Of late, we have been inundated with horrid tales and grim pictures of children who have been domestically abused or molested by their parents, guardians or relatives. Most of these tales and pictures are so vile and dingy that one wonders how humanity has sunk this low. The macabre tales and pictures of violent physical abuses on children that have been flooding the social media are indeed very worrisome.
Recently in Jos, Plateau state, it was reported that a 43-year-old father of three had been physically and violently assaulting two of his kids. Hence, the bodily injuries and scars on the bodies of the minors. The accused was reported to have subjected the minors, who are eight and six years old respectively to sever beatings and punishment.
It was also reported that the children had been subjected to such inhumane maltreatment for three years before a teacher in the school the children attends reported the case to the authorities. It was said that the accused constantly accused the children of various offences, as a result of which he inflicted serious bodily injuries on their backs and faces. When asked why he did such, the man claimed that he was trying to correct the bad behavioural attitude of the children.
Now how will someone in his right senses deliberately inflict bodily injuries or violent acts on a child in the pretext of “correcting the child’s behavior”? On the brighter side though, with the domestication of the Child Right Act (CRA) in Plateau State, the accused is bound to face the full wrath of the law for violating the rights of the minors.
Under the CRA, a child is a person below the age of 18 years (Section 21 of the CRA). It also states that a child’s best interest should be of upmost priority in any case involving a child (Section 1 of the CRA 2003). The CRA was accepted by the National Assembly and passed into law in July 2003. It was assented to by President Obasanjo in September 2003, and promulgated as the Child’s Rights Act 2003. The CRA has been signed into Federal law and it is up to states to sign it individually into their state laws.
Sadly however, out of the 36 states in Nigeria, only 26 states as at May 2014 have been able to sign the CRA into their state law. Also, most of the states that have signed it into their state laws have not been able to domesticate these laws in accordance with the provisions of the act. Some states have not been able to sign this law into their state laws due to ethno-religious and tribal concerns.
However, the goal for promulgating the CRA is to improve the child’s relationship with his/her family and the society/community. The CRA broadly covers the rights, duties and responsibilities of every child. One of the most important parts of the act is that it provides that the “best interest” of the child should be of paramount importance in all actions concerning the child.
The CRA incorporates all the rights and responsibilities of children; it also creates a forum where all laws concerning children can be incorporated into a single document. It focuses on the duties of children, parents, the government organizations, authorities and bodies. It also provides for different rights children should have and enjoy for instance: freedom from discrimination, right to rest, leisure and enjoyment, right to good medical care, food, shelter, drinking water, education, hygienic and sanitized environment, and also provides for disabled children.
The CRA particularly provides for certain offences that should be considered as a violation of children’s rights for instance: maltreatment, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, betrothal and child marriage, tattoos, marks, female genital mutilation, trafficking, wrong exposures to criminal activities, prostitution and narcotic drugs, using children to hawk, beg, sell, sexual abuse.
The act finally provides for an active child justice administration in Nigeria. It states that there should be a child rights implementation committee at the national, state and local government level to help enable the commitment of the government at all levels to ensure the provisions of the act are implemented. The provision of this act supersedes all legislations created concerning issues involving a child. A violation of any of the provisions of the CRA is punishable under the act.
In line with the CRA, the man should be prosecuted for violating the right to dignity of the child. The CRA states that ”every child is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person and accordingly, no child shall be subjected to physical, mental or emotional injury, abuse, neglect or maltreatment”. Since the accused has violated the CRA which has been domesticated in Plateau state, the full wrath of the law should be brought upon the man without leniency.
Children are our biggest assets and our biggest investments. Yet, everywhere, in the home and outside it, they are hardly protected. As individuals, institutions, community and country, we violate, endanger and fail to protect them. Day after day, month after month and year after year, millions of children in Nigeria suffer violence – physical, sexual and emotional. The effects can be traumatic, life-changing and sometimes even fatal. Sadly too, few ever get to be held accountable for these acts.
It should be constantly emphasized that children are our future leaders. Whatever we teach them or do to them grows and stays with them and same will be passed on to the next generation after them. They deserve protection and by their nature, they lack the physical, mental and emotional maturity required to face life. The kind of rights used to guard and protect adults cannot be used to protect our children because their needs are different from that of adults; hence, the creation of the CRA.
Undoubtedly, children are the leaders of tomorrow. For us to create good leaders with good morals, we have to start training them from when they are born until they grow into leaders. Psychologically whatever we do to a child, we might not know the consequence of our actions but somehow it stays and affects that child later in life or as the child is growing.
For a fact, an abused, neglected or maltreated child will see life differently from a child who is trained and treated in the right way and shown the better ways to handle life. Children at times would be disobedient, and stubborn, however, there are better and humane ways to caution or discipline a child as opposed to inhuman/violent treatments. By ratifying, domesticating and implementing the CRA, by all states of the federation, the rate of abuse children face daily in our society will be at its minimal and justice will be served on erring individuals.