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New study highlights need for increased govt, business response to sexual violence against children

Children in conflict-affected countries are the most vulnerable to sexual violence. PHOTO/Courtesy?

AFRICA –  South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania are the top performers among 16 Sub-Saharan countries covered in the Out of the Shadows Index, measuring how countries’ response to child sexual violence.

Developed with support from the World Childhood Foundation and Oak Foundation and with additional support from the Carlson Family Foundation, the Out of the Shadows Index measures how 60 countries are addressing child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The index, which focuses on policies, practices and standards, reveals that governments, the private sector and civil society are not doing nearly enough to protect children from sexual violence and to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which calls for ending all forms of violence against children by 2030.

The index covers 85% of the global population under 19.

Key findings:

South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania finish among the top third of the 60 countries, in part because they have strong legal frameworks that protect children from sexual offenses, online abuse and sex trafficking, supported by guidelines for both legal and enforcement professionals and frontline support workers.

Many other African countries perform poorly, including Angola, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso and Democratic Republic of Congo, which occupy six of the bottom seven spots.

Globally, many countries have strong legal frameworks for protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation, but most do not do nearly as well in implementing policies or creating effective institutions.

The average score in the “Legal framework” category for all countries is nearly 60, but is just over 40 in the “Domestic commitment and capacity” category.

Industry engagement is needed to better protect children, especially against online child sexual abuse, where the expansion of broadband internet has placed more children at risk.

Just two of the 16 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have a leading mobile telecoms association that identifies sexual violence against children as a clear priority in its annual report or a code of conduct on its website.

Half the countries in the region do not have legal protections for boys within their child rape laws, while only six countries collect prevalence data about sexual abuse of boys.

Combatting child sexual abuse and exploitation is becoming a greater priority on the global stage and in many individual countries, and research shows that progress is possible even when resources are limited.

Sexual violence against children is a universal threat.

The emotional and health consequences linger, and the socioeconomic impacts can be devastating.

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