Ahead of Child Protection Week, Saturday Star (22/05/2010,  p.15) published an article titled “We are raising this generation of children” by Sheree Bega. The well-researched article puts child abuse on the agenda and scrutinizes the way South African society and government takes care of its children, and for this it gets a glad.

The article provides child abuse statistics and it takes the reader through some extreme cases of child abuse recorded in South Africa.  It argues that while brutal cases of child abuse get the most publicity,  less sensational ones constitute the vast majority of child abuse cases, but that society does not take these seriously.  As a result many instances of child abuse are not reported to the police, let alone make it into the media.

As vulnerable members of society, children cannot be expected to protect their own rights.  As such, individuals, families, communities, service providers and the State must play a role in upholding children’s rights.  However, the article stresses that society is not doing enough to eliminate child abuse. A number of people from government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), who work with abused children, are quoted, reflecting on our short-comings when it comes to child protection:

“As a society I don’t think we value children, I think [we] see them as objects and possessions…” – Samantha Waterhouse, advocacy manager at Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child abuse and Neglect.

“…It’s not monsters that hurt children, its people who can get access to the children” – Luke Lampretcht, director of the Big Shoes Foundation which provides medical interventions to orphaned and vulnerable children .

The article also questions the State’s commitment to tackling child abuse, asking whether anti-abuse campaigns are seen by politicians merely as platforms for political mileage. It also questions the usefulness of the World Cup-driven theme given to this year’s Child Protection Week (“Give the Red Card to Child abuse”). One expert criticised the government for focusing most of its attention on creating a safer environment for soccer teams, foreign visitors and very important persons (VIPs), while children on extended holidays remain vulnerable to abuse.

Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) commends Saturday Star for publishing this article.  MMA encourages the media to keep reminding society of its duties and responsibilities to respect, protect, facilitate and fulfill the rights of its most vulnerable members, its children.