Last week, we witnessed the launch of the violence against children survey report. The report is in partnership and cooperation with the Ministry of Gender, labor and social development, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the AfriChild Centre for Excellence, ChildFund, and Makerere School of Public Health (MakSPH) TPO Uganda, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF Uganda, President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Together for Girls Partnership.
Other countries that have completed similar survey reports include Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Cambodia, Malawi, Nigeria, Zambia, Laos, Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The results reveal that violence is a serious problem and provide the first nationally representative data detailing Ugandan children’s experiences of violence. However, the findings also offer a key opportunity for the Government of Uganda to use the results to guide its programmatic and policy implementation to create concrete and practical actions.
A total of 5,804 children and young people completed interviews and the report includes detailed information on Ugandan children’s experiences of sexual violence, physical violence, and emotional violence.
The data gives an overview on the overall prevalence of physical, sexual and emotional violence, relationship to perpetrators, time and place of the incident, health and behavioral consequences resulting from violence. Special focus areas for the surveys included Bukomansimbi, Ssembabule, Rakai, Mubende, Mityana, Gomba, and Mukono, Gulu, Oyam, and Lira.
Physical violence is the most common type of violence children suffer. Of Ugandans ages 18-24 years, six in ten females (59%) and seven in ten males (68%) reported experiencing physical violence during their childhoods. Of these children, one in five girls (20%) and one in six boys (16%) endured their first experience of physical violence before the age of 5.
In Uganda, corporal punishment is still used by many parents and teachers as the primary form of discipline, helping to explain the high prevalence of physical violence suffered by children at home and in the community. The report reveals that for both 13-17 year olds and 18-24 year olds, perpetrators of physical violence are commonly people that the survivor knows and trusts, frequently adults that are expected to provide care and safe environments for children.
Violence against children commonly occurs on the road, in the afternoon and early evening as many children are forced to commute to and from school alone and in the dark.
Harmful traditional practices are common in Uganda, such as early marriage and initiation ceremonies. Ugandan girls, in particular, are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, as income-generating activities are scarce. Therefore, when parents struggle to provide for their basic needs, girls can be lured into exploitative relationships with older men who promise them material support.
Emotional violence is often not recognized as an issue within Ugandan society, leading to normalization of severe verbal treatment of children.
Ugandan children are often expected to be completely submissive to the demands of people older than themselves, a dynamic that can sometimes lead to harsh emotional abuse if children are deemed to have spoken out of turn.
Effects Of Violence Against Children
Evidence from the report indicates, violence against children creates a cycle of violence, where childhood survivors of violence are more likely to mature into adult perpetrators of violence.
It also shows that children frequently miss school as a result of physical violence, hindering their educational performance. Violence against children can also result in children running away from home, becoming street-connected, leading to myriad negative consequences, such as delinquency, substance abuse, and sexual exploitation.
The report indicates that teenage pregnancy often results from forced or pressured sex. It also highlights that children who experience violence suffer from psychological issues, such as low self-esteem and contemplation of suicide.
Survivors of violence require social welfare, health, and justice services, costing the Ugandan government resources that could be used elsewhere if the violence had been prevented.
How Can We Be More Involved?
The Ugandan government should adopt national action plans to end violence against children, build social service systems and train social workers to provide support for children who have experienced violence.
As millennials, I hope that analyzing and sharing these results will make us all more aware of these issues and their impact on the future of Ugandan children. Behavioral change of adults to address factors that contribute to violence and having conversations on ways to reduce this violence in schools and at home is imperative!
You can also report cases of child abuse; through the toll free Sauti helpline on 116.
What are we really doing to reduce violence against children?