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JOHANNESBURG - President Cyril Ramaphosa's new cabinet must make ending all violence against children a top priority as it carries an equally high social and economic cost for families compared with poverty and inequality, the Children's Institute said on Monday.

In a statement a day after the start of child protection week, the institute said while Ramaphosa had recognised gender-based violence as a crisis tearing society apart during a summit last November, a government review of the effectiveness of programmes and institutions to address violence against women and children had revealed systemic failings and a lack of political will to stop the growing tide.

"All forms of violence affect children of both genders. Evidence shows that larger numbers of boys experience sexual abuse than previously believed," said the Children's Institute, based at the University of Cape Town.

Violence against women and children was inextricably linked, occurring in the same households and sharing the same drivers, director Professor Shanaaz Mathews said.

"Shared risk factors include family conflict; poverty; alcohol and substance abuse; patriarchy within the family and in society at large; and social norms that tolerate violence towards women and children," Mathews said.

A recent study found that violence had a substantial impact on the economy, with child victims earning less later in life than those not affected.

This lower earning potential combined with time lost to illness and additional burden on health and welfare services, meant that the long-term cost of violence against children in 2015/16 stood at R238 billion or nearly five percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Research had shown that not just severe abuse and beating led to negative consequences, Dr Chandre Gould from the Institute of Security Studies said.

"All forms of violence, including smacking or spanking can make children depressed, angry and anxious. When parents and teachers stop hitting children, research has shown that violence against women reduces," said Gould.

"These things are all linked. To achieve this, our leaders must speak out against the use of violence, especially in the home and in schools."

African News Agency (ANA)