Picture: Pixabay

Cape Town – Boys are overlooked when it comes to cases of sexual abuse and exploitation.

This is highlighted in the report “Out of the Shadows: Shining light on the response to child sexual abuse and exploitation”, which was developed by The Economist Intelligence Unit with support from the World Childhood Foundation, the Oak Foundation and the Carlson Family Foundation.

The report found child sexual abuse and exploitation was a pressing concern for countries.

“Girls are the primary victims, and boys are overlooked. Just over half - 21 of the 40 countries - have legal protections for boys within their child rape laws, while only 18 countries collect prevalence data about the sexual abuse of boys. Just five collect prevalence data for boys related to child sexual exploitation.”

While statistics on boys is lacking, the research showed that 120 million boys, globally, had been subjected to some form of sexual abuse.

“The adverse effects of sexual violence in childhood on health and mental well-being carry into adulthood, foreshadowing societal and public health risks that, like abuse itself, remain largely overlooked.”

The study found that boys were barely addressed in some legal frameworks covering sexual violence against children, nor were they the focus of much government attention.

UN deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed said: “Every day, across all countries and levels of society, millions of girls and boys face the alarmingly common childhood experience of sexual abuse and exploitation.”

The report found that South Africa had demonstrated its commitment to tackling sexual violence against children by enacting comprehensive legislation on sexual offences against children. 

However, victim support and resources for legal and law enforcement professionals could be strengthened.

“South Africa has a comprehensive system of training and guidance for front line support workers who respond to cases of sexual violence against children.

The Department of Education issues guidelines for teaching professionals, and there are similar programmes for medical, social and psychiatric workers.

“The country, also, provides protections against the procurement of minors for sexual services and the visual depiction of minors engaging in sexual activities, having signed into law the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Bill in 2013.”