This article nearly did not see the light. It was written in ice cold anger. Researching this topic had me seething and kicking inanimate objects all over the house. This is intolerable. Belonging to different cultures are not an excuse for inhumane attitudes and practises. We all live in the 21st century and should be judged and treated accordingly. To expect me to have an accommodating politically correct approach when addressing where the blame lies does not wash. I will however, now, refrain from doing so as I fear that my feelings of disgust will diminish the significance of the facts I need to bring to your attention. I will address the blame at a later stage.

I quote liberally from a well researched document of The infant trust. I am not going to list their sources as I want this post to be read and not be considered as “yet another boring research” document. (The sources as well as the full document are available on request) I also take the liberty to edit their document in an effort to generate impact. My intent is well meant and I do list their exact figures.

I believe that I can safely state that it is just about every civilised person’s view that every child has an unalienable right to be safe and free from violence, harm and abuse. This is listed as the first and primary belief and value of The infant trust.

Let us examine the realities on the ground in South Africa.

Some of the relevant facts around the emotive issue of small child abuse in South Africa are:

Most (not all) abuse is sexual.

In May 2002 the SA government said that 5,859 cases of rape of pre-school children were reported to the South African Police Services.  Many estimates put the number at 7 times this figure: 41,013 with 1,5 million children estimated to be abused every year.

In 2004 Childline SA noted a massive increase in the numbers of child sexual abuse, up by 400% was recorded on the previous 10 years; for example, in Kwazulu-Natal, over 75% of all rapes were against children younger than 18 years old

In 2001 two thousand and forty [2,040] children in one province, Gauteng, under 12 years of age were physically and traumatically raped.

It was reported in 2004 that 50% of all children attending KwaZulu therapy services [the only figures available] following abuse were under 7 years old.

HIV and AIDS are decimating families and extended families; child-headed families are becoming the norm, and they are in the greatest danger from abusers simply because they are the least protected. The numbers of orphans of all ages, particularly babies, is rising due to HIV/AIDS deaths; for example in Limpopo province over 50% of the children have lost both their biological parents and are either living with caretakers or on their own as sibling groups

The numbers of street children left alone during the day is rising rapidly – they are extremely vulnerable.

Children from all racial groups are raped with the numbers proportionate to the population figures

Only around 0,5 % of perpetrators are convicted

Unemployment in at least 5 of the 8 provinces in South Africa is running at around 60%; possibly higher in the poorer townships.

There are many different models of providing frontline care for children who have been abused. The South African National Prosecuting Authority provides some funds for Thutuzelas [crisis centres]; there they aim to bring together all the elements of treatment and follow-up care.  The Thutuzelas are staffed by willing but largely untrained volunteers and a few paid care workers.  Volunteers in these, and numerous other children’s services, are paid a small stipend for between 40 and 80 hours a week.   Because many see volunteering as a job (note unemployment) some services will not use volunteers, or only use them for a maximum of one year; this decision has a major impact on what services can be provided. It is, however, informally and formally recognised that volunteers are a major source of information and knowledge for their community.

In a nutshell that is the situation on the ground.  A massive problem addressed primarily by volunteers and charities. They need our help. Please visit their site and my Blog and donate to the link headed “a worthwhile cause.”

Rest assured that I will, at a later stage, address where I believe the blame is to be found. I am not known for my diplomacy.

Gerrie Hugo is a South African living in Sweden who considers polka dot suspenders with a belt and matching clip-on bow-tie the height of fashion. Visit his Blog:

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