Violence against children is a significant global health and human rights problem, and a growing concern in sub-Saharan Africa. The problem of violence against children spans geographical boundaries, culture, race, class, and religion. It can be expressed in the form of physical or sexual assault or abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and deprivation or neglect. Violence against children is a profound violation of human rights and has devastating short- and long-term mental and physical health consequences.
This report focuses primarily on sexual violence against female children. According to the World Report on Violence and Health, sexual violence is defined as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion, by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.”
The results of this study indicate that violence against female children is highly prevalent in Swaziland. Approximately 1 in 3 females experienced some form of sexual violence as a child; nearly 1 in 4 females experienced physical violence as a child; and approximately 3 in 10 females experienced emotional abuse as
Boyfriends and husbands were the most frequent perpetrators of sexual violence; male relatives (other than the victims’ father) were the most frequent perpetrators of physical violence; and female relatives were the most frequent perpetrators of emotional abuse. Incidents of sexual violence most frequently occurred in the home, either the home of the respondent or the home of a friend, relative or neighbor.
Over half of all incidents of child sexual violence were not reported to anyone, and less than 1 in 7 incidents resulted in a female seeking help from available services. Females indicated the primary reason for not reporting sexual violence was that they were not aware that what they had experienced was abuse. Many females also reported a fear of abandonment if they told anyone about the violence they had experienced. These numbers suggest a lack of understanding of what sexual violence is and how and where to report such incidents. In regard to physical violence, in only 1 out of 5 cases did females seek help from available services, despite the fact that nearly 1 in 4 resulted in injury that was serious enough to consult a doctor.
The objectives of this survey were to
(1) describe the epidemiologic patterns of sexual violence and other forms of violence;
(2) identify potential risk and protective factors for sexual violence;
(3) assess the knowledge and utilization of health services available for victims of sexual violence and other forms of violence;
(4) identify areas for further research;
(5) raise awareness about violence as an important health problem; and
(6) make recommendations on improving and enhancing interventions to better identify, treat and prevent sexual violence against children and its health related consequences.