Violence against children takes many forms. It may occur in the private sphere, in schools, in communities or in the home. It may take the form of: corporal punishment in various settings, both public and private; forced and harmful labour practices and trafficking for forced labour; harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, virginity testing, breast ironing and child witch killings; gender-based violence; sexual violence; sexual exploitation; pornography; and sexual trafficking. There is significant evidence that violence, exploitation and abuse can affect the child’s physical and mental health in the short and longer term, impairing their ability to learn and socialize, and impacting their transition to adulthood with adverse consequences later in life. The African Children’s Charter (in article 21(2)) is the first international treaty to set the minimum age of marriage at 18 years. A number of actions have been taken to give effect to this provision. The AU launched its campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa; and appointed a Special Rapporteur on Child Marriage, mandated to conduct fact-finding missions on alleged violations, to seek co-operation with State parties, and to develop constructive dialogue with governments, civil society organisations and other actors. The African Children’s Charter, meeting together with other actors, in 2014 adopted the Addis Ababa Declaration on Ending Child Marriage In Africa, calling for the prioritisation of the abolishment of child marriage.
No form of violence against a child is justifiable. Children have a right to be protected from violence. As stated in the African Children’s Charter (article 1(3)), ‘any custom, tradition, cultural or religious practice that is inconsistent with the rights, duties, and obligations contained in the present Charter shall be to the extent of such inconsistency be discouraged’. States, thus, have the responsibility to ensure that their laws and the practices of their people are in line with the African Children’s Charter. The Children’s Charter calls on States to eliminate customs and practices prejudicial to the ‘health or life of the child’, or which discriminate on the basis of sex (article 21(1)), and calls on States to protect children against sexual exploitation, drug abuse and other forms of abuse, and neglect (articles 16, 27 and 29).These provisions are in line with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmental Goals ‘which envisages a world which invests in its children and in which every child grows up free from violence and exploitation’.
Of grave concern is the ritual killing and maiming of persons with albinism and other disabilities – particularly children. In 2016, following an on-site mission to Tanzania, the African Children’s Committee in its Report on Investigative Mission on the Situation of Children with Albinism in Temporary Holding Shelters – Tanzania called for an end to the institutionalisation of children with albinism.
● No child is exposed to any form of violence, including gender-based violence in the public or private sphere; children are free from physical and psychological abuse, sexual violence and exploitation, and sex trafficking.
● Harmful practices (such as breast ironing, female genital mutilation or cutting and child marriage) have been ended.
● No child is exposed to sexual exploitation and used for child pornography.
● Harmful child labour practices and child trafficking for forced labour is eliminated.
● No child is subjected to corporal punishment.