By Our Reporter
Lagos State Government has urged children never to shy away from reporting violent acts against them to those who can help them, especially their teachers and parents, stressing that when children fail to report sexual harassment, especially rape for fear of stigmatization, the perpetrators naturally assumed consent which will embolden them to continue with the abuse.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Mr. Adesina Odeyemi gave the urge while speaking at the Youth Forum/Career Talk organised by the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) to commemorate the Children’s Day celebration themed: “Violence Against Children – Addressing the Challenges”.
He noted that violence against children is not limited to rape but includes bullying, child abuse, corporal punishment, food deprivation, lack of education, child trafficking and labour among others.
Mr. Odeyemi, who was represented at the occasion by the Assistant Director, Public Affairs Department in the Ministry, Mr. Adesegun Ogundeji, opined that the children most vulnerable to violence are orphans who suffer ill treatment in the hands of their foster parents as well as children from poor homes, adding that violence against children is one of the pervasive violations of human rights in the world and one of the least prosecuted crime in the world.
He stressed that to address this ugly trend, the State Government has passed the Child Rights Law and it is one of the few states in the federation to enforce same through the Office of Public Defenders (OPD) and the Citizens Mediation Centre under the Ministry of Justice, while the Ministry of Youth and Social Development, and the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation have also evolve policies and programmes to curb the menace.
The Permanent Secreatary however observed that challenges militating against the eradication or reduction of violence against children are the inability of the perpetrators and a large number of Nigerians to discern the crime from genuine traditional relationships and fostering.
According to him, “In most cases victims and their parents or guardians are reluctant to report cases of violence especially rape to the appropriate authorities because of fear of stigmatisation or as a result of pleas from the parents and relations of the perpetrators. Where it is reported, they fail to appear in court to testify because of intimidation, post trauma depression and fear of being harmed either physically or spiritually.”
Odeyemi maintained that the Lagos State Government is working hard to change the orientation of the people and ensure that they are mobilized to promote a culture that will make implementation of Child’s Rights Law a success in the country through institutional and legal reforms, education and awareness creation.
He said, “I want to remind the good people of Lagos State that children are not mini human beings with mini human rights; for as long as adults continue to regard children as mini-human beings, violence against children will persist. We all should rise to replace their tears with a smile. Let us be their voice”.