2014 publication, Hidden in Plain Sight: A statistical analysis of Violence against Children, showed that in 2012 alone, 95,000 children and young people under the age of 20 were killed. Further, almost one billion children between the ages of two and fourteen experienced physical punishment by their caregivers on a regular basis. An estimated 120 million girls under the age of 20 have been subjected to forced sexual intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their 9 lives.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to make a reliable global estimate of sexual violence against boys due to a lack of comparable data in most countries, although it is known from other research studies that boys are also at risk of sexual violence. The Violence Against Children Surveys (VACS) conducted in Zimbabwe and Kenya found that 9,10 child sexual abuse prevalence among boys was 9 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively.

In line with UNICEF's rates, and as seen in Figure 1.1, the VACS found that child sexual abuse was quite common among girls in Kenya (32 per cent), the Republic of Tanzania (27 per cent), Swaziland (38 per cent), Zimbabwe (33 10,11,12,13,14,15 per cent), Malawi (22 per cent) and Nigeria (25 per cent). Physical violence rates tend to be even higher.

As can be seen in Figure 1.2, the VACS found that the lifetime prevalence of physical violence prior to age 18 was 66 per cent among girls and 73 per cent among boys in Kenya, 50 per cent among girls and 52 per cent among 10; 11; 15 boys in Nigeria, and 64 per cent among girls and 76 per cent among boys in Zimbabwe.

The VACS also revealed that emotional violence by a parent, adult caregiver or other adult relative was pervasive globally. For example, 35 per cent of girls and 27 per cent of boys in Haiti, 29 per cent of girls and 39 per cent of boys in Zimbabwe, 19 per cent of girls and 25 per cent of boys in Cambodia, and 20 per cent of girls and 29 per 10; 14,15,16,17 cent of boys in Malawi experienced emotional violence prior to the age of 18.

Violence against children is a serious problem, but it is not inevitable. It is preventable through efforts such as those recommended in the INSPIRE Technical Package, developed through a coalition of partners and released in 2016. INSPIRE includes seven strategies: implementation and enforcement of laws; norms and values; safe environments; parent and caregiver support; income and economic strengthening; response and support 18 services, and education and life skills.
However, in order to develop and implement effective prevention strategies, comprehensive data are needed.

TheVACS research initiative, in Zambia, sought to provide comparable, national, population-based estimates describing the magnitude and nature of the problem; as well as the epidemiological patterns of risk and protective factors of violence experienced by children. The purpose is to provide the evidence base to develop and implement effective prevention strategies tailored specifically to Zambia.

This study followed the thematic direction of the UN in developing studies aimed at protecting children and young adults from all forms of violence. At the country level, it was aligned with Government priorities on child protection that had been set in the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development (MYSCD), Ministry of Community Development and Social Services (MCDSS), and the Victim Support Unit of the Zambia Police 19 Service. The results of this survey are expected to serve as a baseline national estimate for future interventions and prevention strategies.