PG Shocked By Extent of Child Abuse

The Prosecutor General Martha Imalwa says she is shocked by the latest statistics on child abuse, which revealed at least 814 Namibian children have been abused, either physically or sexually, over the last 12 months while 923 children have been left neglected or abandoned.

“Then we are not serious about curbing crime,” she said, adding that in terms of the Children’s Act of 1960, perpetrators should be prosecuted and criminally charged for child abuse offences as they are considered serious rimes.

She questioned why such crimes were not reported to law enforcement agencies and if reported, what those institutions were doing with the case reports.

“I want to know so that we can deal with this,” a fired-up Imalwa said, stressing that the laws were clear on assault, abuse or neglect of children.

Government agencies revealed the damning statistics last week for the period April 2013 to March 2014 and further disclosed that the statistics showed a slight decline of about 8 percent in comparison with data collected between April 2012 and March 2013.

“We tend to say incidents are increasing. Yes, they are increasing because nothing is being done to deter them,” she said, adding that she wondered whether some people were “following or understood the law”.

Imalwa explained that any parent or guardian who cares for a child can be charged for gross negligence and be criminally liable for abusing or neglecting a child and it is not up to the child to lay the charge as police officers or healthcare providers can report or file the case for the minor.

“The Namibian laws are there to protect children, but I wonder if officers tasked to implement the laws are doing so,” said Imalwa.

She added that the Combating of Domestic Violence Act provides for protection measures if a child is abused sexually or physically in a domestic setting. She said the only case she could remember being forwarded to her office for review was of a child who drowned in a swimming pool.

“Not many cases are brought to my office. Maybe they take them to the magistrates in local courts,” she said.

The Director of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), Toni Hancox, was equally shocked by the statistics, saying that it was a most horrible report that could be the tip of the iceberg.

“We are failing our children. What kind of a nation are we?” she asked, adding that given the population size, it was a gloomy picture and “we need to go back to the drawing board”.

She said the Child Care and Protection Act Bill was still being worked on ten years later and wondered whether the Bill would ever be implemented.

The Bill addresses a number of key areas including children’s courts, early intervention services, procedures for removing endangered children from the home, foster care, adoption, child trafficking, child headed households and many more issues. In all of these areas, there is a critical need to ensure that the rights of children in Namibia are protected and upheld.

Hancox highlighted the shortage of social workers due to low pay and the emotional nature of the job, saying the shortage contributed to the dismal situation. The LAC director said if parents neglect their children, it is a cause for criminal sanctions and action should be taken against them.

Source : New Era