Sexual violence on orphaned children a challenge – report

The existence of sexual violence against Orphaned and Vulnerable Children ( OVC) in Botswana  is  well known yet it is a  largely unacknowledged challenge, research on HIV  and orphans in  Annals of Global Health, a journal that focuses on global health, states.

According to the journal, sexual violence against children is both pervasive and dire in Botswana and that perpetration usually occurs at homes and schools.  “Home was identified as the riskiest places where perpetration occurred with acquaintances and family members as the most likely  perpetrators,” it states,  adding that schools were identified as both safe and risky, with teachers cited as buffers against perpetrators of sexual violence.

The research points a  finger of  blame to  household dysfunction; where there is absence or insufficient parental care, lack of family cohesion, sociocultural expectations, lack of inadequate support infrastructure and economic limitations like  poverty and  the  victim depending on the perpetrator economically.  “ The culture of  silence around sexuality and the social expectation that children  should be seen and not heard provoke and perpetuate violence,” it  stated.

This was  corroborated by  Human Rights and Child Protection Coordinator at Stepping Stones International Chirwah Mahloko, who said sexual violence on OVC was  a big problem faced by the country. “There is a lot that still needs to be done to address this challenge that ranges from our culture to the legal system,”   he said, maintaining that  there is need for society to  open up to children on issues of sex. “Sex talk between children and  elders  is  still regarded as a  taboo  and it makes it   difficult for children to come out of the dark-hole of sexual violation.   Once the  silence around sex talk is broken, it will also send a message to pedophiles  and they will have to think twice before  violating children.”

Mahloko explained  that  sexual violation robs one of their dignity and self-worth, “Any person who has been sexually violated  feels they can’t engage and make decisions about their life; they do not have an opinion on anything and feel worthless. For OVC  it is even worse because they would be going  through one of life’s  painful situations of losing a  parent(s).”

Meanwhile, Mahloho said  there are legal gaps  that  could  otherwise effectively assist in  sexual violation against children.  Such he said include the establishment of a child court; a child friendly court dealing with prosecution of  offences against children.  “ Also,  the presentation of the  guidelines of  the Children’s Act are long overdue.  People need to know   how to handle cases and offences  affecting children as  they appear in the Act .  It is without doubt that the provisions in  the Children’s Act are good but   without guidelines of implementation it is  all confusion of where and what to do when  a child is violated. ”

Consequences of sexual  violation, according to Mahloko, include psychosocial  problems  like depression,  low self-esteem,  social withdrawal, teenage pregnancy, school drop-out, diminished academic performance  and propensity for repeat victimization.