With three children killed in SA every day, parents need to step up

27 November 2019 - 06:30 By Nonkululeko Njilo
Protecting children from violence during the first 1,000 days after conception can help beat the scourge of violence in SA society, experts claim.
Protecting children from violence during the first 1,000 days after conception can help beat the scourge of violence in SA society, experts claim.
Image: 123RF/Artit Oubkaew

As South Africa marks another 16 Days of Activism campaign, the Democratic Alliance in Gauteng has revealed that 251 children lost their lives to gender-based violence (GBV) in the province over the past five years.

"The safety of our women and children is under threat," said Refiloe Nt'sekhe, the party's shadow MEC for social development.

Of those 251 children, Nt'sekhe said 13 died alongside their mothers or grandmothers as a result of GBV. The figures were revealed in a written reply by provincial community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko.

But NGO Matla A Bana says this number is just a drop in the ocean: three children are killed in SA daily.

“The number of recorded incidents may be shocking, but there’s also many other incidents which go unreported or are incorrectly recorded," said the organisation's CEO Monique Strydom.

Strydom said Matla A Bana assisted about 30,000 children every year who had fallen victim to abuse and opened cases at police stations across the country.

While there has been an apparent spike in violence against women and children in recent weeks, Strydom said the problem has always been prevalent but had lately become "easier to report".

Carol Bower, director of the Quaker Peace Centre in Cape Town, said the high levels of violence against children was a symptom of violence throughout SA society.

"Living in a society as violent as ours - where there are 58 murders a day, three children murdered a day and where the child homicide rate is twice the global average, six women are killed by their intimate partners a day, and nearly 140 reported rapes a day - is tough," she said.

Bower said a professional consensus was emerging that parents should be supported in learning non-violent, effective approaches to discipline, with experts agreeing that protecting children from violence during the first 1,000 days after conception can help decrease the scourge of violence in SA society.

"It is precisely during this period of great plasticity and vulnerability that many children are subjected to physical punishment. The effect can be a derailing of natural, healthy brain growth, resulting in life-long and irreversible abnormalities," she said. 

While many parents underestimate the effects of violence on children, Bower said it increased the likelihood of becoming either a perpetrator or a victim of abuse.

Nt'sekhe said the DA was calling for the establishment of specialised units at police stations to deal with gender-based violence, particularly given the low conviction rates.

At least 131,210 gender-based violence cases were opened at police stations around Gauteng between 2014 and 2018, said the DA. Of these, only 44,522 arrests were made - and of those, only 9,786 resulted in convictions.

"It is worrying that many cases have been opened but the arrest and conviction rates are very low," said Nt'sekhe.


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