CHILD abuse can be defined as unfair, cruel or harmful treatment of a child at any given time. In a nutshell, child abuse is criminalised in Zambia meaning that it is an illegal act.
Child abuse falls into the following categories: emotional, neglect, physical and sexual among others. Emotional abuse is one that is attribut-ed to the perpetrator making nasty comments or abusive language to the child.
Neglect is a form of child abuse which arises as a result of not providing the basic needs of life such as clothes, food and shelter. This can also be termed as lack of parental care.
Physical abuse implies physically beating the child for no apparent reasons or on flimsy grounds. Inflicting any physical harm on the child also amounts to physical abuse. Even though there is a valid reason, physical abuse should not be used as a way of disciplining the child.
Sexual abuse entails having carnal knowledge with one child under the age of 16. This form of abuse takes various forms as defilement, sodomy to mention but a few.
Cases of child abuse have taken a toll and are common to both boys and girls. An old woman may entice a little boy to have sex with her for instance. Other than that, fondling the breasts or private parts of the child is tantamount to sexual abuse too.
In the majority of cases involving child sexual abuse go unreported or escape the dragnet. This happens for the sole reason of fearing em-barrassment in the family from the community members.
This is absolutely so in that the perpetrators of these offences could be the relatives of the victims. The family members may include among others; the following: aunties, brothers, fathers, grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers, sisters and uncles,
The perpetrators of child abuse does not exclude non relatives. Non family members have been involved in rampant cases of child abuse. However, the safety of children is uncertain because the perpetrators of the crime of child abuse have no empathy.
From the psychological aspect, the mind of the abused child is damaged either intellectually or otherwise. Worse still, the child is affected psycho-spiritually.
There is a growing mirth among some men that having carnal knowledge (sex) with a virgin or small girl, one would be cured of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV and AIDS.
The war against child abuse cannot be won single handedly. It requires concerted efforts in that individuals and the civil society organisa-tions should come on board to fight the vice.
Civil society organisations should scale up their programmes in fighting child abuse which has become rampant. On the other hand, there is also need for political will. Politicians should formulate policies aimed at stiffen punishment against perpetrators of child abuse.
Zambia is a signatory to the United Nations Charter of the rights of the children. As such, there is need to ensuring that children are protect-ed from any form of abuse so that they can grow up well and become responsible citizens in future.
It is high time people broke the walls of silence of child abuse by reporting all forms of abuse inflicted on children to the appropriate agen-cies such as the Victim Support Unit (VSU) to the police stations for punitive measures to be meted out.
This will ultimately help in deterring would-be offenders. Abash child abuse.