Durban — Younger children are more likely to be victimised by parents or family members because of their dependency on them for care, according to a recent report by Statistics South Africa.
In the report, Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke said living arrangements of children can make them vulnerable to crime and abuse. He said children in South Africa lived in non-standard family structures with, mostly, one of their biological parents.
“In 2021, there were twice as many children who had co-resident mothers compared to those who had co-resident fathers (77% compared to 38%) (Stats SA, 2022). Research has shown that the living arrangement can make these children vulnerable to crime and abuse, one fact being the lack of nurturing fathers,” said Maluleke.
He added that the country had an estimated 20.7 million children in 2021. They constitute almost one-third of the total population (34.2%). Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal ranked first and second, respectively in both the total population and child population, while the Western Cape, ranked fifth in terms of its child population size.
Maluleke said child maltreatment caused suffering to children and families.
“Stress resulting from maltreatment can impair the development of children, with consequences on future social-emotional skills. Some of the future consequences as adults include: being a perpetrator or a victim of violence, mental health, self-harm as well as severe depression that could lead to suicide, smoking, alcohol abuse or drug addiction, obesity, including eating disorders, dropping out of school, high-risk sexual behaviours and early sexual debut (and) unintended pregnancy,” he said.
Furthermore, he said beyond the health, social and educational consequences of child maltreatment, there was an economic impact, including the cost of hospitalisation, mental health treatment, child welfare, and longer-term health costs.
The highest percentage of children aged 7–18 who dropped out from school was said to be due to illness or injury (22.7%, and 13.4%). Among females’ drop-outs were due to family commitments which included marriage, minding children and pregnancy.
Some of the victims of sexual abuse ended up being teenage mothers. In 2020, 2 665 births were attributed to children aged 10–14 while 10% of the total births occurred to mothers aged 15–19. The highest number of births (3 440) among adolescents aged 10–14 occurred in 2019. These births mostly occurred in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
Last week, when Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu, closed Child Protection Week, she urged children to be in each other’s safe space and not laugh at their peers if they noticed anything wrong.
“When we talk about abuse, rape and violence we talk about any perpetrator that might be in your schools, communities, streets and homes. Beware of these kinds of people and never allow them to touch you where they are not supposed to. The brutal killing of children cannot be a normal thing,” said Zulu.
WhatsApp your views on this story to 071 485 7995.