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Child abuse month

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03.APR.09

The month of April has been declared CHILD ABUSE MONTH, and already, activities have been organized to focus attention on the injustices perpetrated against what are the true guarantors of the future of our society – our children. In ideal circumstances, we ought not even to have to dedicate a month to such a topic, but the need for us to do so tells us that something is very wrong in today’s society.{{more}} But this world is far from ideal, and many of our children cannot live “normal” lives, if by “normal” we mean the existence of conditions guaranteeing equal access to health, wealth and happiness by all.

The reality is that we live in a world of gross inequality, where pressures, not just to survive, but to succeed and emerge on top, at all and any cost, more often than not bring about situations where it is the weak and vulnerable who suffer most. Children constitute the largest number of these and are most susceptible to all kinds of abuse, mental as well as physical. These can scar them for life and influence behavioural patterns, sometimes in frightening directions.

Just this week, a series of grim statistics was revealed, indicating the various levels of abuse of our children, our own version of “Tales from the Dark Side.” Even before we examine either the examples provided or the causes of physical, sexual and mental abuse, it is vital that we grasp that the very existence of poverty subjects thousands of our children to life of daily abuse. For poverty itself represents a grave abuse of the rights of the child, since by its very nature it denies children living in such a state the enjoyment of basic and fundamental rights enshrined in international conventions. The fight against child abuse must, therefore, be inextricably linked to the War on Poverty.

The shocking cases of physical abuse and child neglect are made more horrid by the perverse existence of sexual abuse, often covered up within families. There is simply no excuse for incest and the sexual abuse of minors. Yet these continue to be repeated in our society. Often, poverty is a factor in preventing the lawful apprehension of culprits, sometimes because of economic dependence on the abuser or dire circumstances resulting in the acceptance of “hush money.” But our society as a whole is still much too tolerant of such life-destroying outrages. Whether we are personally affected or not, we must all strongly condemn such practices, press for greater protection for victims and potential victims, stronger action by the law, and, above all, give greater support to the victims.

A related area of concern is the growing number of neglected or abandoned children. This situation lends itself readily to the development of gangs of street children, a sure breeding ground for criminals. It is also a recipe for the regeneration of the very neglect and abuse which have forced these children on the streets in the first place; often at a higher, more dangerous level. Sociologists remind us that often the abused themselves become abusers, seeking to wreak vengeance for their past sufferings. This phenomenon is already approaching crisis stage and needs to be addressed urgently. We cannot afford to ignore these manifestations in our midst. Our children’s future is at stake.

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