New Internationalist

Why aren’t we protecting our children?

Child silhouette

Photo by Tom Godber under a CC Licence

From a basement in Austria to impoverished communities in Asia to convents around the world, child abuse is happening again and again.

In the wee hours of the morning or the dead of night, it goes on and on, over and over.

What can be done? When will it ever stop? Will adults ever realize that we only borrow the world from our children? That the damage brought about by just a single act of child abuse could not be undone?

That each and every act of child abuse is larger than life itself?

In the Philippines, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the government’s statistics agency, recently released the latest figures on child abuse.

The statistics are stark, disturbing, alarming, heinous and telling.

The number of cases of child sexual abuse and child labour handled by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) remained major problems in the country from 2009 to 2010, even as the total number of child abuse cases declined during the period, the state agency said.

In its report, ‘Abused Children’, NSCB said the number of cases handled by the social welfare agency declined from 2009 to 2010 but noted that cases of certain types of abuse have gone up.

Child abuse cases, as defined by the government, are those where the child is ‘abandoned, neglected, sexually abused, sexually exploited, physically abused, maltreated, victims of child labour, victims of illegal recruitment, victims of child trafficking, victims of armed conflict and emotionally abused.’

The number of child abuse cases served by the government went down to 4,749 cases last year from 6,524 cases in 2009.

But the government can’t rest on its laurels just yet.

According to the report, cases of sexual abuse are still the second most common cases handled by the social welfare department, next to neglect and abandonment. These cases accounted for 27.3 per cent in 2010 from 29.6 per cent in 2009.

Despite the Anti-Rape Law of 1997 – the country’s anti-rape legislation – the most common sexual abuse during the period is still rape, followed by incest and acts of lasciviousness.

‘Rape victims are predominantly female – 97.6 per cent in 2009 and 90.5 per cent in 2010. One wonders whether the prohibition under Republic Act 9346 in 2006 of the death penalty originally possible for convicted rape offenders under certain conditions has contributed to this social problem,’ the statistics office said in its report.

Alarming, too is the fact that under types of sexual abuse, the number of incest cases has gone up to 37.5 per cent of total abuse cases in 2010 from 32.9 per cent in 2009.

The problem calls attention to the breakdown of the family as a social institution.

Tracing the roots of the problem, the social welfare department also found out that most sexually exploited children are either victims of prostitution or cyber pornography.

The numbers increased to an alarming 52 per cent and 31.5 per cent last year, respectively from 48.5 per cent and 33.8 per cent in 2009.

Child prostitution cases went up to 66 in 2010 from only 63 in 2009, statistics also showed.

In the area of child labour, the statistics office said there were five cases of child labour in 2009 and this increased to nine cases in 2010.

Some of the victims are only five to 10 years old.

The facts and figures speak for themselves. It’s heart-wrenching, to say the least.

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